Neue Schule. Lets take a closer look
Neue Schule, translated loosely to ‘new school’ is a UK based brand with a broad range of bitting options that focus on accommodating profiles and cutting edge materials. OK, so that’s the corporate line!! But lets get straight to the important points…
- What do all those different mouthpieces do?
- What makes them so different? and
- Why are they so popular now across all equestrian disciplines?
First we need to look at the philosophy of the brand. The founder, Heather Hyde, already had many years’ experience running a bit hire service where she needed to balance the requirements of the rider and comfort for the horse. It became apparent to her that the mainstream bits on the market at that time were often not satisfying the challenges presented by both horse and rider. This led to the formation of Neue Schule – innovatively designed with comfort and performance always a priority.
The Neue Schule collection covers all types of bit including snaffles, pelhams, weymouths, gags and lever bits, with a separate lightweight pony range specifically designed for a smaller head and mouth. There really is a solution for every horse, across all disciplines.
What is salox?
The unique factor of a Neue Schule bit is the salox gold metal that is used to produce every mouthpiece. Salox is an engineered metal specially designed for a horse's mouth which is a warm, soft and often sensitive environment. For the riders aids to be effective the horse's mouth needs to remain calm and relaxed to receive each and every signal coming from the reins. Salox has high thermal conductivity, a soft feel with acoustic dampening and low bioactivity. Properties that enable it to create a kind but reliable environment in the horse's mouth, promoting warmth and softness that is much great than an equivalent stainless steel bit.
Navigating the range
To keep it simple, lets break the bit down specifically in to “mouthpiece” and “cheek piece” when selecting the most appropriate bitting solution for your horse’s mouth conformation, sensitivity and ridden requirements.
There are approximately 15 individual mouthpieces, some spanning all categories of bit and others specifically for snaffles or weymouths for example. For more information about each one and how it is used, the Neue Schule website is an invaluable tool with in depth profiles and in many cases a video explaining how and why to use a specific bit / mouthpiece.
Where to start!
To start a young horse in their training I personally like either the starter snaffle or the team up. They are both gentle bits that promote acceptance and confidence, but with a varying action. The team up is perhaps more similar to a French link but with a kinder ergonomically shaped lozenge. Other snaffle mouthpieces include the tranz angled lozenge and verbindend, similarly variations on a double jointed lozenge bit, and again a really great knowedge base about all of these bits is found on the Neue Schule website. NOTE! On first glance the verbindend and starter snaffle do have a “similar” appearance if you’re not sure what to look for, but its wise to understand the difference between the 2 – we will cover this in more detail in a forthcoming blog.
Neue Schule mouthpieces that remain specific to the bit type are found in the Weymouth category. They include the starter, slimma, pacifier, warmblood, mors l’hotte plus a number of further variations each with a specific action and providing a specific solution depending on the type of horse and their level of training. Again if you would like to understand more about types of Weymouth or even how to start your horse in a double bridle, the Neue Schule website has some excellent content.
Then looking at the ring / side of the bit, the neue schule range is divided in to loose ring, fixed ring, lever, gag, pelham and weymouth, with the predominant function of this element of the bit being control and precision. With all of this innovation and variation, there really is far too much to cover in one go, but please ask if you would like anything specific covering in future topics.
Navigating the second hand market
The Second Hand Horse Bit Shop always stock a range of Neue Schule bits, carefully sourced to ensure they are "good" second hand examples and although they will often have wear such as teeth marks they will always be still completely functional.
When buying a second hand Neue Schule bit independently it is important that you check the bits authenticity. Most sellers are genuine but unfortunately some will sell a "copper alloy" or “german silver” bit as a Neue Schule simply because it looks the same. While this could be deliberate, it is often actually because they are simply unaware that it’s an unbranded bit and not aware that a Neue Schule bit is uniquely identifiable.
All Neue Schule bits will be stamped NS somewhere on the mouthpiece, and most bits on the market now will have "salox" on the other side of the mouthpiece. If the bit doesn’t have the “salox” stamp don’t panic, as long as it has NS someone it just means it is an older model from the range. But if the bit isn’t stamped at all then it’s not likely to be genuine. If a seller doesn’t show a close up of this, just ask... if it is genuine they will be able to photograph it for you.
Also beware of a Neue Schule with excessive wear. Due to the properties of salox, heavy use can lead to exaggerated or even sharp teeth marks / ridges on the mouthpiece and also wear to the joining parts. This is especially evident on the links of some older waterford bits, and ever sometimes the central link of an older lozenge bit. If either of these conditions are evident, don’t buy the bit. It is likely to be uncomfortable for your horse and ultimately dangerous if it were to break if the metal is too thin.
We could discuss the variances within the Neue Schule range for days, and as a range you could even feel very much spoilt for choice! However, when selecting the best bit for your horse it is wise remember these two final points….
Firstly, the Neue Schule brand provides a fantastic knowledge base (on its website) with in depth descriptions, videos and numerous scientific research projects. I would urge to you to look at the poll pressure research which is extremely informative regardless of the brand of bit you use. Learn about the options available to you based on your requirements and level of training, and don’t rush your decision to invest in such an important piece of kit. Secondly, never lose sight of what you need and why. Consider the mouthpiece first and then the appropriate cheek pieces, and pay special attention to the conformation of your horse’s mouth and any behavioural issues that a poorly fitting bit has been causing. Your primary goal should be comfort for the horse, from which you will naturally achieve better performance.
Next time, we’ll be taking a look at the hanging cheek snaffle (and the many other names that it has