Friday, December 29, 2017

Horsekeeping in the Arctic...

...err, I mean Maine.

The last few days here have been pretty brutal, with nighttime temps dipping down to -20 and daytime highs around 5 above.  It said -12 this morning at 6:45 when I woke up and now it is up to 3 degrees at 2PM.  This is not my favorite time of year, and despite having been born here, I am not a fan of winter.  Granted, it doesn't help that I have a blood vessel disorder (that has no cure).  We always get super cold weather for a brief stretch of time, but that doesn't mean I ever get used to it!

hahaha I definitely wonder sometimes
I think there are several factors that come into play when keeping horses happy in such frigid temps.  I am by no means a professional and what works for me and my horses will not work for everyone.  But as I close in on thirty years of owning horses, there are definitely a few things I have learned along the way.  As always, your mileage may vary and check with your veterinarian when in doubt.

Seriously, I don't think there is a more important winter management rule for horses.  I personally feed second crop hay and I break it up into four feedings a day.  Buy the very best quality hay you can.  I get to know the quantity my horses will eat without wasting it.  In brutal cold temps, I make sure they always have hay in front of them.  I personally don't like round bales, but I know a lot of people feel they work well in cold temps.

This was Christmas Day!  MUCH warmer than today!
Provide fresh water 
I remember as a child hearing the old wives tale that horses will just eat snow in the winter.  Wrong.  I personally do not use heated water buckets, but I know many folks do.  I think they are barn burners and I just don't think it is worth the risk.  I also have horses that are prone to sticking things in their mouths because they are nosy, so the idea of electrocuting a horse because they chewed a wire freaks me out.  I know a lot of people disagree with this idea, but I have never had a problem with horses drinking without heated water buckets.  Does this mean I am breaking ice and refilling buckets 4-5 times a day?  Yup.  But it works for me and it is not impossible.  Also, warm water freezes faster than cold water, so all that work of lugging hot water to the barn is probably doing nothing.  Granted, there are horses out there that drink better when the water is tepid, or I also use rubber buckets in the winter to eliminate the plastic ones from breaking.  I have broken a lot of regular water buckets over the years and finally smartened up haha.  I also don't use a hammer to knock ice out, because that for sure is going to put a hole or shatter a bucket.  If you do choose to use heated buckets or drop in tank heaters, make sure your wiring is up to code and you follow all safety precautions.
Horses do not eat snow to quench thirst.  Dreamy is just being a weirdo.
Blanket thoughtfully
I don't think every horse needs to be blanketed.  Most horses grow excellent winter coats and nothing we can buy at Smartpak will ever be better than what they naturally already own.  I have only ever blanketed if I have clipped a horse (Dreamy used to get clipped for fox hunting and then I was committed to a winter/spring of blanketing).  Buy decent blankets for the job intended.  Don't use a lightweight blanket on a horse and flatten their hair coat, which is my biggest pet peeve of blanketing.  Now, with the temps barely reaching 5 degrees, I did dig out my heavyweights (370 grams of fill) and blanketed both of the mares who are unclipped.  Had I left them in their stalls, I probably would not have done so, but I like them out moving around.  And the windchill made the temps more like -25, so I feel that giving them a super warm blanket is best for windy conditions.  They have been totally fine the last two days.  I watch how they stand, how long they eat, what is seems like they need because I know them well.  So my best advice is to know your horse.  Every horse is different and has different needs.  Snappy liked to drop weight, so I often blanketed her in the winter because it seemed to help.  Plus, she never grew the yak like winter coat that all my others do.

Try to arrange your set up to work for you, not against you
Most of us cannot design the barn of our dreams for a multitude of reasons haha.  Mine is pretty close but this whole budget thing got in the way.  I'd love something even more extravagant!.  ;-)  That said, don't make things harder for you.  For example, every winter I always see people posting on FB about how much they hate lugging water from their houses, and all I can think is that it really  doesn't take much to save for and install a simple water line and hydrant to the barn.  Try to figure out a good hay storage situation so you don't have to buy it throughout the winter ($$$) or have to go after it every week because the storage area is small.  Granted, saving and spending money on a water line or hay storage in the summer months is not nearly as fun as a tropical vacation during winter months, but it sure does make life easier.

