It’s only been a year since Conor Swail officially took over the ride on Ruben LS La Silla from his owner, Vanessa Mannix. But in the four years Conor has been riding Ruben for Vanessa, he’s learned a thing or two, and one of those things is how a simple bit can benefit the 11-year-old stallion’s performance in the ring.

It’s a theory that paid off during Week 8 at the $150,000 FEI Nations Cup CSIO4* in Wellington, Florida, where Conor and Ruben helped the Irish team ride to their second Nations Cup victory of the winter season with a clear first round and a single rail in the second. Cleary, Conor has big plans for his talented new partner, and we caught up with him in Wellington to see how Ruben’s simple eggbutt snaffle is a key component in their competition program.

NF Style: Can you talk a little bit about how you came to ride Ruben LS La Silla and what kind of horse he is? 

Conor Swail: We bought the horse [Ruben] when he was seven years old at the Calgary Horse Show that summer. He was a very nice horse, very straight forward, and he’s been fantastic for Vanessa [Mannix], the past few years. Whenever I left my previous job, Vanessa said she’d support me and buy me a grand prix horse. We decided that instead of buying one, we felt that Ruben was a good fit for me because with her, he’d get a little careful whenever the jumps got a little bigger after 1.50m, and when she went up to the 1.60m level, he’s a little plain. I felt with a little more strength that he could be a championship horse.

So basically, I knew him very well so it’s been an easy transition to bring the horse into the ring at this higher level. He has been around a lot—he’s jumped in Calgary for three or four years, he’s been here [in Wellington] three or four years, he’s jumped in Dublin. He’s jumped everywhere, and indoors. The horse has always been fantastic, even with Vanessa, her last class, she jumped clear in the World Cup at Calgary indoors. We just felt that he was a good horse and he would be an even better horse with me. Thankfully, so far, it’s been working out.

Let’s talk about your bit. What does Ruben go in currently? 

He has a big, fat, eggbutt snaffle. The bit is single length steel, not a loose ring—it’s kind of like a D. It goes along with my theory. The horse, he doesn’t really take hold of the bit that much, so again, I want something that he can lean into and pull me a little. He always sits a little light in my hand. And, like I say, I prefer that I can ride him up in front of my leg and take ahold of his face a little more. With that bit, it seems to work very well.

In general, what type of horse goes well in an eggbutt snaffle?

For me, if you’re going 50 mph, and the horse is still hanging behind the bridle—or I always say, if you’re going 1 mph or 50 mph, and they’re hanging back, no matter how fast or forward you’re going—for me, then you need something that the horse, when you put your leg on, they get the bridle and go through the bridle. That’s my theory. So the horse can take the bit, you can get your leg on, and he feels he can go through and go forward. I prefer that rather than to ride forward and the horse is still hanging a little behind the bit, and sort of feeling like he can’t still go through the bridle if he needs to.

Learn more about how Conor selects his bits for show ring in our video, below.