bits and bitless

This topic contains 11 replies, has 8 voices, and was last updated by IrishMelody IrishMelody 3 years, 9 months ago.

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  • kindle Original Poster kindle
    Topics Started: 2Replies Posted: 20

    I started this topic for educational purposes mostly. I see horses all the time with the wrong bits or uncomfortable bits in their mouths (horse don’t lie when it comes to what they have to carry in their mouth and when its uncomfortable for them). I have seen horses bit less, and I have seen horses that have been fitted and worked with all kinds of bits of various looks, kinds and purposes.
    for a beginner, this might be good information about bits to know, if they have their first horse and confused as to what bit to get for that particular horse.
    there are so many kinds of bits out there, even now newer bits and styles are constant being made and thousands to choose from. for a person that has no knowledge about horses and what they might need in this area, perhaps some of the horse folks on here can enlighten and educate the purpose of various bits, disciplines they are used for, breeds they match up with, training with bits and which bits are consider harsh and which bits are considered gentle, and why that maybe of that bit type. ????

    "There's a difference between interest and commitment. When you're interested in doing something, you do it only when it's convenient. When you're committed to something, you accept no excuses; only results." - Kenneth Blanchard

    CharliyJ
    Topics Started: 1Replies Posted: 3

    I would be very interested in more information on this topic, as I am going to be starting a 16yo broodmare and choosing bits is something I have little experience with.

    Leslie Leslie
    Topics Started: 1Replies Posted: 44

    I always like to start with the most gentle option and I do not like to “bit up” to solve problems – I view it as a training issue and anything I ask of a horse he should be able to do in a mild bit, not forced into it with a harsher one.

    Are you asking about English or Western bits?

    www.createdbyleslie.com - handmade custom wood-burned brushes, stall signs, & portraits, etched glasses, and custom stuffed ponies

    kindle Original Poster kindle
    Topics Started: 2Replies Posted: 20

    Leslie,
    what is considered a mild bit that you use? what discipline do you ride?
    I find that bits are more confusing then saddle fitting a horse. not all horses do well in all kinds of bits. I find also what one person may consider a gentle bit is not, depending on the riding discipline also, or the hands that is attached to the reins, that are attached to the bit.

    snaffle seems to be the most poplar of bits I seen used in my parts, not that they be the nations popular bit, but what is whats commonly used in the south Texas areas that I live.

    myself for my horses:
    I have a correction bit for one horse, a standard gaiting bit for another horse, and a mullen bit for another horse. all for 3 different reasons.
    the correction bit is used to re-train a horse that has for too long taken the bit to his control and out of the hands of the rider, also used to correct some errored gaiting that goes hand to hand with this kind of fixing/correction training (correction bits I don’t recommend to anyone that does not know how to use them or what they are for in regards to helping a horse – can be very harsh and counter productive with the correction bit with unknowledged people). the gaiting bit is what one of my horses I recently bought, has always used and understood, so found no need to change his bit for any reasons. the mullen bit I use is for a horse that has a low upper palette that was ulcerated by hard hands thru a snaffle bit and he could not tolerate the movements of bits inside his mouth, especially something that bothered his upper palette area, where its now very scarred and tender to him. so the mullen bit is more a swing and use of the sides of the mouth without the internal up/down movements of a bit inside the mouth area.

    I would so love for all my horses to be bitless, but seems that is a long training process in itself and should be started with young horses and harder to convert over from bit to non bit in a good number of cases. but again, this is also dependent of handling and training methods for individual horses.

    there are bits called D rings, these are common and popular to the English riders, but a lot of western folks use this bit also. I am not sure really what the D ring is about, as it not one of the bits I have ever used. I don’t find anything wrong with them, as I see these kinds of bits often in my riding circles.

    I was told a hackamore works differently then a bitless and would like to know the difference in those items myself? was also told a dorsal is like a hackamore, but isn’t, whatever that means?