A tractor helps, but at least have a snowblower or snowplow on the truck to move snow.  I am so lucky that I no longer have to SHOVEL out paths to everything myself (as I did for ten years in my first marriage).  Now, I have a husband who knows how to plow, use the tractor bucket, and actually cares LOL!  ;-)  Not saying you need a husband to move snow, though it does help haha!  We just open gates to pastures and plow out a path.  We move the horse trailer and plow it out before returning it to its spot.  Yes, it is a pain to move things around, but it is much less work and time than trying to dig everything out with a snow shovel. And it stays much better.  The one thing we do hire out is the salt/sanding, which we only do when it is truly icy.  Our driveway is steep and 1000+' long, so I much rather pay our excavation guy $40 a pop than deal with ice.  We also get salt/sand from the local town salt shed, and use it to liberally sand around the barn and gates where the sander cannot reach.  On average, I think we have hired out the salt/sanding about four times a winter, so that is doable.  For that price, it is not worth the hassle to us to buy our own sander.

Don't freak out
It's winter.  It's Maine.  It is always this cold and we all survive.  I have two FB friends who constantly post long, daily, drawn out diatribes about lugging water 100 miles uphill both way to the barn, setting alarms to wake up several times in the night to check on the horses, making mashes upon mashes for them to eat.  Now look, I know it makes you feel warm and fuzzy, but horses do not feel the cold like we do.  Granted, if a horse's immune system is already compromised, they may need such obsessive caretaking.  But I honestly think horses can go from 10PM nightcheck to 6AM feed time in the winter, even in seriously cold temps.  A hefty chunk of hay and fresh water will last.  And even if the water freezes by midnight and they don't drink until 6AM, they will be OK.  I am not a huge fan of constant bran mashes to "warm them up".  Yes, some horses benefit from water water added to their regular grain ration to help with water intake.

Own hardy horses
Haha this is kind of a joke, but I admit it does help to own Morgans and Standardbreds, who are generally hardy and grow winter coats like yaks.  ;-)  There are always exceptions to every rule, but I have been lucky to have horses who are hardy even in the worst temps.  Are they hardy because they naturally are or because I don't treat them like humans...???  ;-)

Invest in decent winter clothing
This is something I cannot emphasize enough, second only to LOTS OF HAY and provide water.  My winter uniform is Bogs boots, wool boot socks, silk long underwear, Carhartt lined coveralls, Turtle fleece neck warmer, wool hat, and Marmot gloves.  Generally the only uncovered section is my eyes haha!  Sometimes I add handwarmers on these super cold days to help my hands.  I always think I should invest in a pair of battery operated gloves, but then I never buy any LOL!  They would probably help me.  I tend to immediately get super cold when I first go outside, and once I start working (cleaning stalls, sweeping, throwing hay, whatever), then I warm up within about 15 minutes.  But until my body figures out how to regulate, I am in serious pain.  Once I warm up, I stay warm unless I start standing around, like when the farrier is here.  Sometimes I can warm back up by working again, but generally I need to come inside to warm up because my body just cannot handle it.  I am lucky to not have to work outside all day in bitter temps, but I do dress appropriately and it does help.  

If you board, appreciate your barn owner/manager
If you are lucky enough to board your horse and do not have to deal with any outside winter horsekeeping activities (well, for one I am jealous LOL), but honestly, be thankful.  Tell your barn owner/manager that you appreciate them.  Be helpful when you can.  Don't have a bad attitude if the driveway isn't immediately plowed out because they are too busy taking care of horses (or whatever more pressing need).  Be patient and realize that most decent boarding barns are trying their best to take care of your horse in extreme weather.

Spend winters in Florida
Kidding.  Sort of.

