What kind of bit is best for a green horse

I have tried the plain old snaffle on my gelding but he doesn't respond to it at all so I now use a d ring snaffle and it's still a snaffle so he responds a little better but not much he is honestly easier to ride with just a halter on and reins snapped to it. But because he is still so green and I take him out on field rides and in new places I don't feel as safe. He completely hates the hackamore so I don't use that. What is a good bit that is light and he will respond too ?

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Comment by Lauren Doyle on August 10, 2013 at 11:48am


I am afraid to tell you, bitting can be a very messy subject. I cannot clearly tell you the reasons why you are having trouble with a snaffle bit, however, I can give you the advice I have heard many times from great horsemen and women when asked this question.  I will have a video about this up very soon. If you are interested, let me know and I will send you the link when it is up. In the mean time, when reading your question, there are a few things I think can help you: 

1. Check his teeth to make sure he does not have something painful going on.

2. If all checks out in the mouth, go back to the snaffle but only ride him in an area that is enclosed for the moment.

3. Go back to the very basics of introducing him to the bit. You know you will have been too hard with the bit or it has been unpleasant if he purses his lips, lifts his head or anything like that when you try to put it on. Take the time to get him to relax when you try to put it on. See if you can get him to open his mouth and take the bit in himself.

4.After you have it on and you are mounted, Stand still and just get him to bend on each side- not by pulling, but by just asking for a bend and waiting. If it takes 10 minutes, I don't care, but just wait until he gives. Sometimes, he may move his feet, push on the bit, shake his head, spin around, all sorts of things to try and figure out what you want. Just hang in and wait. A good thing to do to keep from pulling is to just put your hand on your knee so when he gives there is an instant relief. As soon as he gives let loose and make a big deal that he is a goooood boy.

5. Do this on the other side. 

6. Get this on both sides a few times.

7. ask for movement. Bend in one direction and at the same time put your leg on the same side to get the horse to move his hind end over. As soon as he starts to move, give with your leg and hand! 

8. Do this on the other side. Again, wait until something happens don't try to make it to happen!

9. When you are walking, work on stopping by just bending in one direction. Again, not a pull, just a bend. Eventually, once the horse has it sorted out in his mind, as soon as he feels even the slightest weight in the reins he will stop or turn in any direction you want, so you are not using the bit much at all. 

10. Work on getting in time with the hind feet. If you are not sure how to do that, you can read this article here http://www.clinichorsemanship.com .

11. When you get the give in each direction a few times and he steps away from leg pressure in each direction, quit for the day. You quitting is a big reward and gives him time to really think on what happened. 

12. Do this every day until you feel confident that he feels good with you. Introduce scary things in the enclosed areas- tarps, kids with umbrellas, poles on the ground etc and work on getting him to walk up to them, step on them, step over them, follow them around whatever you have going on. It helps the two of you build confidence together about scary things in a secure environment. 

13. NOW it's time to go in the field. He will have confidence in you and you will feel much more confident with him. If you approach something scary- you will know how to handle it because you have worked on this together before you ever go into the field.

On a personal note, I use an eggbutt french-link snaffle or a plain eggbutt snaffle on every horse. some find one more comfortable than the other so I try both just to see which one they seem to like better. 

I hope this helps! I would be interested to hear how it goes:)

Comment by Jackie Cochran on July 30, 2013 at 4:24pm

Hi Brittney!

Bitting is a long, difficult specialized subject.  Most riders tend to have a favorite (me included.)

You did not say whether the mouthpiece of your snaffle has a center joint, or has a "bean", plate, or something else in the middle with a joint on each side.  A LOT of horses do not like a single jointed snaffle because the center joint can poke up into the roof of their mouth, causing pain and discomfort.  The "double jointed snaffle" (French link, lozenge, Dr. Bristol) can be gentler but still requires decent hands and some horses just don't like them.  The gentlest snaffle is the Mullen mouth snaffle, with a gently curved unjointed mouthpiece.  The problem with the Mullen mouths is that they encourage the horse to "take hold" of the bit and pull.  In my personal opinion snaffles are not the most gentle bit;  if they are too wide or too narrow in the mouth, single jointed, or the rider's hands are not good (often because a beginner does not have an independent seat) they can be instruments of torture for the horse.

My go to bit for horses that have iffy mouths is a simple Kimberwicke, with either a port on the mouthpiece or with a Mullen mouth mouthpiece.  This bit requires a curb chain, but the curb chain is part of what makes it a good bit.  This bit tends to be stable in the horse's mouth, you can keep contact and steer the horse like you do with a snaffle, and if the rider's seat is unstable, while the bit may hurt the horse's mouth but it does not torture it like a snaffle can.  The curb chain is part of the reason the bit is stable, and on some horses adds a little bit of strength to a slow down aid.

Having said this, the best way to make a bit work is to have an independent, stable seat, one in which you never feel insecure enough to hang on the reins.  If you are like most people (ie. cannot afford private lessons on a lunge line with a dressage teacher), the quickest way to an independent seat is a LOT of 2-point at all the gaits, riding on a loose rein until you get enough stability that your hands are totally independent of the motions of the rest of your body.

I have a lot of blogs here on Barnmice.  On the blog page there is a subject index down a little to the right, Riding-theory, bits, contact, hands, position, etc..  One is "Politeness-Hands", it may help you get good results after you change to a comfortable bit.

And then you and your horse can start enjoying each other!


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