Bit help, please!

This topic contains 42 replies, has 13 voices, and was last updated by  G & S 2 years, 6 months ago.

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  • Joe-Joe Joe-Joe
    Topics Started: 17Replies Posted: 1205

    Joan – glad to hear she is going so well. I’ve always thought that one’s horse should stop (or go) on a word or a change in one’s seat. Bits are mostly there to hold the bridle together. Obviously, there are times or situations where using the bit is necessary, but with our own horses there should be an established relationship that precludes the need to haul on the horse’s mouth. It all just takes time to get there.

    When I first started trying to figure out what bit to use, I checked a lot of books that dealt with bitting, and found that nearly every author differed on the topic. It was less than helpful, so I just kept experimenting until I found one he likes. Cost me a fortune, but it was worth it. There are so many options available now than there used to be, and so many factors to consider for each horse that it is nearly impossible to select a style of bit and just go with it.

    It is never the horse's fault

    G & S
    Topics Started: 16Replies Posted: 253

    Since I may have been the one who brought up the “roof of the mouth” issue with single jointed snaffles, I thought I should perhaps do a bit more “theory” on these bits. A correctly fitting single jointed bit should lay flat across the horse’s tongue and NOT do an upside down V at the joint, to the point can rub on the roof of the horses’s mouth. However, what can happen is that if a horse is ridden in a too long single jointed bit, even if done by a previous owner, the horse will object to any single jointed bit. Not because the correctly fitting one is v-ing and rubbing, but because the horse expects that it will, so never gives it a chance. Double jointed snaffles are not automatically better for every horse, just as single jointed bits are not automatically the best choice. One thing to keep in mind with double jointed snaffles is that some are legal for dressage, but some are not. If you are riding hunt seat, the rules are totally different, but if you are a dressage rider of thinking of showing dressage, you might want to check the USEF bit rules, which just to complicate things, change on a regular basis as new bits appear on the market. An incredible number of horses have spent their entire lives happily and comfortably being ridden in single jointed snaffles.

    And Joe-Joe also had a very important point – – the best bit in harsh hands can be an implement of unintentioned torture.

    huntrjumprxcountry huntrjumprxcountry
    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 1

    I rode a lesson horse that used a regular egg butt and he would take the bit. So, my instructor put a kimberwick bit in his mouth and he doesn’t take off. I haven’t tried a leather bit, but it would be less mild and pain.

    G & S
    Topics Started: 16Replies Posted: 253

    I’m not a big fan of Kimberwicks, primarily because it looks like a snaffle, but isn’t. Supposedly, it was developed for use on very strong horses who were being ridden by riders not experienced enough to correctly handle the 2 sets of reins of a pelham. Both the Kimberwick & the Pelham are “leverage” bits, meaning that the stopping power comes by pinching the horses lower jaw between the chin strap and the rings at the bottom of the bit shanks In the case of the Pelham, the ring for the curb reins (the lower set which provide the leverage) is as described above, at the bottom of the shank. Kimberwick bits do not have shanks, instead having slots in the bit rings, usually 2, one upper and one lower, with the lower one providing more leverage than the top one. So while the Kimberwick is typically less severe than riding on a straight curb bit, such as most of the western bits, it does still provide leverage and used by a rider who does not understand the nature & intended purpose of the bit, can do some serious damage. The fact that the Kimberwick in both the previous posters photo & my photo have a single jointed mouthpiece does not make the Kimberwick merely a more severe snaffle. It actually belongs in the same family with the Pelhams, just usually a bit less severe when used correctly, and with only one set of reins. I guess my point is that if the rider cannot be taught to control the horse on a snaffle, or to correctly use a Pelham, and the horse can’t be stopped on a snaffle, this is probably the wrong horse for this rider and/or the wrong rider for this horse. Most horses ridden by beginners are ridden in snaffles because a beginner has to learn to correctly use a bit and the bit least likely to do damage to the horse while the rider learns this is a snaffle. I added the Pelham to my photo so that the family resemblance could more clearly be seen, as well as the slots in the bit rings of the Kimberwick. And just in case anyone spotted it, the Kimberwich (also sometimes called a Kimbelwick) is a 4-1/2 bit while the Pelham is a 4-3/4″ bit.

