View Full Version : What bit do you endurance ride in?

JackSprats Mom
Aug. 25, 2007, 12:32 AM
I have a youngster who is 'enthusiastic' on endurance rides, obviously I want to maintain some resemblence of control out there. I trail ride him in his baucher and he's fine but the trouble on an endurance ride is he can see the other horse in front and wants to catch them.

I am looking at using a Mikmar combination bit to help spread the pressure (it uses poll, nose and mouth).

What do you all use and why?

Aug. 25, 2007, 01:11 AM
I ride in a hackamore. But I used a Mikmar combo the second year of distance competition. My mare was very excitable and sometimes ignored me in the whirl of competition plus had a tendency to spook and bolt. I liked the Mikmar but it is a very "talkative" bit combo and really needs a light hand.

I only used the Mikmar for one year of conditioning and competition. I really wanted the mare to have an easier time to eat and drink and a bit didn't allow that.

Frankly, it took lots of miles, esp riding w/calm, experienced horses and basic dressage lessons for both of us to move up from the Mikmar. My hackamore now has long shanks but I ride in a loose rein prefering to use my seat and legs and by the second or third loop I take it off and ride in halter and reins. We're going to try the S hack this fall for ease of grazing and drinking. I'm more of a minimalist at heart. And she's still excitable but far more manageable.

Aug. 25, 2007, 02:22 AM
Good question! The answer for us is, it depends.

Taz goes in a french link snaffle 90% of the time at home. It is what he does dressage in and trains in mostly now that I found out that he likes it. I did his first few distance rides last year in a mullen mouth rubber coated snaffle, as that is what he came to me with, and I assumed that he wouldn't tolerate anything more than that.

Ha! The groom that packed his stuff at the trainer's sent the wrong bridle with him. Not her fault, as the trainer didn't make it clear what she was to send, but nonetheless, I found out that he pulled a lot in that bit because it wasn't at all the right bit for him! :lol:

So, I bought a tom thumb french link snaffle pelham for Sam to try, and Taz came back from a brief layup right as I bought it and I thought "hey, why not try this?!"

Well, for a ride, it is close to perfect. For the first loop, I use the bottom rings -- the shanks are short, but I need a little "whoa" -- for the second loop, I can usually go to the snaffle ring or to his french link snaffle bridle.

My training partner rides in an s-hack most of the time and always on the second loop, and I like it, but I'm afraid Taz's reaction would be :lol: :eek: :lol: at me. ;)

The only time I've been able to use his sidepull on his endurance bridle is on an LD that had 85% of the ride totally under water. He so didn't care then that it was all I needed.

Maybe this year at some point we can try a hack and see how it goes? Ok, maybe not. I do want to live to see the end of the season . . . ;) :lol:


Aug. 25, 2007, 03:08 AM
I'm going to try a curb bit that has a snaffle setting for the reins. I'll ride in double reins, using the snaffle rein when my horse listens well, but I'll have the shanked curb for those times he gets too strong. He's used to a snaffle or a hackamore, but when he's fit and at a competition, he's simply too strong and too fast (OTTB) for me to feel very safe. I'll use it for lots of trail rides before trying it in a competion. We won't be trying to compete again until spring, but we can go out on other group rides and see how he does.

My plan is to start out with the curb bit and later switch to a French snaffle when he is easier to control. If all goes well, we can end the ride using a side pull. Don't know how wise this is, but that's what I'd like to do. As he gains experience, I might try starting in a snaffle again. There are few things I find as scary as being on an OTTB who is trying to achieve race track speeds in an open meadow with tall grass, and all the horse can think about is passing every horse he sees. That was NOT fun!

Aug. 25, 2007, 10:15 AM
I use a mullen mouth rubber Tom Thumb pelham - four reins are pretty natural for me to carry and I can throw away the curb in essence after a few miles but can ask for some collection when I need it. I ride with a halter beneath the bridle (no cavesson) and a leadrope around the neck and can change to just the halter with the leadrope for the last few miles if that seems wise.

