NF Style favorite Ali Wolff has been partnered with the 12-year-old Holsteiner gelding Casall since the young horse division, working their way through the junior-amateur ranks to multiple appearances representing Team USA in FEI Nations Cup events over the last five years. The duo, who delivered a crucial clear trip in Round 1 of the $150,000 FEI Nations Cup on Friday, March 3rd and placed 3rd in the $216,000 CSIO4*Grand Prix, presented by Lugano Diamonds two days later, makes jumping around 1.45m-1.60m classes look like a thing of ease.

Although Ali knows Casall well at this point in their partnership, he still keeps her on her toes. Frequently, Ali and her team need a bit change to keep Casall focused and rideable in the ring. This is a tendency that occurs for a great number of top show horses which can become desensitized to the effects of their current bit. “Not to worry, though,” Ali says, adding that while it’s at times admittedly inconvenient, bit changes are an important nuance in show horse performance and well-being.

Here, Ali shares her thoughts on finding balance in variety when experimenting with different bits on Casall.

Noelle Floyd Style: What is the bit that you currently ride Casall in?

I currently use a hackabit with a Waterford mouthpiece. I have switched bits around with him because he will get too used to them and then not react as well. I had a bit that served me well during the summer when I was in smaller rings. Then it stopped working as well, which was prevalent at the Central Park show and the HITS $1 Million in Saugerties. It ended up not being enough anymore, and he would run me under the fence. I then switched back to a Myler Pelham with port, which was a little too much control.

With how particular Casall is with his mouth, what purpose does his bit need to serve?

[Casall] jumps best when he feels he has some leverage over me! I had been searching for bits and found this one right before Deeridge, which was the first time I used it. I chose it because I wanted something that wasn’t too strong, but would bring his nose in a bit and break up his mouth in a line so I could regain some control.

Do you use the same combination for training at home?

He has a nice mouth but I’m constantly switching bits around so [Casall] doesn’t get too used to them or too sour towards them. I use about five different bits on him, some for hacking, some for trail [riding] and others for different purposes. I’ll usually school him in a double bridle the day of competition, or his show bridle.

Can you speak to the unique relationship of the hackabit/noseband combination?

Since that weekend in March, I’ve actually altered it again—I had two reins, one on the bottom ring with the most leverage and one controlling the nose piece. I felt I needed just a hair’s worth more control, so I put the rein on just the bottom and the night class was the first time I tried it. I like it so far!

The hackabit I’m using now works great because it splits up the pressure between his nose and mouth. It does the work of two pieces of equipment, and is great because it’s built into one, instead of having to put together a hackamore and bit. Who knows, maybe he will be over it after WEF, or maybe it will be too strong for an indoor, but for now, it seems to be working!