    Joe-Joe Joe-Joe
    Topics Started: 17Replies Posted: 1205

    G&S – excellent points. Many people seem to think (or are taught) that changing the bit will cure the problem, when too often the rider has not been taught how to use the reins and bit, as well as legs and seat correctly. It might be worth noting that most racehorses (at least back in my day) ran in loose ring single joint snaffles, and stopping them wasn’t a problem.

    • This reply was modified 2 years, 8 months ago by Joe-Joe Joe-Joe. Reason: needed more words

    It is never the horse's fault

    AlmosFrosted61 AlmosFrosted61
    Topics Started: 1Replies Posted: 13

    I agree with Joan Fry, especially if your horse is a QH, or something with a small mouth. I own a QH mare that was in a kimberwik correction bit, and switched her to an eggbutt snaffle. She just about threw me off every time I put any contact. My dressage instructor suggested a French link loose ring snaffle, and Frosty, who was afraid of the bit, now is enjoying contact.

    But, beware Dr. Bristols, they look like French links, but they are not. The angle is different in a Dr. Bristol, and it rubs both the roof of the mouth and the tongue.

    Dressage is a dance, where horse and rider speak with silence, Where force is not necessary, and where the horse trusts his rider completely, even in the middle of the battlefield.
    -Amber Blyledge, 2016

    G & S
    Topics Started: 16Replies Posted: 253

    If I am remembering correctly, most double jointed bits are legal for dressage, but Dr. Bristol double jointed bits are not.

    cheryl_nuez
    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 25

    I teach riders at our local junior college and have been an active coach for nearly 40 years. This is not to say anything other than I see a lot of riders and horses. Over the years I have collected a LOT of bits, most of which I have taken away from riders. If I were to hang the bits on a wall, I would likely have a couple hundred – not including the duplicates. On a personal note, I actually USE about 4 different bits: a Fulmer Full Cheek snaffle, a Baucher, a Kimberwicke and a double bridle with hollow mouth bridoon.
    Lizzie Lou has given a great deal of very good information, to which I will add the following:
    The Fulmer Full Cheek snaffle was designed to work like a loose ring snaffle – which it actually is – with the additional feature of full cheeks. However, because the rings are set OUTSIDE the full cheeks, there is no opportunity for pinching. This is an awesome bit for green horses, fearful horses, and was the case with my first horse, horses with ruined mouths, e.g. numbed bars and corners, because the full cheeks offer support through turns, for bending, etc. This bit can be used “au naturale” giving it a lot of play, which comforts some horses – they may feel less control is less intimidating to them. Some horses feel less comfortable with extra movement, in which case “keepers” may be added to “quiet” the bit.
    The Baucher bit is another snaffle, but works differently. The cheek pieces hook to a ring above the bit, the rein attaches at the level of the bit. The end result is that the bit breaks FORWARD rather than UP. This avoids the “nutcracker” action into the roof of the mouth. It is important to note that in a true Baucher, both the rings for the cheekpiece and the rein are ROUND. The round rings allow the cheek or rein to roll through, rather than create leverage as do slotted or oval rings. There has been a lot of contention regarding this bit. The general rule of thumb is that the higher the purchase (from the bit up), the greater the leverage over the poll, so some people believe the bit creates poll leverage. BUT, since the cheekpiece ring is round, poll action can be achieved ONLY if the bit rolls through the entire cheekpiece ring – which cannot happen, as the rein ring is also round and allows the rein to roll through. This a wonderful bit for ridden and driven horses, and which I have used for injured, timid, forward or reprobate horses very successfully.
    The Kimberwicke IS a leverage bit: the top ring – cheekpiece ring – is slotted for poll action, the “D” should be slotted, and there is a curb. This is likely my most “severe” bit. I use it on a horse who might be too forward to “place”. Eventing requires some fairly precise placement of horses on the cross-country, when they are at their hottest. This bit has a very short shank, the slots in the “D” allow for adjustment of the curb: the rein hooked around the “D” has nearly no poll or curb action, the top slot will give more poll than curb, the bottom slot will up the curb and poll action.
    On the Tom Thumb, someone thought they were doing horses a kindness. They took a short shanked western type curb, broke the bit into a single jointed mouth, kept the curb chain and added various types of cheekpiece hangers. The end result is a Heinze 57 bit, and one which has acquired far to many “improvements.” The cheekpiece ring may or may not allow the cheekpiece to roll through, the curb may or may not be on a separate slot, the cheek shank may be fixed or may swivel. So what generally ends up is a bit that is prone to closing on the head, poll, curb lips and bars, while breaking up into the roof of the mouth. I totally agree with those of the “toss the tom thumb” camp.
    Finally, I have had the point driven home to me that 99% of bit problems are more hand/rider problems – and of that percent about 90% are unintentional. Before you change bits – and start your own collection – consider what your hands are doing to the bit and fix what you think needs fixing – take a lesson and tell the instructor that you are specifically interested in what your hands are doing. THEN, ask friends if they have bits you can try.