A note of caution - we have learned from experience that the solution is NOT to simply go to a stronger bit. Training is everything with your young horse. We had a similar very enthusiastic young horse who as he got fitter got harder to handle. We switched to a harsher bit but he was a very strong horse and would just run through the bit. Pretty frightening if he took you under something in his bolt. Also, although I didn't have it in my bag of tricks when I probably needed it most, develop a good one-rein stop just in case.

Also I have been told by a Tevis Cup winner that the best bit for endurance is the kimberwicke. I am still too much of an English purist to use one but that's what she said. :)

Aug. 25, 2007, 04:16 PM
No bits here either. I ride my Arab mare in a rope halter I really like bitless as it makes it so easy for the horse to eat or drink. The reason why there are so many choices out there is because a single item doesn't work on every horse. You have to experiment and find what suits you and your horse the best.

Aug. 25, 2007, 05:19 PM
he 3rd option is an Argentine snaffle with swept back bars.

If it has shanks (you meant "swept back shanks" not "bars", yes?), it by definition is not a snaffle. It's a broken mouth curb. </petpeeve> :)

I would definitely be scared of those Mikmars. Those look like some barbarbic torture device.

Hands, curb strap tightness etc. all being equal, the solid mouth Mikmars (http://www.mikmar.com/bit-pages/combo-bit.html) are going to be less severe than that broken-mouth curb you use.

Aug. 25, 2007, 08:24 PM
GTD, I hadn't even considered riding my boy in a gag bit. I should have, since I know plenty of race horses are ridden in gags. One of my trimming clients (and fellow trail rider) uses a gag all the time. There is something about it that I don't like, but maybe that is an old bias rather than having anything to do with the actual bit. I'll rethink it.

What made me try the curb with two rein settings is a Linda Tellington Jones book. She had some interesting things to say about it, so I thought I'd try it.

I agree about training being paramount. But there are times when training is overridden by instinct, and the horse takes off at dangerous speeds. In my case, it happened because my riding companion's horse kept blowing into a full gallop, my boy would hear the hoof beats and take off. She could get her horse under control quickly (but somehow not stop him from surging into a full gallop), but once my guy was trying to reach full speed, it's like I wasn't even there. I did manage to get him stopped both times it happened on the ride, but I'm lucky that there were no holes or that another rider didn't inadvertantly cross our paths. There would have been a wreck for sure, I had so little control.

Butch and I hand-gallop @ 20mph quite a bit during training rides, and he is always so easy to bring back. So I thought we were fine for the ride. Ha! I had failed to anticipate that other horses would surge into a gallop just off his butt and stimulate his urge to race. I HATE being run away with!

Lune du Cheval
Aug. 26, 2007, 12:54 AM
Butch and I hand-gallop @ 20mph quite a bit during training rides,

If you don't mind my asking, what tool do you use to determine your speed? Just that you know the length of where you ride and the time it takes? Or is there something that will tell you what speed?

Thanks. :)

Aug. 26, 2007, 01:03 AM
If you don't mind my asking, what tool do you use to determine your speed? Just that you know the length of where you ride and the time it takes? Or is there something that will tell you what speed?

Thanks. :)

I use a Garmin 205 which gives me distance, time and speed including speed averages. Great little training tool.

Aug. 26, 2007, 10:02 AM
Like many endurance riders, I prefer no bit in the mouth. I've been using hackamores for some years now. My favorite is a very short shanked "english" hackamore, with a neoprene padded nose piece and a wide, heavy english curb chain. The curb chain with the hooks can be quickly adjusted but more importently it has never rubbed my horses while other types of curb chain and straps have either rubbed thinned skinned energetic horses or were so mild that they just leaned on them and pulled.