Or just buy your child lots of Thomas the Train tracks for Christmas and entertain yourself by filling your living room rug with them. This is pretty much what we have been doing in between chores and eating lots of Christmas treats LOL!
That is my best advice, as I sit here watching it snow YET AGAIN.  Isn't it too cold out there to snow?  Uggg.  Horsekeeping in winter really isn't as bad as we think, even though it is tough to remember that when we are in the throes of dealing with it haha.  Soon enough, everyone will shed out to their sleak summer coats and we will be riding at 8PM to avoid the heat and worst of the bugs.  (Though you will NEVER hear me complain about the heat!!)

Did I miss anything?  Any advice to add?  Don't rub it in if you live in a warm climate!  ;-)

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Christmas Tradition

For the first time that I can remember, we had a white Christmas Day!  Generally there is always snow on the ground here in Maine already, and maybe we get a few flurries that day, but I don't ever remember a true snowstorm on Christmas!
The view out our side living room window on Christmas morning when my husband went out to plow around 8:30AM.  We ended up with close to a foot by the time it dwindled down around 1PM.  What you can't see in this pic is just how hard it was snowing.

Santa arrived!  And then she had a glass of wine and a piece of chocolate chip cheesecake before heading to bed on Christmas Eve!  ;-)
We had a really great Christmas, even if it was quiet.  No one wanted to travel in the storm, of course, so we ended up seeing family on Christmas Eve day and night.  It was odd to cook a meal for just the four of us, but honestly, it was rather nice to just relax.

It has become a tradition to ride my horses bareback on Christmas Day, though watching it snow like crazy all day made me think maybe I would just skip out this year haha.  It was cold and blowing and didn't really seem like the warmest best plan.  I started this when I got my first horse, Sparky in 1993, and except for the year I was gifted my first dressage saddle, I have ridden my horses bareback on Christmas!

Then around 1PM, it seemed to stop, so I figured I would at least toss them outside until dark.  Once I got out there, put both horses out, recleaned stalls, and set up for PM feed, the sun was trying hard to appear.  With renewed Christmas spirit haha, I grabbed my helmet and Dreamy's bridle.  I figured I would start with her, since I had no idea what Ellie might think.

Dreamy wasn't super impressed but she humored me.
Ellie was actually perfect, which was fun!
Didn't even groom anyone, so her mane was extra wild haha!
I figured worse case scenario, I would slide off into the snow.  There was plenty of cushion there LOL!

The sun made its full appearance by the time I finished with Ellie.  It really is pretty, but now it can be summer again haha!
It was a perfect day!  We just toddled around the back field and small paddock at the walk, maybe ten minutes per horse.  Though I generally stick to horse cookie treats, I had bought a bag of carrots for Christmas, so they each had a few after I rode.  They had a few more chunked up in their PM grain.  I feel very lucky to continue this tradition over the past twenty something years, and I hope I can always do so.  :-)

Saturday, December 23, 2017

2017 Blogger Gift Exchange

First, I have to thank Tracey at Printable Pony for hosting this super fun equestrian blogger gift exchange!  I discovered this excitement only last year, though she has been arranging it for five years now!  I had Emily last year, from Wilbur, Ellie, and Emily, a new-to-me blog once I was given her as my blogger giftee!  It was so fun to stalk get to know her through her blog and then choose, wrap, and mail her gifts!  

This year I had to really be on the ball with my gifting, because I offered to ship my gift to Canada.  So I am waiting to hear if the package arrived!  I am so excited as there is nothing better than sending off a bunch of fun horsey gifts!

Because I sent my own gift a while ago, I kinda forgot about this for a while in the bustle of December.  It was only the last two days when other bloggers started writing about their own gifts arriving that I remembered!  And tonight (after the LOOOOONEST week teaching at school), the UPS man brought MY gift!  Yay!  What a fun kick off to Christmas vacation week!

I knew immediately who my Secret Santa was because her name was on the return label.  THANK YOU Amanda!  The $900 Facebook Pony is one of my favorite blogs.  I love following along with Amanda's adventures with Henry and Presto.  She is definitely an eventer I look up to and hope to jump badass jumps with Ellie one day like she does with Henry!  (Plus, I love her sense of style, so I was excited to open the box and see my treats haha!)

I was good and read the card before I looked in the box!

Cutest Christmas card!