    cheryl_nuez
    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 25

    I’m not a big fan of Kimberwicks, primarily because it looks like a snaffle, but isn’t.

    G & S
    Well said!
    When I first started eventing and teaching, I was very mixed about the Kimberwicke. I saw quite a lot of it in America, used in ways that would make me cringe. In the UK, because their culture is entirely different, and very young children are out hunting and competing, the Kimberwicke is often used. However, it is most common to see the rein placed AROUND the “D”, rather than through one of the slots.
    In America, there seems to be much more of the “90-day” mentality, i.e. a horse is saddled/ridden/”made” all in 90 days. The emphasis for many trainers seems to be bucks before best (for horse or rider). When someone came up with the idea of “converters” for Kimberwicke and Pelhams, they did horse and rider a severe disservice.

    Also, the idea of any broken bit with a curb is simply adverse to the concepts of snaffle and curb.

    G & S
    Topics Started: 16Replies Posted: 253

    Used correctly, any bit can be useful. My issue is that some bits are too easily misused & misunderstood, with potential harm to horse & rider as the result. If American beginners got better instruction& training on how tensing or relaxing the muscles from finger tips through the arms, the shoulders, & even the back muscles, and more emphasis were placed on doing whatever it takes to get the concept into the heads of beginners, there would be a lot fewer bit issues. Too many riders don’t even realize that riding with “open” muscles from fingertip & into the back muscles allows the horse to move smoothly forward with the bit. Riding this way has an additional advantage: the rider can slam on the brakes, or partially slam on the brakes, simply by tensing all of these muscles, so that the horse, who is used to the bit floating with him, runs into the bit HARD. I names this “running the horse into a wall that only the horse & rider can see.” It is, admittedly, not a nice thing to do to a horse, but it beats using twisted bits and bits that have too much leverage for the rider’s skill level. And it should be taught as a last resort when the horse simply won’t listen to closing the fingers, or closing the fingers and tensing the arm muscles, or even adding the shoulder muscles. Most horses hate it, but respect it. But for it to work, the rider has to be able to ride with very soft contact. Why don’t we teach beginners this? Instead, all too often they learn to post by balancing off the reins. Group lessons can be cost effective, but there is a lot to be said for keeping beginners to 1 or 2, and teaching them to post the trot on a lunge line, hanging onto a balancing strap until they learn to balance at a trot, and not getting their reins back until they can post the trot with their hands at their waist. Getting their reins back & being allowed to trot off the lunge line is a big reward, and while it might take a few more lessons initially, once they have learned to balance, that stays with them for a life time. It is so much easier to take a little time & learn/teach it correctly the first time, than to have to correct muscle memory and teach an theoretically beyond the beginner stage rider how to balance on a moving horse.

    Sorry, nini tirade over.

    Joe-Joe Joe-Joe
    Topics Started: 17Replies Posted: 1205

    G&S – I sincerely enjoy all your posts – tirade or not! When I was learning (won’t say how long ago that was), we had to post without reins or stirrups. The movement of the horse will naturally put the rider up and/or down, if balance is stressed when learning. Also everything you said about muscles. If the rider is not properly balanced, neither will the horse be, resulting in discomfort for both. We also had to jump without reins or stirrups (we had a chute), and often without even a saddle.