Personally, I think a lot of horses are happier out on the trail with non-jointed bits. A mullen mouth kimberwick or pelham or one of the Myler bit mouths that have rotating joints that are not the same as the typical snaffle joint. I really, really really don't like snaffle jointed mouth pieces on a shanked curb bit. Sorry, I know some of you are using this type of bit but rein pressure on shanks really skews a jointed mouth piece in the horses mouth.

When I was a riding instructor I found most of the lesson horses were happier and less fussy with a simple mouth piece and those that had been strong and pulling in a snaffle were able to relax and settle in a simple kimberwick. This of course had a great deal to do with the inexperience of the learning riders and their unedjucated hands. But, even for more experienced riders, once on the trail and in competition, finesse of hands often declines, horses get excited, heads are tossing, sponges are being flung at puddles and reins are carried in a single hand for miles. Keeping it simple with a mild curb bit or hackamore (my horse's favorite) or a halter/sidepull for the well behaved, can really allow the horse and rider to relax.

For a puller that leans down hard into a bit a gag bit is handy as a curb bit lowers a horse's head carriage. But if you have a high headed horse who is tossing his head way up and not looking at the ground (trip hazard) then a curb bit or hackamore will lower that head, tuck the chin a bit and bring eye focus down to the trail.


Aug. 27, 2007, 11:16 AM
we just trail ride, not "endurance" per say, but we use one of those flexible plastic mullen-mouth happy mouth bits with the three rings and two reins-- one set of reins on the snaffle ring, one set on the bottom ring. So if he gets a bit feisty you can use the leverage of the bottom ring; otherwise you have a nice soft snaffle bit to ride off of.

Just Wondering
Aug. 27, 2007, 11:56 AM
Depends on the horse and the day! I have used a regular o-ring snaffle, kimberwick and an S-hack.

If I use a bit - I put it on a halter bridle combo so the bit can be removed immediatly after I loosen the girth at a check point.

Aug. 27, 2007, 12:23 PM
I don't ride endurance but hope to someday. We mostly trail ride. I do, however, have an old schoolie QH who's been there, done that and would tend to ignore you on a spirited trail ride with other horses. I started using a custom Myler Level 1 bit that I came across in a random conversation with a local trainer. You have to order it with the specific mouthpiece and shanks.

It has 5" shanks for a bit more control but has a hinged barrel mouthpiece (3 pieces). The hinge allows the bit to move so that you can isolate a shoulder or side without the bit engaging the other side. Plus the mouthpiece has copper inlay for salivation. My QH has become so much more responsive with this bit. Regular snaffles didn't have enough stopping power and the Tom Thumb that was recommended when I bought him caused such stiffness.

This is the mouthpiece:

These are the cheekpieces that I have:

Aug. 27, 2007, 01:18 PM
I rode my gaited morgan in a french link snaffle when I first got her (the owner like to ride in bits). As a way to "signal" to her when I wanted her to gait and not gait (arena work for english disciplines), I switched her over to "bitless" out on the trail. I rode her in a sidepull for a few years until she got into shape but with her improved fitness emerged a much increased "competitive spirit" and she became a bit difficult to "contain" during endurance races (would yank to loosen the reins in the sidepull when impatient) so I switched her to a Hought endurance s-hackamore and she works great in that. I have no issues controlling her in it. I have also ridden several horses (and several friends have borrowed mine) in them, and highly recommend them, they are awesome!!

Aug. 27, 2007, 03:12 PM
My daughter not only trail rides her mare in a "Little S Hackmore" she barrel races her in it as well. No problem stopping. Her gelding will ride in either, she races him in the hack, when I trail ride him I usually use a reining bit that he responds well too.

My mare rides in a very tiny aluminum curb with short swept back shanks. I think it was made specially for a pony, and its the only bit I have that fits her small mouth. We are schooling her in a little S, and she will soon be switched over to trail riding her in that as well.