Amanda really knocked this out of the park!  She was so generous!!  She gifted me two super cute pairs of Sox Trot socks, which is a brand I have never tried, so I am excited to wear them!  It may not be right off, since we are currently in the middle of a freaking sn*w storm (looking at about a foot of accumulation by tomorrow morning) and while it it is 15 degrees right now at 8:00PM, the real feel is 7.  Yeah, so might not be wearing anything but wool socks in the barn for a good long while hahahaha!  ;-)

There is also a container of KJ Creations tack cleaner in Delta Blue scent, which is margarita and salt.  YES PLEASE!  I'd like a margarita right now haha between the week I had at school and the freaking sn*w storm!  It looks like it will be an excellent addition to my tack cleaning supplies.  I also have never heard of this company, so yet another website to poke around on and buy all the things! 

I am impressed with the book, Crowded in the Middle of Nowhere by Dr. Bo Brock, as it is one that I haven't read yet!  Yay!!  This is definitely my kind of book and I will definitely be devouring it over school break this coming week!  I LOVE books and LOVE getting books as gifts, so this was perfect.  The vet is from Texas, which is also where Amanda lives.

And THEN, as if that all wasn't exciting enough on its own, Amanda gave Ellie her own Haas Diamond Wurzel brushes!!  I cleaned and disinfected Snappy's old brushes for her when she arrived, but admittedly they are getting pretty old and Ellie definitely deserves her own!  I love them because they are sparkly and just right for a redheaded pony!  There is a dandy brush and a body brush.  I am sure Ellie will approve!

Also, there is a long handled brush that I fully admit I had no idea what it was at first hahaha!  I initially thought it was for scrubbing out buckets, but it just seems way too nice for that.  I mean, I love a well cleaned water bucket, but I don't know that I could use such a nice brush for it!  ;-)  Then I was like well, maybe it is for carefully brushing out her tail?  Ummmm.....for muddy legs?  Then it dawned on me that it is probably for scrubbing hooves and I was right LMAO!  Couldn't find it on Riding Warehouse's site (which I know Amanda loves haha), so I checked Teddy's Tack Trunk.  BINGO!  This thing is super cool and once we hit mud season and then show season (which are the other two seasons here in Maine besides winter!), this thing is going to see a lot of use!

And last but not least, she included a $10 Riding Warehouse gift card.  Perfect way to justify a RW shopping spree hahaha!!

Holy shit, woman!  This is a crazy, amazing box full of gifts and I love every single thing!!  Thank you so much, Amanda, for your generosity and great gift ideas.  I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and Henry behaves himself while you are off enjoying vacation! 

Friday, December 22, 2017

NEJA Christmas Spectacular Jumper Show

After having such a blast at Ellie's first show, a little jumper show with the New England Jumper Association back in October, I set my sights on their last two schooling shows, one in November and the other in December.  Sadly, due to rain, the November show was cancelled (which bummed me out because it was a new venue for Ellie), but we were able to dodge the recent snow storms to attend their December show! 

Again we we back at Ellie's birthplace barn, Kennebec Morgan Farm.  This time I opted to get her a stall, because I had a feeling the footing in the parking area might be slippery (it was) and I wanted her to relax and not dance around at the trailer.  It was a great call on my part, and she just chilled out and ate her hay.  I was able to leave her in the stall and walk the course, pick up my ribbons afterwards, etc. without worrying about her being tied to the trailer.  

We left the house at 7am and it was a measly four degrees!  Blahhh!  I have never shown in December, as usually my show season is April - October, so this may have been my first and last time for winter showing haha!  Ellie stepped right up into the trailer, and though I did hold my dressage whip out towards her side, I never had to touch her.  GOOD MARE.  Trailer loading practice paid off!

I opted to enter the walk trot pleasure and eq classes again, as well as the ground poles class.  Figuring it couldn't hurt, I also added the crossrails.  I figured it was as good a time as any to try a little course.  What I didn't count on was a one stride in-and-out, so I was like welp, we shall see what she does with that!  (Spoiler: she was fine.)  

All photos bought from EM Images, a man who was kind enough to stand out in the cold to photograph us crazy horse girls!  Not only do I love the pics, but I always try to support all show photographers!

