Mrs Jean Smith from Kent recently contacted Neue Schule to enter her horse Zara (aka Miss Vincent age 28 years) into our Feature Me section. Having heard their story we felt Jean and Zara deserved a whole feature to themselves! Take it away Jean…
Zara is a 16.1hh Irish Thoroughbred mare, she was hand reared from only 2 hours old after her mother rejected her. I bought Zara as a 7-year-old, before I purchased her she had competed in pony club events and was also competing in affiliated BSJA competitions and was just moving up to foxhunter classes.
Zara is a very sharp horse and has been for many years. Over the years I have tried many different bits, she competed in a Pelham and a snaffle which were both 18mm thick and had a central lozenge. Even in dressage competitions Zara would lean on the bit and take off in canter around the arena. When jumping I would have no brakes but managed clear rounds and even wins on many occasions.
I realised that at 25 years old Zara was not getting any younger. I decided to do some research into bits as I wanted to change. The one thing I noticed was that Zara had quite a large tongue so maybe it was not the type of bit that needed changing but the thickness.
I started looking online for something that was mild, comfortable, and had a thinner mouthpiece.
In 2016 I found Neue Schule and spoke to company founder Heather Hyde. Heather recommended that I purchased a Tranz Angled Lozenge Full Cheek for dressage and a Waterford Fixed Cheek for jumping both were 14mm thick.
On the Saturday that the bits arrived I rode Zara in the school in the Waterford. It took a while for her to get used to the bit but after some time in the school she settled into it and went a lot better. That same week my husband David had his normal flat lesson with the Tranz Angled Lozenge Full Cheek Snaffle. He found her to be a different horse, when schooling on the flat she used to fix her neck and grab the left side of the bit, lean and work on the forehand. David found that she was no longer grabbing the bit or leaning.
After weeks of lateral work and flexing exercises she started to relax her neck and allow the rider to put their leg on. One year on and she finally began to work properly from behind and became really light in the contact. David now finds it possible to ride her with the softest of contacts and turn her by just using his legs. Now that it is possible to ride her using aids other than the reins, we have both found her a joy to ride.
David continues to school her twice a week and I hack her out at weekends to give her a bit of fun and relaxation. David concentrates on her schooling and dressage competitions, I jump her (both show jumping and x-country) and also do dressage. Since changing to Neue Schule bits her dressage scores have gone from about 50% to mid – high 60’s. For a thoroughbred horse in her 20’s that has spent her whole career jumping we think it is a remarkable improvement.
Consistent schooling was instrumental to increasing her suppleness and teaching her to work from behind and not on her forehand. Neue Schule bits have made this possible as they have encouraged her to accept a softer contact which has then allowed her to relax her neck and stop leaning.
Zara now at 28 years old is still competing in all disciplines in both Neue Schule bits, although we have restricted her jumping to 50cm.
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