That said, I agree that sometimes there are situations that you need more control. For years I rode a huge appy that had a mouth like iron from years at Claremont. He was a great horse, but tended to 'snatch and grab' if given the opportunity. He rode in a Pelham, with me switching from one rein to another depending on his 'listening abilities' that day :lol: He could also be ridden in a hackmore, if just riding with his pasture buddies, but add a different horse, and his competative instincts kicked in :eek: I had many an interesting ride on that horse :winkgrin: After one wild gallop up a mountain dodging bushes, rocks and tree limbs to beat an approaching t-storm, I was offered quite a bit of money for him. No way, he looked out for his rider that day!

Aug. 27, 2007, 06:28 PM
Also I have been told by a Tevis Cup winner that the best bit for endurance is the kimberwicke. I am still too much of an English purist to use one but that's what she said. :)

I have been riding my horse for 2 1/2 years, all that time in a kimberwick. He is a very strong horse. The first year I got him he would gallop away with me when I asked him to canter. Finally he only canters when I ask him to canter. I think that came from putting long miles on him. The Kimberwick works ok. I'm sure there is something better that could work better.

Last week my bridle broke so my friend said why don't I try a sidepull. Sure, why the heck not. He did pretty well in it, even though we were with 5 other horses. He did so well with it I rode him the next time and it was awfull. My shoulders hurt so much and I was afraid he was going to run away with me. He definetly took advantage of "the situation" and I don't think I will ride him in that again.

Aug. 27, 2007, 11:32 PM
If you don't mind my asking, what tool do you use to determine your speed? Just that you know the length of where you ride and the time it takes? Or is there something that will tell you what speed?

Thanks. :)
I've got a GPS I can wear on my wrist (a Garmin). It keeps track of mileage, elevation, average speed, and top speed. I can check my speed any time I want. It's fun. I wish I had it on me the day Butch ran away with me so I'd know what speed he reached, but somehow, it felt like cheating to wear it, so I left it at camp. I dont' intend to go that fast again.

Aug. 28, 2007, 06:01 PM
... but all of mine get schooled in dressage in snaffle bits, but for endurance I've got two who wear a simple two-rope sidepull hackamore (one is my young horse, who is rateable and a joy to ride in front, behind, wherever at whatever speed, and trust me, he is hothothot by nature).

The other two wear a Little S hackamore, which has just a little bit more leverage but stays nicely out of the way for eating, drinking, leg rubbing, etc.

I'm sure this is a tangent, and I'm a bit of an anal-retentive type re: training, but we rarely, if ever, open our horses up on trail and "race." Especially with the horses who are not seriously seasoned to going at a sane pace. In fact, I think both of the veteran horses were in their third season of fifties before they ever saw a good galloping fartlek on trail. The young one is in his second season of fifties, and nope, he's not done that. A canter from time to time, but well in hand.

We have plenty of friends with horses that cannot safely and pleasantly go for a plain ol' walking trail ride. They go out and "condition" when they ride and so all their horses know is to go and go fast.

Ours do walking trail rides on the buckle because we often do just exactly that. If one of ours thinks he needs to be in front in order to be pleasant, he's guaranteed to spend lots of quality time 2nd or 3rd in a group.

I'm sure this is something you already know, so I hope it didn't sound preachy, but our sport is so much more about strategy and training and a cooperative partnership than it is about racing a horse who is anywhere near the edge of control. IM often-in-the-middle-of-the-pack E.

JackSprats Mom
Aug. 28, 2007, 07:36 PM
So it seems that many of you are having success with using the Little S Hackamore on more 'enthusiatic' horse, is that right?

And thanks for all the info.

Patti - My guy is pretty sane out on a normal trail ride and is learning to go quietly behind (sane as in we can happily walk on the buckle:yes:) The trouble is he is naturally a 'leader' type, so while on our regular trail rides this is being worked on at the endurance ride he sees a horse ahead and gets a little excited. The idea on our first ride was to go sloooow and teach him that a ride doesn't = fast. Hmmm lets just say didn't work. I am hoping by doing more and more rides he gets over this which I'm sure he will as he started his first show season this year with the same excitement and is now for the most part an 'old pro' :winkgrin:

So while I am definately working on the too forward issue at the rides I want a bit to help keep him sane and more importantly happy in the mouth until he calms down.

