I hope I'm not the only one who is totally confused on which bit to use for my horses! My basic question here is this: I have a large APHA who, for the last five years, has been used in a horse program at a children's ranch. He has been ridden mostly by a gal who is a bit troubled and, unfortunately, takes her anger out on him. He always has been a sweet horse, a little frisky at times, but I always enjoyed that about him. I don't think she likes it. I used to use a Wonder Bit on him with a curb chain. It worked well for me, but since she's been riding him, he has gotten naughty and has attitude. He is also trying to run through the bit and is very hard mouthed. I have learned lately, after doing some research on Wonder Bits that it was probably not the best choice for my horse.
Now that his mount has left the program and is no longer riding him, I would like to take on a bit of "re" trainig with him. I am wondering what would be the best bit to use on him for this and exactly how I should start out with him: In the round pen, under saddle, on the trail?
I am definitely not a horse trainer, but he and I worked together in his early years of training with a qualified trainer, so I am comfortable with him. I have noticed though that he does not respond to me as well as he used to anymore though. I don't really have the funds to engage a trainer, so I would like to try to do what I can to bring him back to his old sweet self.
I am attaching a few photos of him just because he is so adorable and sweet!
This horse looks a bit "drafty", strong, kind natured, somewhat stubborn (usually in a kind way) and thick through the throatlatch. I can see why a probably desperate person put the Wonder bit on him, because he looks like he could PULL on the rider's hands. If that rider has good hands this is fine. However since one of his previous riders took her temper out on his mouth I doubt that this horse will ever view the Wonder bit without a good bit of fear and anxiety for the rest of his life.
The Wonder bit is a gag type of bit. When the rider uses her rein the mouthpiece slides up in the mouth toward the ears. This causes poll pressure and moves the corners of the horse's lips up to its molars causing rubs. The curb chain puts pressure on the chin groove while limiting the upward movement of the mouthpiece and poll pressure. There is great danger that the corners of this horse's mouth are injured, sore, sensitive and developing calluses from the mouthpiece sliding upward trapping the corners of the horse's lips between the mouthpiece and the curb chain.
I am afraid that the "best" bits for this horse may be expensive.
The PeeWee bit is a thin, very thin, mullen mouth bit, set with loose rings and metal projections down both sides. There is a very good, roomy curve to the Mullen mouthpiece so the tongue does not get trapped and squished, there is no poll action, the chin strap has no curb action, and the bit is set decently low in the horse's mouth. The Arabs I ride did not like this bit but they are SENSITIVE, this horse might like it fine. No gag action, no curb action, no poll pressure, and the thinness of the mouthpiece discourages a horse from lugging on the bit. The side pieces are just thin enough so the horse does not argue with the turning aids for long. Of course you have to know when to give and release your hand aids for the best results with this bit.
Myler bits are another possibility, especially the cheapest one, the Comfort snaffle. The Arabs liked this bit even less than the PeeWee bit if I tried to keep contact, but again these are SENSITIVE mouthed horses with thin throatlatches. The Comfort snaffle has no side pieces so the rider does not have the advantage in turning a resistant horse that one gets with the PeeWee. The Myler mouthpieces are also thin.
The JP bits by Korsteel are another possibility, and they are much cheaper than the other bits. The mouthpieces are curved, reducing tongue pressure. I would get a three piece snaffle bit for this guy, probably one with a lozenge in the center. A D-ring would be useful for aid in turning. Later on you may want to move up to a Kimberwick or Pelham but I would give this horse a vacation from curb chains for a year or two to let his lips heal.
Work on the security of your seat. Concentrate on the feeling that your hands belong to the horse's mouth, moving with every movement of the horse's head even off contact. Apply the hand aids for slowing down/stopping when the horse's head is moving UP and let the horse move its head forward immediately (the giving part of give and take) so the horse does not get a chance of putting its whole weight on the rider's hand. This is all to prevent the horse from just boring into the bit, something horses with thicker throatlatches are very likely to do.
Good luck with your retraining! Just remember it is NOT your horse's fault that someone messed him up. Be easy with your hands, listen to his protests, apologize out loud if you make a mistake with your hands, praise him every time he obeys you, and you and he will become happy partners.
THANK YOU so much for your reply! I have been feeling so desperate on what to do for my poor Flag! He is, as you said, a drafty-type horse, but extremely sweet, kind natured, often stubborn and has a mind of his own. I got him as an early three-year old and he is now 17. In the early days of our training, I always used a basic snaffle bit on him, but as soon as we hit the trail, he was so strong and fast that I kept switching bits to try to help me with control. I know I should have just learned more about using my seat and hand aids, but I was, and still am, a novice, weekend rider and where I used to live, there were no good trainers around to help me with him, so I was on my own, trying to learn from videos, books and magazines. A bit frustrating!
