July 22, 2015 at 2:42 pm
I am currently riding my lease horse in a slow twist d-rind snaffle. I feel like he needs something a bit more severe. What would be a bit that is just 1 step or even a 1/2 step harsher than what I am using now.July 25, 2015 at 8:47 amG & STopics Started: 16Replies Posted: 249
I’m going to make some assumptions here, in order to answer your question.
1) You are riding english, because most western bits are smooth, since most western bits are curb bits, which are automatically more severe than smooth-mouthed bits.
2) You are not riding dressage because only smooth-mouthed bits are legal for dressage.
3) That leaves hunter/jumper or pleasure riding, in English tack and some type of a snaffle bit.
The problem with your starting point, and I don’t think you are going to like my answer, is that anything other than a smooth mouthpiece (and I include in this category mullenmouth snaffles, jointed snaffles & double jointed snaffles) is designed to be at the minimum uncomfortable for the horse and possibly downright painful. This is an issue because, similar to a human wearing shoes that rub or pinch and develop blisters, calluses, etc on the affected foot, anything other than a smooth bit can develop what are effectively calluses on the the various parts of the horse’s moth so that he can no longer feel the bit correctly. It sounds to me that what you are dealing with is this loss of sensitivity to the bit. If you go to a more severe bit, it may work for a short time until the horse builds up new calluses to protect his mouth from the new bit, and moving to a still more severe bit increases even more the problem, rather than solving it. The only way to accomplish your desired goal of have a very responsive horse it to back down to a less severe bit, and give the horse’s mouth time to reabsorb the calluses so he/she can again feel a bit, and then teach the horse to listen for and respond to micro-miniature changes in your tension on the reins. This is, obviously, not a quick fix, but it can be done, and the result is actually worth the effort, because the end result is a happier horse and a rider who can literally ride and control the horse in his/her finger tips.July 25, 2015 at 10:27 pm
What G&S said. My gelding was totally against any bit when we met. After trying a lot of different ones (all smooth), he now goes very nicely in a loose ring French link Neue Schule bit. My mare, who was even worse, is doing quite well now in a Neue Schule Verbinden (or maybe it is Verlinden, can never remember). You really, really want to use the very least bit possible, and use your muscles (all of them) to get your horse to respond as you wish. I’d almost recommend using a bitless bridle until he has recovered from the abusive bit he has been suffering.
As for the muscles, I do not mean heavy squeezing, kicking, holding tightly to the reins or anything like that. Small weight shifts and gentle leg pressure should be all you need, along with back, shoulder and core muscles. Try teaching him words to go along with it – Joe Joe will now do circles, reverse, figure 8, serpentine and spiral on word cues only, as well as WTC. He will even do the WTC from point A to point B when I tell him. We are working on his lateral movements. Selena is still learning words, but has come along nicely, with the exception of “stay” or “stand”. I find it creates a better connection if I talk to them a lot.
It is never the horse's faultJuly 26, 2015 at 6:28 ampheetsTopics Started: 5Replies Posted: 475
Most agree with G & S (excellent post G&S!) and JJ that you would want to go to a softer bit if not outright bitless to re-establish sensitivity, connection and cues. Restart from the bottom up. A good trainer or instructour can help with that, too. Where this is a lease, be sure to talk to the owner/s and honour their wishes for their horse or at least be willing to negotiate if you haven’t already. I do not know what is in your contract with them so can’t comment further on that..
I will only add that if dressage is your goal, along with twisted and non smooth bits being illegal, so is talking/noising(clucking, kissing, grunting and that reflexive, occasional, ohsosatisfying curse which is yellow card/elimination worthy) audibly to your horse during competition/presentation : )
Good luck with this venture, let patience rule with any new bit/process.