    "There's a difference between interest and commitment. When you're interested in doing something, you do it only when it's convenient. When you're committed to something, you accept no excuses; only results." - Kenneth Blanchard

    NinaJD NinaJD
    Topics Started: 8Replies Posted: 139

    My older(18), well trained gelding I use a myler level 3 high port bit. I was told by a trainer that since he’s so advanced he should be using a bit that has more tongue relief..we were using a tom thumb, since that’s what was recommended by previous owner. Which I now know is a pretty harsh bit to be using and I felt wretched for using it on him.

    My 8 year old who is super green, I ride in a halter and just recently bought a bitless sidepull bridle for him. The people I got him from where using a straight bit(one with no knuckle and shanks). Which is why I use a bitless on him now..it’s a fight to get anything near his mouth because of these people.

    My mom’s 11 year old gelding uses your basic snaffle bit or just rides in a halter. And she’s considering getting a myler comfort snaffle.

    If any of you watch Julie Goodnight, she is always talking to people about the bits they use with their horses and is always changing to a milder bit. It’s amazing how many people don’t know anything about what they’re putting in their horses mouth. And how many people don’t think to change the bit before adding more gimmicks to their horse(like flash bands, tie downs, etc). After watching so many of her shows, it makes me look at how a horse is acting and what they are doing with their mouth and if I know the person well I always ask them if they’ve tried a different bit to correct a problem. Never ceases to amaze me how many people’s answer is just, “why? he’s just being difficult”
    Maybe if you listened to your horse better, you’d know something was wrong.

    "Take the time it takes, so that it takes less time."
    "Expect a lot, accept a little, reward often."
    Pat Parelli

    wyoenglishrider wyoenglishrider
    Topics Started: 4Replies Posted: 101

    I agree with Leslie-start as mild as you can. I use loose ring snaffles on my OTTB and my QH pony who came to us having been ridden in a Tom Thumb. Wow-did he ever hate that bit and was just naughty. Unfortunately, it took me a while to think about changing his bit but when I did and put him in a loose ring snaffle (after being told by some heavy handed cowgirl to put him in a correction; so glad I didn’t listen to her!) he is now a different boy. Willing, soft, responsive and seems happy now! I feel bad I didn’t try the snaffle right away, but now I know. He is being ridden English now and learning to jump.

    kindle Original Poster kindle
    Topics Started: 2Replies Posted: 20

    NinaJd said it the way I see it a lot of the time too:

    QUOTE: …. it makes me look at how a horse is acting and what they are doing with their mouth and if I know the person well I always ask them if they’ve tried a different bit to correct a problem. Never ceases to amaze me how many people’s answer is just, “why? he’s just being difficult”
    Maybe if you listened to your horse better, you’d know something was wrong. ”

    I agree with Leslie on the milder bits too, “try first.”

    I didn’t even know what was considered a mild bit or a harsh bit? it was a very confusing learning curve for me in the beginning. but then saddles and fitting saddles was also a learning curve back then. I was so confused and upon asking others or checking with my locale feed store for information, only got me more confused.

    like saddles, the bit is just as important to horses in fitting and what they need. I don’t consider any bit to be a bad bit per se’, just some bits I wouldn’t dare to use on my horses, cause I don’t know how to handle the bits themselves. some people are heavy handed on the reins, and some are not, bits choices also go along with this fact. what could be the right bit for the horse, still could be in the wrong hands. this much I have learned, and have had to adjust myself even with my own horses and pay attentions to what I am doing with what bit I am using on what horses. I have a sensitive horse that a touch will do, a little movement of reins and that is it, the bit isn’t even being directly moved. then I have horses that need the bit actions to move them, a light touch don’t get it with them, more action in the hand, seat and bit is needed to request movement in the way I desire them to go.

    I been using a bitless in training on one of my horses, only because a movement of reins is all is needed, and near ready to move him to the bitless on a permanent basis.. but I could not ask my other horse to go bitless (yet?), because he needs a leg, a rein and a slight pull on the bit to make him take action or correct movements (not to mention his not neck reined either, his learning).

    still and all, getting information to others and what bits are used for what needs per horse is still very important topic, and it amazes me like it does NinaJd how much people really don’t know about the bit and its affect on the horses themselves.

