This is my bit collection, accumulated over many years.

Other bits currently in use aren’t pictured here: The Myler Pelham that helps my daughter stop Lulu, her jumper, at the shows; the elevator bit that stops Lulu at home; the copper roller that helps the little girls keep our paint pony’s head up; the slow twist full cheek that assists me with smoother transitions on Devon, my Thoroughbred.

When the horses are gone, the bits remain. My bit collection sits in a Tupperware tub in my tack trunk. Every so often, as training requires, I pull bits out to exchange them with bits on our bridles and every time I do I think of the horses they went with.

The twisted wire was supposed to give more control on a Quarter Horse I showed in the Amateur Owner Hunter division a long time ago.

The snaffle Pelham went with Cricket, a talented Westphalian whose training went south when he was first imported. He landed with an old Canadian trainer of mine who bought him for nothing, and had some success on him until he ripped half his foot off in the turnout. He came back sound and I brought him to California where his old injury caused chronic hoof abscesses. My experience with Cricket soured me on horse ownership for many years.

I rode a partial lease Quarter Horse, Katie, along the ridge overlooking the ocean in Malibu, CA, in the full cheek snaffle. My two girls, four and six at the time, trotted her on the lunge line in the full cheek.

When we first moved to the desert we used the Kimberwick on a lovely horse we part-leased because that’s what he’d always been ridden in. People told us he was wild and had stories to back up their claims. But we discovered he just needed consistent riding and was very manageable in a D-ring snaffle. I wanted to buy him but he wasn’t sound.

The Pelham, my favorite bit for showing Harv, my childhood horse, was not strong enough for Lulu who likes to grab a hold and ignore it.

The rubber full cheek gave my oldest daughter a little more turning power on a green pony I never should have bought. When that wasn’t enough she rode him in a borrowed elevator until we sold him.

The rubber D-ring worked perfectly for my younger daughter on her first mount, M&M, a naughty 11.3 hand pony. She adored him despite being dumped, trodden on, and dragged to the hay pile countless times. She outgrew him. We sold him.

The happy mouth D-ring kept our gentle Devon happy on the flat when we first bought him. An old trainer told me to buy the Waterford for shows. Later, I found out this is a harsh bit and stopped using it.

These are bits from some of the horses I have known and learned from. They are pieces of a larger story that encompasses all the horses who have enriched my life with their spirit, athleticism, and companionship.