I can't even handle how friggin cute this mare is.

Such a happy girl! (both of us haha)
 Ellie was definitely a little distracted by the fact that there were ten jumps in the indoor and we had to carefully weave in and out of the standards (most jumps did not have poles out yet except the ones in the middle area of the ring) and forgot a bit how to steer.  She was super behaved and not nervous, just wanted to make her own life choices about which side of certain standards to go on without any input from me.  It was funny and I was like, thank you for your bravery and opinions, but I'll be in charge today kthanks.  Thus, she was a little giraffe like and wanted to look at everything instead of coming down steady onto the bit like she normally does, but she had nice moments here and there.  We did get about ten minutes of warm up time before they started the show (I was in class 3, but they scratched classes 1 and 2) but it was hard to really get her soft and supple without being able to work on a 20 m. circle.  That was OK, and I realize this is just where she is at in her training.  My goal was to just give her the best experience I could with what we had.  

We ended up first in pleasure and second in eq, and Ellie was great.  We had a little group of three in our classes and there was a bunch of people standing around at the end of the ring and a Christmas tree and presents amongst the many jumps, so there was plenty to look at for her.  She handled it well and there was zero spooking but a lot of giraffing haha.  She stood nicely at X with her new friend (Kennebec Avery and her mom Nina, who I had the pleasure of meeting that day) while the WTC classes went.  I wanted to see how she would react while horses went around her, figuring I could always dismount and leave the ring if need be, and she was quite happy to stand completely still and relax.

The wigglyness was pretty much nonexistent in our ground pole class, and because we were not alone (so no guaranteed win haha), I motored Ellie around at a brisk trot.  She was great and remembered how to steer, so we won!  Yay for winning ground poles hahaha!  She is seriously the champion mare of ground poles haha.

Ground pole world champs right here
Then we left the ring and hung out while the other riders went and then they set the course for cross rails.  The wigglyness was back, but not terrible, and my goal was just to give her a good ride and never mind trying to beat the timer.  The other riders cantered the course, while I elected to trot into every fence, which I think was the exact right decision for Ellie.  She did canter after a few fences, which I was fine with, but I also brought her right back to the trot (she was very agreeable to me setting the pace) because the indoor is tiny and the jumps came up quickly.  She's only ever cantered over poles, so I did not see any reason to canter her over a cross rail at a show for the first time LOL!  She didn't hesitate at anything and didn't even give anything a second look, though she did have a nanosecond of pause at the second fence of the one stride.  The photographer got the funniest shot of us over this fence, as my face is literally a mixture of pure wonder, shock, and happiness that we made it over. 

Ellie: Umm, I just jumped and now there is another fence right here and I am not sure and what is happening and...ahhhhh!

Me: You're good, Ellie, just keep going.  Never mind that you are headed right for the announcer's table which you think it a potentially scary place.  Trust me, mare.  We've got this.

Ellie: Oh, OK wheeeee jumping yay!

For real.  That was our conversation.

This is the hilarious shot LOL!
The course was definitely a bit awkward and not the smoothest, and I don't know what the hell kind of defensive position I am doing over fences (I fully expected some leaping LOL) but for her first ever over fences course, I am so proud of her!!  She did what I asked and wasn't rushing or nervous or anything.  Mostly it was just really awkward trotting over the cross rails and a few slight actual jumping efforts!  Ellie loaded right up when it was time to head home and we arrived to the house by 2PM! 

Awkward trotting over cross rails haha

Her face is so happy!

I found out this show was double pointed as two shows, since the November show was cancelled.  So hilariously enough, we qualified for year end points (had to complete three shows) and I hear we have earned year end awards hahaha!  Nothing like buying a horse on September 2, who has barely been backed, and then winning year end awards by December 16.  Only me LOL!  Of course, they are baby tadpole WT and ground poles classes, but whatever.  Gotta start somewhere!!