(he currently trail rides in a french link)

Aug. 28, 2007, 07:47 PM
<< am hoping by doing more and more rides he gets over this which I'm sure he will as he started his first show season this year with the same excitement and is now for the most part an 'old pro' >>

Absolutely. The old "wet saddle blanket fix" cures many ills.

Aug. 29, 2007, 08:13 AM
A couple of more comments from me, what a suprise!

I switched from the Little S hackamore to the "English" style hackamore for a couple of reasons.

1. The Little S is designed so that you can't change the type of curb chain/strap that you use on it. http://www.rods.com/p/7218,237_Leather-Nose-Little-S-Hackamore.html Well, maybe you would be able to get the hooks for an english type curb chain on it. But I found that the sort of twisted chain that comes with it sit's too high on the horses jaw, where there is a lot of bone with just skin over it and my horses got holes rubbed by that chain in their skin. And I prefer to have a flat padded noseband, which you can finally get from a couple of endurance tack vendors.

2. The english type hackamore has a wide flat curb chain that hags lower on the horses jaw so it sits in the groove just above the horses chin. A bit more flesh over the bones in the spot and my horses seem more comfortable with it. I found that the wide flat chain never rubs holes on even the freshest horse. http://www.highermark.com/t-hbh.html shows a hackamore which sits a little too low in my opinion but shows the type I use. but I change out the curb strap for the hooks and chain which hags downward into the chin groove.

Riding fast: I'm not talking about racing during a ride, I'm talking about you and your horse being comfortable with speed. IMO most people who fall off a galloping horse have caused themselves to fall off. I don't mean this to sound judgemental. As an ex riding instructor and a person with experience galloping race horses I've had experience with speed and dealt with or watched the average person who hasn't. In reality, it's no harder to stay on a horse who's going fast, but most people fear the speed, never practice it, and they stiffen up, contract their legs, raise their heels, loose their stirrups and curl into a fetal position before having a close-up conversation with dirt.

In fact a lot of people are scared of cantering, forget galloping. You need to learn to ride at all gaits and to deal with body and mind control at all of them. Practice, practice, practice!!!!! Then you won't do the wrong thing if a horse get strong or bolts.

Also, so many horses are never allowed to go fast with a rider on board. I think this constant restraint can really cause a build up of silliness and a real explosion when they finally get to cut loose. I like to practice galloping in company with other riders, so my horse learns that it's a normal part of riding and nothing to get excited about.

One more pet peeve. Sooo many riders will only canter up hill, because it's mentally more comfortable to them. They end up training their horses to plunge or bolt up hills. I've been on so many endurance rides where riders around me take off at a gallop when they reach an uphill on a road. Helloooooooo!!!!!! Do you know how much more effort it takes your horse to gallop up a long hill? Then they get to the top and have a winded horse, and now, the road or trail is level or gently sloping down and there they are walking or slowly trotting that puffing horse. Slow down on the uphills and use the flats and downhills to make up time. This is during a ride. during training it's a different deal.

Wasn't this a thread about bits? Hah! I'm off my soap box.


Aug. 29, 2007, 11:32 AM
when i did endurance and for most trail riding, i use one of those kincaide hackamores
the comment about speed is interesting, i found i was afraid of the speed but got to realize, my horse was only going a little faster than my comfort level, it took some tranining on my part to not let speed escalate into out of control because i rolled up in a ball, so learning to stay balanced myself at speed went a long way to being able to deal with bit issues, deciding was it me afraid of speed or the actual bit was not working for the horse

Aug. 29, 2007, 04:03 PM
Yep, I was definitely afraid of riding at speed for a lot of years. My first pony used to run away with me every chance she got until I learned to sit back and turn her in a circle. She had a nice way of striding left then right then left to unseat me if I managed to hang on through the first bolt, so the trick was to catch her right away.