    "There's a difference between interest and commitment. When you're interested in doing something, you do it only when it's convenient. When you're committed to something, you accept no excuses; only results." - Kenneth Blanchard

    Leslie Leslie
    Topics Started: 1Replies Posted: 44

    I agree it can be tricky as it can be very much up to personal preference of the horse. There are a few things you can go by though just from logic of how they work. It helps to think of the bit as it would feel pulled against your wrist (or to actually do this).

    Thicker bits are generally milder than thinner bits as they disperse the pressure over a greater area versus all in one area…the exception being a horse who has a low pallet or not a lot of room in his mouth, in which case a thinner bit might be more comfortable… But still, the thickest bit this horse can comfortably fit in his mouth will be milder than a wire bit.

    Smooth bits are gentler than twisted bits for similar logic… A smooth but makes contact with the horses mouth it’s entire length but a twisted bit makes contact at the edges, creating pressure points.

    French link bits or bits with more than a single joint are often milder (with the exception of the Dr. Bristol) because they conform to the shape of the horse’s mouth better than a single jointed bit, therefore distributing the pressure over a greater area – and no longer a single spot in the roof of the mouth where the center joint would hit.

    Leverage bits are always harsher than snaffle bits as the amount of pressure on the horses mouth is multiplied… The longer the shanks the greater the pressure

    Rubber is gentler than metal because it is softer and a little forgiving. Other materials are mostly preference of the horse… Copper is often thought to promote salivating.

    From that I know at least which bits I don’t want to try, and I can experiment with the ones that should be gentle in theory until I find one the horse seems to be comfortable and relaxed in.

    As far as cheek pieces go… I don’t really think one is harsher than another but more have different functions.

    My horse went in a full cheek Dr. Bristol with a slow twist before I got him and he was extremely anxious and always went with his head in the air. They had him in it because he was fast…but I found he just tried to run away from the bit. I wanted to switch regardless because it is much harsher than I want to use.
    I first tried a full cheek Waterford as it is supposed to me hard for a horse to take a hold of since it’s so flimsy and appeared to be gentle because the balls were wide and smooth and with lots of joints it would conform to the mouth well. Initially he seemed to like it a little better, but I decided to try something else because he still seemed to be evading it, and started being more difficult to put the bridle on.
    I went with a single jointed smooth loose ring snaffle, my reasoning being he couldn’t grab ahold of it as easily, he might appreciate the little warning it gives before full pressure is applied since he seems so defensive with the bit, and the single joint since the multi joint of the Waterford seemed like too much “noise” for him. He was definitely more relaxed in it and after the first ride I added bit guards to help him a little with steering as he was used to the full cheek, and to prevent the bit from being pulled through his mouth. He was much more willingly bridled as well.
    I kept this one for a few months and we made a lot of progress but we stopped progressing I decided maybe I could find something even better to communicate with him, so I tried the same bit in a French link. He was more relaxed in that so that is what I stuck with. I briefly tried a Herm Sprenger loose ring with the losenge mouthpiece because of how it was contoured and the augrian metal to see if he’d like it even better – but he was nervous and evaded it so we stuck with the simple French link.

    Hackamores put pressure on the horse’s nose, poll, and under the chin… and although don’t have a bit are NOT necessarily milder. People often mistake them to be gentler because there isn’t a bit but they use leverage on sensitive areas of the horse’s face and can be harsher if not used with very light hands. I am not overly familiar with all types of bitless bridles but they all create pressure on a horse’s face in some way and whether this is milder or harsher would depend on what areas of the face, the width and material of the noseband for example, if it puts pressure on the nose, and the horse’s preference…he might prefer pressure in his mouth over on his face.

    www.createdbyleslie.com - handmade custom wood-burned brushes, stall signs, & portraits, etched glasses, and custom stuffed ponies

    kindle Original Poster kindle
    Topics Started: 2Replies Posted: 20

    awww….just what I was looking for, some information and clear up some of the confusions about various bit actions and purposes.

    thank you so much Leslie for all your impute on this subject.

