Now, if I, Fenway, had a dog named Easy, I would change it to Easyboot. That would be good, because then I could call him by a variety of surnames according to the circumstances. Just finish a rigorous hike? Easyboot Epic. Take him swimming? EasySoaker. Remove his collar? Easyboot Bare. Dangle him from the end of a chewtoy? Easyboot Grip. Note that he's stickin' right by my side? Easyboot Glue-on.
Now, Easy is a little bit cute and a little bit wonderful, but I wanted to talk about another sort of bit: bits like my pelham, my dogbone snaffle, and my rubber jointed eggbutt snaffle.
My favorite treatise on bits and bitting can be found here, at http://www.sustainabledressage.com/tack/bridle.php. I like the thoroughness with which Theresa Sandin discusses the intricacies of bitting, but I also like her overarching philosophy. She gets it—bits are a communication tool, and like any tool they are only effective when wielded properly.
There are harsh bits, and there are mild bits, but really these catagories are not as black and white as you would think. Some equine mouths lend themselves to the comfortable acceptance of a fat snaffle, for instance, while others lack the capacity for a 19 millimeter mouthpiece. Some palates are low enough to render even a small port painful, while others are so lofty that a mouthpiece might better be selected which allows plenty of tongue space.
Bitless bridles, too, can be helpful or a hindrance. FarmWife herself is not a fan of the crossover type (Dr. Cook's, for instance), because of it's lack of an immediate release. She vastly prefers a simple sidepull, but rides me in a mechanical hackamore out of convenience. (It is what she has, after all, and her new tack budget is nonexistant).
The mechanical hackamore is a tool that can be misused, affording the rider tremendous leverage. FarmWife knows this, and uses hers with a gentle and considerate touch. Other bits that can be misused are . . . well, all of them, but especially the bits with shanks, high ports, sharp or thin mouthpieces, or any combination thereof.
There are a few sorts of bits and bitting issues that make FarmWife purple with annoyance. These include using the Dr. Baucher snaffle backwards or without keepers (it is a strong snaffle, but only because of the angle at which the center plate lies against the tongue), using the pelham with only one set of reins or with converters (use a kimberwicke if you don't want to handle two sets of reins!), using a jointed, shanked bit and calling it a snaffle (tom thumb snaffle? Try tom DUMB snaffle!), and using a pelham with a jointed mouthpiece. She also objects strongly to the use of an upside down baucher snaffle, and will not purchase bits from any store that shows the baucher upside down on it's sale page (more common than you'd think!). Finally, she objects to almost all of the fancy "combination" bits that are out there, and also to the concept that any bit with shanks should be used to start a green horse. She is of the opinion, and I share it, that a rider should select the most mild bit that will serve for most introductory work.
There are three reasons to select a stronger or harsher bit, in my opinion. These are, 1) the desire to refine communication as you advance as a rider/horse (or mule) team; 2) the desire for stronger brakes, when training alone has failed remedy a horse's (or mule's) inadequate sensitivity; and 3) ignorance. If you do not need refinement in your communication or a stronger tool to supplement an adequate training program, you should not use a harsher bit. Bits alone cannot fix gaps in knowledge, and the aids are part of a language of communication that must be taught. Screaming at you in Klingon is not going to fix the fact that you don't speak Klingon, and bitting is the same. Jerking on your face with a double twisted wire snaffle is not going to help if you don't understand what pulling on your face means in the first place!
Well, I hope you'll check out the above link for more bitting information, and I hope you'll get your mule a bit in which he can be comfortable, focused, and relaxed. As far as I'm concerned, FarmWife's favorite French link snaffle is the antithesis of a good bit (I hate, hate, hate it! It drapes like a cold, dead lizard in my mouth), and she listened when I told her that I preferred the solid feeling of a mullen mouth or single jointed bit. I hope you, human, will listen when your mule speaks to YOU.