Sure there's right and wrong but mostly there's just a whole lotta different.July 26, 2015 at 2:28 pm
Some great advice here already – I agree with all of the above. The answer is in increasing the horse’s sensitivity, not in producing greater avoidance strategies. There are always those who recommend stronger bits – (why are there so many?!) – as a short cut or a temporary fix. But you pay in the long run.
As a rule, I always transition my horses to ride bitless – but it takes some time to get a bitted horse to collect properly without one if he has been taught to balance on the bit. Getting the horse to balance takes some transitioning. I’d recommend just riding bareback, horse in a halter in a very small arena. Bareback sometimes slows the horse down and makes the rider pay attention better to seat cues, to sit more balanced, and while focused on the seat, the rider is less likely to go to the hands for control. It’s more informal and less pressure. Remember to relax yourself, too! Be fluid.
Sometimes the horse will relax better without a bit, and a calmer horse is a safer horse. A calm horse learns better, too. (If you trail ride, a bitless horse is less likely to spook and if spooking doesn’t spook badly.)
If you aren’t comfortable riding bareback, go ahead and try the halter headstall approach in a saddle, but stay in a round ring or smaller arena. If the horse ‘lays on your hands’ you will have to adjust your seat to help him balance, and give him time to learn to round himself under seat cues by driving him forward with your legs and sitting deeper and straighter.
Work in short sessions helps both of you gain confidence and build balance. Going bitless sometimes takes a while, but then the responsiveness of the horse becomes more than a little bit amazing. When you do need to use the bit in competition, you have a much more subtle, balanced and sensitive partner, and best of all, his mouth does not hurt.
It seems counterintuitive, much of horse work is, because the horse does not think like we do. Less is more – words to live by with horses. Good luck.
Alois Podhajsky: “When I hear somebody talk about a horse being stupid, I figure it’s a sure sign that animal has outfoxed them. ...July 26, 2015 at 2:31 pm
Thank you very much for all the help. I will give bitless a go for awhile.July 26, 2015 at 2:35 pm
Wish you luck, Lauren. Update us on how it works for you and how you both progress.
It is never the horse's faultJuly 26, 2015 at 2:36 pm
After going bitless for a while, I would eventually need to go back to a bit for showing, should I go to a smooth bit?July 26, 2015 at 2:40 pm
You may have to go back and forth with your current bit and bitless until the horse gains balance and stops laying on your hands. Once the horse stops relying on your hands and cues better on seat and legs, you’ll have fully transitioned. At that point you can try a milder bit and see if he is comfortable with that. (If he is comfortable, he’ll pay more attention to you!)
- This reply was modified 1 year, 12 months ago by Mapale. Reason: clarity
Alois Podhajsky: “When I hear somebody talk about a horse being stupid, I figure it’s a sure sign that animal has outfoxed them. ...July 26, 2015 at 2:44 pm
And I’d also train a one rein stop – as a safety measure.
Alois Podhajsky: “When I hear somebody talk about a horse being stupid, I figure it’s a sure sign that animal has outfoxed them. ...July 27, 2015 at 1:12 pm
Definitely use a smooth bit – the gentlest one you can find.
It is never the horse's faultAugust 12, 2015 at 2:01 pm
Ok so update on the bitless. After riding bitless several rides over a couple weeks, his flat work has improved SO much. He trots around on a loose rein with his head down and can lengthen or collect his stride pretty easily when asked. His canter is also much better, he doesnt suddenly speed up anymore and he keeps a calm consistent pace (still a bug stride for a small horse). I didnt see much improvement with him rushing to jumps though so that is still a work in progress. Thank you so much for all the help and advice.August 12, 2015 at 2:12 pm
Good to hear. As for rushing, perhaps it would help to go back to cavaletti, with a small cross rail at the end, so he has to concentrate more on his approach. A lot of horses rush into fences because they either don’t know how to rely on the rider telling them “now” or have had bad experiences and just want to get over them any way they can.
It is tiresome, but sometimes going back to the very beginning and starting over is a good thing to do.
It is never the horse's fault
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