So, Ellie's first "year" of showing has been hugely successful.  She bravely attended two horse shows and a trail ride (granted, they were all at her birthplace farm, but still!!).  So proud of my little Morgan.  :-)

Thursday, December 21, 2017

2017 Goals Review

Man, 2017 was certainly the year of the unexpected in all ways.  Looking back, I realized I never posted anything specific about my goals, but I know what they were!

  1. Attend the 2017 Area I Schooling Horse Trials Championships
  2. Get Snappy's canter to the point where we can move up to Training level dressage tests
  3. Keep the mares happy and healthy
Dreamy and Snappy
My goals were pretty simple.  I knew Snappy wasn't quite ready to canter in public, so I decided to not show (for a second year in a row) at Intro level dressage shows.  Instead, I kept my showing goals limited to just horse trials in order to qualify for the Area I Championships.  

Of course, we did end up having a wonderfully fun five events (complete with five first place finishes) and did make it to the Championships.  I was slightly underwhelmed by the VERY low expectations at Championships, and we ended up in sixth place.  I admit, we never had been first after dressage in our qualifying events, but the reason we won so many times was because Snappy always went clean in both XC and stadium.  So when I saw the SUPER SMALL jumps at Championships, I knew immediately we had no chance of winning.  The jumps were literally six inches high, and I knew there would be no refusals by any other horse to help us move towards the top.  Ah well.  It is not all about ribbons, but it was slightly frustrating because I knew had there been real questions on XC, we could've done much better.  Add to that, I knew this was really going to be Snappy's last show because she was starting to become completely unsound behind, so it was sort of a bittersweet letdown to be honest.
What I did not know was less than a week later I would be putting Snappy down.  I had wanted so desperately to keep her just as a retired pasture puff, even if I never rode her again, but that was not meant to be.  Her tired and worn out body just couldn't do it.  I couldn't watch her spend the majority of her days laying down in her pasture to escape the pain.  She was so young and I still had so many things I wanted to experience with her! 
Celebrating a wonderful final year of showing in 2017, after I thoroughly groomed and stuffed her full of cookies while waiting for the vet on her last day :-(
But, in the end, you do what is right for your horse and not for your own heart.  Putting her down still completely devastates me, but I have to remind myself I did what she needed and I put her needs first.  So did I keep Snappy happy and healthy?  No.  But I did my best and she was NOT happy and healthy being alive in the end.  That's a tough thing to wrap my head around.
Our last trail ride, the day before Championships.  After Championships, I never rode her again.  :-(
And then to even more completely overwhelm and surprise me, life brought me Ellie.  I always knew there would be a redheaded Morgan mare in my life someday, but I NEVER dreamed it would be now.  She's truly the horse of my dreams.

And through it all, Miss Dreamy has been there, living the life of luxury and retirement.  I know I don't write a lot about her (or post her on my Instagram), but she is doing exactly what I had hoped for her, which is to be happy and healthy after everything she has given me.  I am so grateful I have been able to keep my horses right until the end.  Dreamy is going to be 27 years old this coming year, and I hope she will be chilling in her stall and pasture for a long time to come.
Late summer, Dreamy looking damn fine for 26 years old
Hacking out on Dreamy, who plays along and lets me remember every so often how well trained she is, though we mostly stick to trail riding and playing in the Christmas tree fields at a walk.
Overall, while I can say I experienced intense heartbreak in 2017, I also experienced a lot of fun and happiness.  I am eager to see what the new year brings for my horses and our little farm!  

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Baby Ellie!

I have unearthed Baby Ellie pics from the barn manager's Facebook haha!  I had time to kill one day last week.  Don't ask LOL.  Isn't she the cutest?!

Just a few days old.  Look at those ears LOL!  And she was so red!

This is the BM's dad, which is random, but look how much she now looks like her mother!

This is Ellie as a yearling.
And an adorable post when they started her under saddle last winter.  

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Honoring and Grieving the Past

When my dear mare, Sparky, passed away in 2014, it took me a while but I finally created a shadow box for her with her barn halter (she is buried in her show halter), some of my favorite ribbons, and a few pics.  The box was moved from our rental house, to our new house, and has just been sitting in my office, propped up against the wall.