That left me with a fear of speed. Oddly enough, riding OTTB's has cured me of this fear. They are professionals at galloping. The speed Butch and I "gallop" is actually considered a "canter" by race horse people. It is a ground-eating pace that my horse finds easy to maintain, and he often cools down much faster after a long hand-gallop than he would if we had trotted the same distance.

Strategy for us will be to intersperse trotting with hand-galloping to keep him interested and working at his most efficient. I don't care about winning--I just want to complete.

He is easy to control unless there are other horses going full speed. I think his mind goes from "workout mode" to "race mode", and I lose control. So bitting is an important issue until he realizes that he won't be racing, even short distances, anymore. My biggest worry when he goes full speed is the footing: hummocks, holes, and slippery spots. That is a valid concern out there, especially when my horse gets too excited to watch his footing.

I'll be trying another LD ride this fall, so we'll see how the curb bit works. I've still got the gag bit idea in the back of my head. One thing at a time...

Thanks everybody for contributing to this thread. It's been informative, even though I didn't start it and ask the question! Kudos to you all. This is a great forum.

Aug. 29, 2007, 05:30 PM
... on a horse with a good base and the sense to know the difference between racing and traveling down the trail at a good clip and under control.

I've seen far too many riders new to our sport concerned with speed when what they should first be concerned about is completing.

They end up with out of control horses and are lucky if they can steer around the course as their wild-eyed horse pulls on them and fights with them to be upfront.

Maybe I'm the only one who sees that sort of thing.

But to me, telling folks to get a bigger bit and suggesting that they "practice at speed" is a message that makes me a little nervous.

Make haste slowly.


Aug. 29, 2007, 05:32 PM
When I rode in endurance trials, I used the same simple regular, old fashioned, not those later ones with the fat mouth, D ring snaffle we used to train and go on trail rides.
Horses didn't seem to ride any different in endurance then any other time.

I wonder if it is in the training, or somehow today's endurance rides are that much different than ours used to be?:confused:

Auventera Two
Aug. 29, 2007, 05:52 PM
I've seen far too many riders new to our sport concerned with speed when what they should first be concerned about is completing.

They end up with out of control horses and are lucky if they can steer around the course as their wild-eyed horse pulls on them and fights with them to be upfront.

Maybe I'm the only one who sees that sort of thing.

But to me, telling folks to get a bigger bit and suggesting that they "practice at speed" is a message that makes me a little nervous.

Make haste slowly.


This is such a great point Patti. This is my first endurance season and I am practing LSD (long slow distances) right now. My goal is to get down the trail safely, happily, and in a reasonable time. I let my mare canter or gallop, but she's easy to control and smart. But right now I'm most concerned with developing good skills and muscle/wind and we'll worry about speed in the years to come. :)

Aug. 29, 2007, 06:31 PM
When I rode in endurance trials, I used the same simple regular, old fashioned, not those later ones with the fat mouth, D ring snaffle we used to train and go on trail rides.
Horses didn't seem to ride any different in endurance then any other time.

I wonder if it is in the training, or somehow today's endurance rides are that much different than ours used to be?:confused:I find this interesting. The last CTR I completed (in 1983 :eek:) I rode my wonderful half-Arab mare. I had thoroughly conditioned her with LSD work, some cantering, and lots of walking. She was so pokey when I rode her for conditioning that I thought I might need spurs on the day of the ride just to make it in under the time limit. I went with two other people, and the idea was that we would ride together and have fun. I rode in a full-cheek snaffle, the same as I showed the mare in (mostly hunter equitation and pleasure classes, jumping up to 3'6").

