When it comes to show jumping, proper connection with your horse is one of the key ingredients in making it successful. So how does Olympic veteran Daniel Bluman do that with nothing but foam in the horse’s mouth?

Israeli Rider and recent three-time Grand Prix winner Daniel Bluman has been fortunate enough to learn from some of the best horsemen at a young age, which not only has helped him with his riding, but also with proper knowledge about how a horse with a softer mouth should go.

Bluman has recently been competing with Melissa and Samantha Wight’s entry Esmee, and doing quite well with a rather… unique bit in her mouth.

“The bit is a loose ring, but the mouth piece is a sponge.  It is a little bit thick, but of course very soft, and it encourages the horse to grab the bit to put contact into the hand.”

The foam bit is prominently used in harness racing in European countries, and is now being seen more in the show jumping world. The mouthpiece of the bit has a nylon strap center wrapped in foam, with foam-lined bit guards to prevent pinching. The loose rings attach directly to the nylon center strap, resulting in a mild direct reaction when rein pressure is applied.

“It’s mostly a training bit, but for some horses that are very comfortable with it, it’s good to show them in.”

Many riders tend to stray more towards a hackamore when they want to maintain contact with a horse with a lighter mouth, but this alternative leans away from putting pressure on a horse’s nose.

“It is usually for a horse with a sensitive mouth, one that does not want to put any pressure against the bit,” Bluman explains. “This bit makes horses feel more comfortable about pulling against it.” Putting pressure against the bit is what creates proper contact, from the mouth of the horse to your hands.

This bit is also very successful with younger horses because it encourages contact without the use of metal or rubber.  Younger horses tend to be more sensitive and not as fit, so they go with their heads higher in the air. Bluman goes on to say, “in these types of situations, the sponge bit is the proper choice for contact.  It’s mostly a training bit, but for some horses that are very comfortable with it, it is good to show them in. This is what I did with Esmee and the results speak for themselves.”

Which is true!  Bluman recently won the Grand Prix at the Ridge with Esmee using this bit, and it proved to be quite successful.

The bit is more of a “transition bit,” Bluman says, in that it is a good way to start until the horse is ready for something more proper, such as a simple snaffle or an eggbutt.

This bit can be found mainly online, and is sold mainly by a Norwegian company called Velj. Wahlstén Oy, which is a riding company that focuses mainly on harness racing.

Successful, soft, and relatively inexpensive, the sponge bit is definitely something to try for younger mounts, and is a bit that will begin to surface more and more in show jumping.

Photo Erin Gilmore, and courtesy of Allison Epstein