I bought another shadow box for Snappy not long after she passed, but it also took me some time to put it together.  I don't know, maybe I just wasn't ready to take down her halter from the hook in the tack room or pull down my favorite ribbons.  I just wasn't ready and I didn't want it to just sit on the floor either.

Over the weekend, I finally put it together.  The shadow box itself is different than the one I got for Sparky, so it is harder to arrange things, and I am not as happy with how her halter looks.  Oh well.

As I was making it on our large kitchen bar area, I said to my husband that I had no idea where to put them.  There really isn't room in my tack room and I didn't know that I wanted them in the house.  He thought I should hang them with the ribbon display in our (daylight) basement, which of course was the perfect place.  Thank you, husband.

We enter the house in this area and keep our coats and shoes against another wall area, so there is comfort in seeing these shadow boxes every day.  This coming spring, we will seed in the soil over Snappy's grave next to Sparky, and then the entire area can be mowed and both their grave markers will be there.  Every time I drive into my property, I look over at their graves and feel comfort that my mares are still "with me".

Sometimes it is the little things that bring healing to our hearts.  💓

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Bitting Miss Ellie

It seems that there are as many opinions out there about bits as there are horse people.  ;-)  Not to mention the large (and pricey!) options that have surfaced over the past several years!  I have always favored a French link mouthpiece for my horses and generally have stuck with a loose ring or eggbutt ring.  That is to say, I have started with a loose ring and found that my horses have preferred the stability of the eggbutt instead.  Snappy was even fussy in the eggbutt and I tried a French link boucher which finally seemed to be stable enough to keep her mouth happy.  Any excess bit movement appeared to give her tension.

So, my personal preference is to start with something I think tends to work best (such as the French link eggbutt) and follow the horse's lead.  With Ellie, she was in a loose ring with a flash in the pics I received before I bought her.  I don't use flash nosebands (just a personal preference as I don't see a need for them) and she was SUPER fussy in a loose ring, so we moved to the eggbutt literally in the middle of the first ride LOL!  A lot of her fussiness went away, but she still had an incredibly fussy mouth.  Now, much of that is because she was so green when I got her and she just needed time.  

Ellie's bit set up at her birthplace farm, though I also saw a pic from February 2017 (when they started her undersaddle) with an eggbutt and Micklem).
But even over time, she still seemed fussy to me.  On a whim,  I switched to a more curved shape of the JP French link eggbutt, after raiding my bit box to see what I had that she might like (before I spend money haha).  There was a noticeable difference, so OK, I can fall for the idea that the curved shape gives her more room for her tongue.  But the bit still seems kinda thick for her tiny mouth.  It is easily a 16mm when she could use a bridoon like 14mm.  I tried Dreamy's Stubben French link (which really has a more oval shape lozenge center instead of the traditional looking French link) and while it looked much better in her mouth thickness wise, she wasn't thrilled.

The JP curved French link

Oh look, it finally snowed LOL!  (And I clipped her bridle path)
I am leaning towards a Neue Schule, but hot damn, who wants to spend $200 on a bit that my horse might not like?  Yeah, I can probably resell it and recoup some, but ugggg such a pain (and stupid Paypal fees!).  I found a bit bank in the UK which allows you to trial bits for a month, so I am considering that.  And it comes out to only about $160 USD to purchase, so a little bit of savings if I do keep it.  I also found a random person on FB who is selling the exact bit for £50 (which is like $67 USD), but she won't mail to the US blahhhh.  That is crazy since I would pay exact shipping but WHATEVER.  For $67 I could easily resell that sucker for $100 and still do well LOL.

Snow pony!
But then our last few rides she was been lovely soft and quiet with the (cheap) JP bit.  She is even stretching out and seeking the bit (yay mare!) and then I'm like, calm yourself and just give her time.  I don't know.  The bit still  looks too thick to me and it squeaks (!!!!) which is super annoying hahaha.  It's like you want to FIX ALL THE THINGS but frugality and the idea of patience gets in the way hahaha.  A bit change is easy when it is for something already in my bit box, but I have a hard time justifying it when I don't want to spend that much money on an unknown.  

Love her!
No indoor, no problem!  We've got snow tires haha!