When it comes to partnerships that are worth betting on, you’d be hard-pressed not to go with one of show jumping’s most accomplished female power couples, Olympian Lauren Hough and the 13-year-old Swedish mare, Ohlala.

In addition to their Team and Individual bronze medal-winning performances in the 2015 Pan American Games, Hough and the diminutive “LaLa” recently produced double-clear rounds in the FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping 2017 Europe Division 1 League in Dublin last month, helping to secure Team USA’s all-female triumph in a hard-fought competition. In June, the pair also rode to victory at the Bolesworth International Horse Show CSI4* in Tattenhall, England, and this winter, they joined the “million dollar club” with their win in the Great American $1 Million Grand Prix at HITS Ocala in March.

At 15.2-hands, Hough says her bitting choices need to allow LaLa the freedom to use her full scope while also letting her rider control and balance her. We caught up with Hough to learn more.

NF Style: Tell us about the bits you use for Ohlala. 

Lauren Hough: Most days at home, I use just a simple, plain loose ring, and a drop nose band. There’s nothing special about [it]. I started about six months ago to add [a] pony Hack-a-Bit to her flatting routine and sometimes for the first day of jumping. What it does is to put a little bit of pressure on the nose, and less on the mouth, because she tends to lean down a little. This helps me get her balanced without having a big argument. I only use a plain spur strap on the back of it.

I tend to use this maybe in the morning before the grand prix, or two times a week—I don’t overuse it. At a show, if there’s a good opening warm-up class, I might use it to show her. It takes a little bit of the jump away but it’s a good training tool that I’ve added to her collection.

 Because she’s small, she needs that energy and that little bit of pulling me to get to the other side of the fence.

Her show bit is a leather pelham with a quite a short shank. I have latex on the left side of the bit—her whole life, for some reason, she has this habit of locking her jaw and makes holes in all her bits, even through a lot of leather. Again [we keep] the curb chain always very loose with a leather wrap around it.

What kind of horse is she to ride in the ring? 

She’s quite a strong horse, but I don’t take that away from her. Because she’s small, she needs that energy and that little bit of pulling me to get to the other side of the fence because of her size. Her show bit allows us to meet in the middle, where she’s still quite strong, but I have the ability to control her, organize her in the turns, and help her with her balance.

How has she progressed through bits in the time that you’ve had her? 

When I first started with her, when she was young, I went just in a plain, leather loose-ring. Then we moved her to one of those blue [Poponcini] pelhams. Last year, I moved to [the second pelham]—it was actually the week of the Pan [American] Games because I decided I was getting run away with. But in general, she’s not a really strong horse, it’s more about the balance and being able to organize her in the turns.

-Featured photo by Tori O’Connor.