I appreciate SO MUCH all your advice on bits and how I should begin working with him! I am so excited! I am going to go to my local tack store today and buy a three piece D ring snaffle with a roller in the middle.
I'll keep you posted on our progress!
Hi again Kasey! I did not think about the roller snaffle, that could help too. If he likes fussing with his tongue a roller will give him something to do.
The lozenge is a sort of bean shaped center. In a JP bit it sort of smooths out the double jointed mouthpiece.
I have many blogs on here. Some are specifically about contact. "Politeness--Hands" might be a good one for you to read.
There is nothing wrong with being a novice weekend rider. Progress can be slower, but surprisingly if you practice good horsemanship your progress need not be too much slower. The week days give the horse a chance to "digest" the lesson better. When I got my first horse I was a weekend rider for YEARS. Right now I ride 3 horses, each just 30 minutes a week. My progress with each horse is slow, but so what, I'm not going anywhere anyway. So long as the horse improves everything is fine.
I also recommend WALKING the horse up and down hill, any hill will do. You want to give him a chance to carry himself--not hang on your hands--going downhill. This will give him a chance to learn to bring his hindleg up under him, listen to your aids to stay at a steady speed, and will help his fitness. Even mild slopes can help at first.
I really appreciate your advice and encouragement! I do get frustrated at times bkz I work so much and don't have a lot of time to put into my two horses right now. I SO wish I had more time. But, you're so right, where am I going anyway? Who cares if it takes five years! I love thinking that way!
I wanted to tell you that yesterday I bought a new bridle and a Korsteel JP snaffle for my horse. I am going out in a few days to "start" him out on it. My main question is, with this bit, will I need to use a curb chain? Even loose? I've heard that if you don't use one, sometimes the bit can go through the side of the horse's mouth...Also heard that when stopping your horse in a snaffle you don't just pull back. So...how do I stop him then? Just with rein suggestions and my seat? I'm sorry, I'm so clueless. I really need to take lessons!
I love your going up and down hill, which is great bkz there is a really nice grassy slope at the barn that will be perfect for that.
Curb chains are only used with curbs, pelhams, and kimberwickes, and sometimes with the bits resembling the Wonder bit and some Mylers.
If you got a D-ring the bit is not going to go through the side of the horse's mouth. The JP Korsteel D-rings are HUGE. You do not need anything to prevent the bit rings getting into the horse's mouth.
To stop. Start practicing this at the walk. Only apply the stopping rein as the horse's head moves UP and back. Relax the rein tension as the horse's head moves forward and down. Repeat the rein aid again when the horse's head moves up, relax, and repeat as needed.
If you set your hands or pull on the reins your horse will probably set his jaw (hard mouth). It is best to start educating your horse with this on the ground, it REALLY helps if you have taught voice commands on the lunge line! Do not despair if you don't have immediate results, some horses take a while to learn something new. If I were you I would work just at the walk with stopping/slowing down until your horse seems to understand your rein aid.
When you start doing this at the trot you may find that the horse has no idea what you are doing. You will have to be patient! If you are lucky it won't take as long as teaching him this at the walk. The upward movement of the horse's head is MUCH more subtle at the trot, apply the rein aid just when you are getting to the top of your post or as you are sitting down. ALWAYS relax your fingers after giving a rein aid for slowing down until you are an advanced rider. Then comes the canter, where it is easiest to get the horse's head coming up, apply the rein aid, relax your fingers, and if necessary repeat when the horse's head comes up again. If the horse ignores the aid it is all right to increase the tesion on the rein so long you do it ONLY as the horse's head is coming up.
NEVER just pull back on the reins hard and keep a death grip on them! My ideal (and I usually have to school the horse for a few months first), is for my reins to be relaxed half a step before the horse halts. This will help prevent the horse from LEANING on your hands.
It is also important when you put the bridle on to be able to put two fingers verically between the noseband and the horse's jaw. A horse that is responsive to the bit will do a sort of swallowing movement when the rider relaxes her hand, and the horse cannot do this if his mouth is strapped shut tight. My first horse had a wonderful, responsive mouth until the noseband was too tight, then his mouth immediately turned into a bar of iron and he would lug on the bit.