The day of the ride, I saw my friends at the very beginning, briefly at lunch, and much later as I waited for them to finish. My mare was a speed demon and wanted to follow the fastest (dark colored) horses she could find. She took off after an Arabian that was schooling for a 100 mile ride, and we went much, much faster than I had expected. I had no brakes and little steering. That was my first time cantering down a steep hill, and I had to fight the urge to close my eyes. :winkgrin: This was my darling show mare that won plenty of championships and had taken me many, many miles along the roads and through the fields at home.

Finally, we came upon some early starters on a narrow part of the trail, and I was able to jam my mare behind one of those horses (I asked permission as we were charging up to them). Those ladies were so nice and patient with me and my mare. For a while we found a similar sized horse of the right color (my horse preferred dark chestnuts, bless her heart), and we went at a reasonable clip for quite a while, until Babe spotted another dark horse farther up the trail.

We galloped across the finish line, just making it over the fastest time allowed with no penalty points.

I was one shocked person and had not expected my mare to be so hot-blooded on the trail, since she had never shown signs of this before. I guess it was the excitement of the day and being around so many horses going the same direction. This is the same mare I could always count on to be level headed in tough situations, stand solid as a truck let off its air brakes, and pony other horses from during the training process.

My long-winded point is that well conditioned, well trained horses can still get their blood up on competition day. All it takes is to be surrounded by other excited horses and riders. The novice horse does not know what to expect, and it is important for the rider to be prepared for a horse that is harder than usual to handle.

I had that mare for 22 years, and I still miss her.

p.s. I also think it is important to do some training at speed, so that one can stay with the horse and bring him back to a slower speed as needed. If a rider isn't comfortable with a galloping horse, he/she may need more riding instruction before attending a competetive ride. Horses sometimes run when we don't expect them to, and it is an accident waiting to happen if the rider can't stay with the horse and learn how to bring him back under control during an unexpected gallop.

Aug. 29, 2007, 09:14 PM
What breed and age was your horse? And how much endurance riding experience did the horse have? It seems to me that it's the young, inexperienced Arabians that get the hottest on the trail. The seasoned competitors know their bag and do it with the least amount of expended effort. My Arab is starting to settle in a little to the pace now because she knows that when I get on, we're going for a few hours so she might as well get down to business. There's a long way to go yet, but I think it takes years to develop a good endurance mount.

I was riding a 16+ hand standardbred trotting mare, that had been pulling a buggy with tourists for several years in the streets, then was sold to the slaughterhouse, where our riding school bought many of our horses and the manager called us on her.
We used her to guide trail rides most days of the week and when not, I took her for some conditioning in the hills alone, all that for some months.
We participated in two 200 km rides in two days, one year apart.
She rode the same any place she was, trail riding or in the endurance trials.

Aug. 30, 2007, 08:32 AM
No, my suggestion is that the rider learn to not be scared of galloping so that they don't become a danger to themselves and fall off. Several years ago at a local CTR a bolting loose horse careened into two riders on a narrow trail and knocked both horses to the ground. Both riders were medivaced out. Loose horses can be dangerous.

I'm not advocating competing at speed, I'm advocating both horse and rider being relaxed and balanced at all gaits. Cantering and galloping shouldn't be frightening or exciting, it should be part of the repertoir of horse and rider. I've seen riders basicly pitch themselves to the ground in a small arena because the horse starts cantering, the rider stiffens every inch of their body freaking the poor horse out who starts running faster and faster and the rider literally falls off from fear and stiffness.

It's about learning to be a good rider and continueing to improve your riding skills. When we hit the trails we often quit taking lessons and focus only on conditioning the horse. I agree that I see a lot of riders on the trail that basicly have pretty poor riding skills. We need to keep on learning and getting better. But learn to deal with all the gaits and practice what to do about a bolt or puller ahead of time. Learn a one rein stop and teach it to your horse, practice it regularly, use it as a tool, push your comfort envelope. Take lessons too but take them from the right sort of instructor.


Aug. 30, 2007, 09:40 AM
... particularly regarding the lessons and really learning to ride in all three gaits.