    It is never the horse's fault

    cheryl_nuez
    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 25

    Used correctly, any bit can be useful. My issue is that some bits are too easily misused & misunderstood, with potential harm to horse & rider as the result.

    G & S so very true. When I started learning (I’m with you, Joe-Joe, not saying how long ago) I was relegated to a very round, very kind Shetland who wore a “D” ring snaffle. On about the 3rd lesson, there was what I perceived to be blood at the corners of his mouth when I took the bridle off. In my 10-year old mind, I was an axe murderer; I sobbed for a week and didn’t want to ever ride again.

    Having been dragged to the next week’s lesson, still feeling like the axe murderer, my instructor – an aged man of 23 – pulled me aside to talk to me. He started with this:
    “What you need to understand, Cheryl, is that for the rest of your riding life, the WHY will always be more important to you than the What and How.”
    We then went into Ace’s little stall, where he showed me the corners of Ace’s mouth. There was the tiniest of cuts. I was ready to cry all over again; I knew I had ruined this kindest of instructors’ mouth.

    Then Mike pulled Ace’s bridle out. He showed me how to pick a bit for a horse (Ace wore a hollow mouth egg butt) and described how it was chosen for the pony. Finally, he told me, “But look here, at the hinge of the barrel. There is the slightest bit of a gap, and THAT is what broke the skin. Had YOU not noticed it, things would have got worse. Because this bit has developed a fault, it will be replaced.”

    This was the first American trainer I ever had take time to explain the “what” and the ONLY one to explain the WHY. Half a century later, I still hear him – he reminds me with each of my students that the WHY is more than the how and what.

    Riding in England and most of Europe is SO very different. The Europeans understand the value of the “why.” The Americans frequently work with “how much” and “how fast” at the top of the list. Not all of them, mind you, and many who do, are simply caught up in the general (non) teaching process. It is an enormous cultural difference between countries who have been established for hundreds and hundreds of years, and a country only a couple of centuries old, and rushing to catch up.

    Looking at it in this light, one can see why there are so very, VERY many bits! As mentioned, even the kindest of bits can be made into a horror show. Likewise, the most horrific looking bit can become butter soft when used correctly. I would learn this when I rode with an Argentine group. The women wear dresses and rode sidesaddle; the horses spoon or spade bits. The organizer was a “why” trainer. Every horse in the group had a soft mouth and moved freely and confidently – yet I had been taught those bits simply ruined horses, turned them into fearful maniacs hell-bent on escaping the agony. Yes, the agony of a good bit badly handled.

    Sorry for long. I just wish – as G&S states – that education of hands (and back, shoulders, neck muscles) would be of more importance than the bucks trainers like to make. Vent done

    Joe-Joe Joe-Joe
    Topics Started: 17Replies Posted: 1205

    I’m with you Cheryl. The incident you cited reinforces my firm belief that one should clean and inspect one’s tack frequently and thoroughly. Better to catch problems before they become dangers.

    It is never the horse's fault

    pheets pheets
    Topics Started: 5Replies Posted: 475

    Nothing I will add other than I am enjoying the excellent posts : )

    Sure there's right and wrong but mostly there's just a whole lotta different.

    cheryl_nuez
    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 25

    I’m with you Cheryl. The incident you cited reinforces my firm belief that one should clean and inspect one’s tack frequently and thoroughly. Better to catch problems before they become dangers.

    Grinning on this one, Joe-Joe.
    Apart from riding combined training (eventing), I am now into combined DRIVING. I started with my mini stallion, then trained my mustang to drive and will be campaigning her this season. Both of them as singles. THEN I had this brilliant idea to include the other mini, but as a pair with my stallion.

    What was I thinking? That makes three singles harnesses and a pairs harness – actually 5 harness altogether, 3 singles carts, a singles marathon carriage and a pairs marathon carriage. PLUS the saddles and bridles for riding. And it all gets checked every ride or drive.

    Should have stuck with bareback

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