Yes you need lessons but real life often interferes, personally I went without lessons for years and years. I have over 200 blogs on this site, many on contact, some on theory, and most of them about me puttering around the ring improving previously ruined horses. I don't do anything exciting at all. You may learn a lot from them. None of them are long so if you have a spare minute or two you may like reading them, and you will learn stuff that I have learned from lessons, books, and most importantly, from the horses over the past 43 years.
Thank you, thank you, thank you!
I LOVE all of your advice! I am going to start working on these things. I appreciate all of your help! It looks like the Korsteel bit that I bought is too short for my horses mouth. I bought it in the consignment section of my local tack store and it seems like it may need to go an inch longer. The bars are HUGE and he kind of acted like, what is this, when I put it in his mouth. I am going to order the correct one online and with the D rings. This one has just the O ring. But I will save it for my other horse. He's a tiny guy.
I am excited to read your blogs and learn!
Thanks again for all your help!
From his pictures I can see that the underside of his neck is strongly muscled while the top of his neck comparatively has no muscle. This is a horse who has been ridden with too much hands and not enough forward. He in effect has been taught to go on his forehand and to lean on the rider (often mistaken for hard mouth). He needs to be completely retrained. This requires professional help and cannot be "taught" in one paragraph.You have 6 months to a year of work ahead of you.
This bit should work for your horse:
Try this training:
What a sweet guy! A stocky, strong horse often encourages riders to think they need a 'strong hand'. This spoils the horse and creates a hard mouth.
To start from scratch, I would use a very soft bit. This may sound counter-intuitive, but you will want to set a new tone for communication. Using a strong bit only makes the horse less sensitive.
Start on the ground, then in the arena. User your whole body position and legs to introduce each rein aid, remembering that the rein aid is the last thing in the sequence of events...
Attached some images that illustrate what this looks like on the horse. Give it a try!
Hope this helps!
PS: Caution, though! Only the Meroth bit is proven to be completely non-toxic, tanned in a plant-based, labor-intensive process. This leather adheres to European baby toy specifications, so no toxic tanning agents here!
I am excited to try the leather bit. I will look for it online. I haven't purchased a bit for him yet, nor have I started on his "re" training. I am looking forward to trying different things with him and getting him back to his old soft sweet self! It's too bad that he was ridden incorrectly for the last six years. It's been heart-breaking to me!
Thanks, again for your help! I appreciate it!
The strength of the horse vs the "strength" (or severity) of the bit is sort of irrelevant because all horses are "strong" both physically and mentally. If his mouth is hard, and maybe his attitude is hard too, because his previous rider had hard hands or was severe with him, you don't just have a mouth problem, and using a more severe bit isn't going to address the psychological resistance he may have built up. So I'd go back to square one, and actually I'd use a cross under bitless bridle. (bear with me here). From the ground I'd do plenty of work lunging nicely, then when that is going well, get him used to the bridle just wearing it, but then lunging with the bridle on, but the reins pretty slack (but not so far he could trip). Then while walking next to him and reigns in hand, walking, stopping, flex neck to left and right, back, all done very quietyly, calmly, and only as fast as he seems to be able to digest. No hurry, no worry. If that's all going well, and you know you have a saddle he is already used to, your are ready for the same exercises while mounted. Be sure you are in an enclosure where he doesn't have a chance to bolt at first. Then try a larger enclosure if all that goes well. In every case, you must use the very lightest hands, and give him time to respond, starting right from the ground work. He will be so appreciative that he has a person who knows how to give soft signals, and is firm but patient, he just might decide there is no need for stronger measures. You are aiming to communicate with your horse, he is learning your language, and you are learning to read him, you are not aiming to out gun him.
Thank you, wonderful advice! I totally agree! I am going to start without a bit and just go with the bitless bridle. I want to start with groundwork and show him that he can trust me again. It's been a while since I've ridden him or worked with him. He is such a wonderful horse and really loves to have fun, but sometiems he gets a bit carried away and loves to swing his head and gallop before receiving the okay to do so. This, unfortunately, has caused his last rider to become nervous and hold firm to his mouth.
Thanks again for all of your advice!
I will keep you posted on our progress!
Your comment about him galloping off, reminds me of long ago, when I was young, I was regularly exercising a lovely arab mare for a lady. Well the mare had a tendency, especially in spring to want to just run and run. I was all worried about winding a horse, or whether I should, so I asked the fellow running the stables, "What should I do, she just wants to run?". He said "Then let her run!". Of course, you want your horse to think it was your idea right? However, his advice is still worth considering, as long as you have a safe place to do it.