Ask H&H: Waterford gag

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  • Q: I have noticed William Funnell riding Cortaflex Mondriaan in an unusual-looking bit. Do you know what it is and what horses it suits?
    NS, East Yorkshire

    William Funnell is pictured riding Cortaflex Mondriaan, the horse on which he famously won his second Hickstead Derby in 2008.

    Mondriaan is wearing a flash noseband with a Waterford gag. The Waterford is a type of mouthpiece consisting of a series of balls across the main part of the bit, designed to encourage the horse to develop feel and “mouth” the bit, and to encourage better perception of the rider’s aids.

    The bit gives some poll pressure along with a slight “lifting” action and is recommended by many riders whose horses are sensitive, yet strong.

    “Mondriaan can be quite heavy in the hand, so I use this bit to lighten the horse in the ring, and stop him being ‘draggy’,” William explained.

    Matching the bit to the rider

    As well as finding a bit to suit your horse, it is also important to match the right bit with the rider’s level of experience.

    In his book Saddlery, The Complete Guide, author Elwyn Hartley Edwards states: “The bit assists us by suggesting the [horse’s] head position to give maximum control over speed and direction, but the motive force is controlled by the action of our legs and seat; the bit, through our hand, becomes an extension of these forces.”

    Tricia Nassau-Williams, projects manager and lorinery lecturer for the Worshipful Company of Loriners, maintains that any bit or bridle will only be as successful as the rider implementing it.

    “Think of the bit as a communication tool,” she advised.


    WorldWide Tack stocks a range of Neue Schule Waterford bits, including hanging cheeks and gags, from £53.79 inc VAT


    This article was first published in Horse & Hound (15 January, ’09)

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