    I figured someone would know about the bits or have some experiences with them! I had no experiences with bits. what I first seen in bits was a wall with all kinds of bits, shapes, sizes, and so overwhelmed with it, and not even the clerk in the store could help explain the bits to me. its was such a trial an error, and I spent a great deal of money trying to find the right bits for my horses. but then I was a middle aged beginner trying to own her first horse in life, with trying to do the right thing and no idea what I was getting into, til I got there. LOL!

    "There's a difference between interest and commitment. When you're interested in doing something, you do it only when it's convenient. When you're committed to something, you accept no excuses; only results." - Kenneth Blanchard

    Firesmom
    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 2

    I had a hard time knowing what to use at first as well. Leslie’s descriptions were great. You also have to make sure you have the correct size for your horses mouth. Their are mouth measuring sticks for less than $10 or you can use a piece of hay bale tie. You can look up exactly how on the internet. It’s very easy. Too small a bit will pinch and too large has it’s own problems. Also there’s the tongue size and shape of the horses mouth to consider. My off the track thoroughbred has a small mouth and had trouble just closing it around what might have fit most horses his size. I found a curved JP Koresteel egg butt French link that he is very happy with. The curved mouth piece fits the shape of his mouth much better. There was a big difference in how he felt/worked between the regular French link and the curved one.
    The previous owner was torturing the poor guy with a jointed kimberwick because he wouldn’t put his head down. He has a very soft mouth and is more slow than go so he did not need such a harsh bit.

    lauren_fanning
    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 4

    This is a great reference:
    http://www.sustainabledressage.net/tack/bridle.php#bit

    I think you meant bosal, not dorsal (auto-correct fail?). They are most similar to a hackamore, made of smooth braided rawhide and exert pressure on the horses nose and face when the reins are picked up. They are used with a heavier mane-hair rope rein called a mecate and the bosal itself must be well-fitted to the horse or it will cause rubs. For that reason, they aren’t recommended for beginners unless you have a good trainer who can show you how to shape the bosal correctly and buy one that fits your horse. When fitted properly they are gentle.

    A loose ring or D ring smooth snaffle with a bean in the center is about as mild as you can get for a bit. They are a standard first step for a horse with unknown preferences, or starting a green horse. Some horses prefer a single joint instead. Do not use full cheeks without bit keepers.

    Any bit with leverage, shanks, or a chain is NOT a snaffle. A Jointed curb bit can be very severe and is often believed to be mild because of the joint. The joint does not make it a snaffle.

    Hackamores can be just as severe as any bit depending on the design. They work off of leverage on the nose and under the chin.

    Sidepulls have no leverage and are milder. They can be made harsher by using thinner, harder material on the noseband, like stiff nylon rope.

    IrishMelody IrishMelody
    Topics Started: 7Replies Posted: 27

    I have been doing some research on bits, and training with different kinds of bit and stumbled across this thread. I see it is a little old, but hopefully will get some replies.

    I have a 16yr old Morgan mare I started to teach to jump in May 2013. She has been in a mechanical hackamore (a really cheap version like you can buy at Tractor Supply) and switched her to a Herm Sprenger short shank hack when her owner said she has always been in a hack. She does fantastic in it, even on her moody days.

    What I am running into now is that most shows around me don’t allow horses to show in hacks because they don’t offer the control that a bit does, so what if the horse goes wild? I am disappointed because for just a few months work (we are “off” now for the winter) she is a very smart jumper and I wanted to do a few small local shows. Because of this, I have thought of switching her to a D ring single link snaffle and have one of the correct size for her, but I feel like after 10+ years of hackamore riding, wouldn’t it be an uphill struggle to switch to a bit?

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