Absolutely learn to ride the canter and gallop, just don't have your horse thinking that getting out there and racing is the name of the game.

--Patti self-confessed control freak

Aug. 30, 2007, 02:50 PM
Patti- my problem is I love going fast! Nothing like a good rip and tear! But Mouse just isn't that type of horse. Now he's very balanced and we can weave thru trees and go down hill at a darn good pace but he just doesn't have a racing bone in his body. I need me one of those Russian race horses! Mouse actually slows himself on uphills and extends on the downhills. He walks when he's tired then goes back to a trot when he's rested. He'd make a wonderful kid's horse now. And my four year old that has several very nice race horses in his pedigree is the laziest, slowest, western pleasure type Arab you've ever seen! Of course my husband adores him because he's a lap pony.

I need me a race horse!


Just Wondering
Aug. 30, 2007, 03:41 PM
The old "wet saddle blanket fix" cures many ills.

Oh yes!

JackSprats Mom
Aug. 30, 2007, 05:46 PM
I think most endurance riders canter or gallop the hills because it's actually easier for the horse.

Most don't gallop or canter hills even in their training, why, becuase its a great way to cause strains and its not bilaterally even work.

While it may work for you, I personally (nor would my trainer) use it as conditioning work.

Aug. 31, 2007, 10:42 PM
I dont let my horses rip up hills like some trail riders I know do, but my horses do tend to prefer trotting or cantering up as opposed to walking and I dont see anything wrong with it. I guess it depends on the horse. Ive been on endurance rides where the people I was riding with thought it was too hard on their horse to go fast up a big hill but mine does it fine and seems to have plenty of energy left at the top.

Sep. 1, 2007, 05:54 PM
... who tends to go faster up hill and slower downhill.

And I think a lot of it does depend on the horse.

My hundred mile horse, Ned, is a grand hill climber but slow as molasses going down. Just not his thing, and while we MIGHT jiggy-jog a gentle down hill slope, more likely we'll be walking. On both conditioning rides and during competition.

However, we live in mountain country and actually do fartleks up our hills, so yes, he can boogie up a hill and has the "bottom" to do so. I wouldn't start up a hill faster than a walk that I didn't think I could make it to the top to, easily, staying in that gait.

My young horse is a much better down hill horse and I look forward to the day that I'm passing horses like Ned on the downhills, because this little boy just sits and jogs with absolutely no apparent strain.

If I didn't train in mountains, we certainly wouldn't be going up hills fast.

However, I don't have sand to train in, and I betcha I am going WAAAAY slower in the deep sand than those of you who condition in it all of the time. Guaranteed.

Whatever works.

Sep. 1, 2007, 06:07 PM
We were training with the military police horse officers and we always were told to rate our horses uphill and that we could go faster downhill, with well conditioned and trained horses.
We trained in huge downhill slides, where horses would start with a jump of several feet into loose dirt and slide/scoot all the way down, with us leaning forward a little and balancing and keeping the horses straight.
If your horse got sideways, you both would roll down the hills.
If you leaned back, any little tripping would send you over the horse's head.

Many of those soldiers were beginners and they ponied-up and learned in a hurry, although there were some misshaps.
The horses fared fine, were used to all that and I don't remember not one injury to them during that hill work.
We kids thought it was great fun.

As you say, that was very much specific to those ground conditions and the situation.
It is hard to lay ground rules to apply to all conditions and horses.

Sep. 1, 2007, 10:20 PM
I remember theory where uphills are good for cardio-vascular training if done at speed, but that trotting/cantering downhill would be hard on the horses' joints and may reduce the horses' competition soundness over time.

I've had a couple of horses with knee problems. They all go uphill great, but struggle on the downhills. So I'm guessing that downhills are tough on the knees, and I'd listen to how the horse feels about going downhill rather than trying to set the speed myself.

I don't think I'd have been brave enough to do what Bluey describes! :eek: I'm too big a chicken for that, even if the horse were willing!