View Full Version : A bit with a little more turning power?

Not So Practical Horse(WO)man
Dec. 5, 2009, 07:29 PM
Please no flamers saying how its not the bit that matters, its how you ride. I know that.

I am an eventer but have been doing the jumpers recently. My mare is currently in the HS KK Ultra loose ring. Its the perfect eventing bit. LEgal for dressage, nice cruising for cross country, and stadium courses are never technical enough that I need anything more than this bit.

But now the jumps are getting higher and the turns are getting tighter and she's getting more happy with herself after the jumps. I would like a bit with a little more turning power and a little more "pay attention to me please". I have very soft hands and ride with either a short or auto release. The only time I long release is if I get a little left behind, I go out of my way to not grad her in the mouth because it would upset her.

I've been thinking a pelham...my friend has a slow twist pelham that I can try. Too harsh even for soft hands? I would probably use the connector just because I've never held two sets of reins and definitely dont want to start learning right away with a new, harsher bit in my hands. Maybe in a few weeks.

Any other suggestions? Something with leverage would be nice as she can get a little up and ignoring when she gets excited. I don't know much about bits...I just ride everything in a loose ring snaffle!

Tha Ridge
Dec. 5, 2009, 08:41 PM
I'm a fan of the pelham. And honestly, I don't even think you'll need a slow twist - a rubber mullen mouth sounds like it would do everything you need it to.

I would recommend learning to use two reins though. Riding in a pelham with a connector defeats the whole purpose of the bit; you aren't able to get the same level of precision with just one rein. As long as you don't saw on the curb rein, you'll be fine.

Dec. 5, 2009, 08:41 PM
full cheek. use something with a slow twist or a dr bristol. it's a good "hey, i'm still riding you" reminder.

do NOT use a pelham with a connector. you will be putting the same amount of pressure on the snaffle as you are on the curb. does not make ANY sense. if you're going to use a pelham, you're going to have to learn to use it THE RIGHT WAY. using a connector is ridiculous. it means if you need constant pressure on the snaffle, if you use a connector then you're putting the same pressure on the snaffle ring as you are on the curb ring. i dont know how to explain it alll that well, but i am sure you can see what i'm getting at. i don't have a problem with pelhams, unless someone's using a connector, because then it's just ridiculous. the curb should NOT be used at all times. there are 2 rings for a reason. you should only use the curb when needed.

and really, using 2 reins is NOT hard. i learned to use 2 reins in my very first year of riding, i remember. i got the hang of it after 2 rides.

Not So Practical Horse(WO)man
Dec. 5, 2009, 08:55 PM
Ok I see your point and will definitely learn with both reins. I understand what your saying about the constant pressure on the curb. Would that cause a horse to get on the forehand by using the connector?

I have rubber reins. What reins would be a good, light combo to learn to hold. Do they make special curb reins? Also, is there any brand of reins that is a bit shorter than others, my mare is very "compact" and I am always having way too much excess rein.

Would a full cheek interfere with a figure 8? I'm assuming full cheeks are really only effective with the keeper, am I right?


Dec. 5, 2009, 09:19 PM
Yes you can purchase a plain rein designed to be used as a curb rein. It is not laced, braided or anything just a plain rein. When buying reins they often list the size in inches of the reins, select one with smaller measurements or look for one offered in cob size.

A full cheek will not interfere with a figure-8, it is a common combination. PLEASE use a keeper on your full cheek, the are key to effectiveness and also make the bit safer (less likely for something to get caught over the top of the bit).

I agree with pretty much everything the others have said. I really like a full cheek Dr. Bristol personally. I also like a 3-ring french link. I alternate between these two frequently with my guy who has a phenomenal turn when ridden right but can be quit difficult sometimes. I used a Myler ported combination bit on him during his ''OMG I'm body clipped and its cold!" phase--he carried himself beautifully in it but he it had no turning power. It was too much 'lift' or something.

Tha Ridge
Dec. 5, 2009, 09:22 PM
Yes, they make curb reins that are typically only 1/2" - much easier to hold.

I'm not as adamant about no converters as superpony123 is. I mean, by criticizing people who ride with connectors, she's criticizing riders such as Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum - Shutterfly typically goes in a pelham with a converter.

BUT - for your purposes, you would be better served by having both reins.

Dec. 5, 2009, 09:42 PM
Really, from a loose ring to a pelham? Thats a pretty big leap my friend. Why not try a running martingale, a full cheek or a baucher (both with a french link)? It dont think that your mare needs it, no matter how soft you are.

Not So Practical Horse(WO)man
Dec. 5, 2009, 10:08 PM
She always has a running martingale. I have a crooked shnoz from a broken nose(different horse, couple years ago) so I always ride a high headed horse in one. I am planning on trying the full cheek too...just gotta find one to borrow. My friend has a pelham ready for me to borrow.

I value your opinion but out of curiosity, do you think your viewpoint has anything to do with the fact that your an eventer? I ride both disciplines and see a very large difference in opinion from both crowds. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, of course, I'm just wondering.

I probably won't be trying a boucher. I've never, ever seen one used that made an ounce of difference.

Dec. 5, 2009, 10:18 PM
I have a favorite bit when I'm needing a little more than a french link, but it's not legal in the dressage ring. My favorite is my Myler low port d-ring with hooks (MB43LP). It's been a great transition bit for several of my horses until they've gotten a little better trained and willing to stay off of my hands...at which point they often go back to a french link or mullen mouth. Although my mare that I do the AO jumpers with goes full time in the the myler since she's one who wants to lay on the bit out of laziness. I love that the myler lets me really refine my aids in asking her to pick up each shoulder and I've found that several of mine are more willing to go softly ON it than they are with a french link (I suspect that it's simply because they like the one-piece type mouthpiece).

I'm not a fan of the "every horse should go in a french link snaffle" attitude. I think different bits absolutely have their place in the training process and allow you to "explain" things to a horse much more clearly. You just have to have educated enough hands for whatever you want to ride in.

Dec. 6, 2009, 12:34 AM
Ok I see your point and will definitely learn with both reins. I understand what your saying about the constant pressure on the curb. Would that cause a horse to get on the forehand by using the connector?

I have rubber reins. What reins would be a good, light combo to learn to hold. Do they make special curb reins? Also, is there any brand of reins that is a bit shorter than others, my mare is very "compact" and I am always having way too much excess rein.

Would a full cheek interfere with a figure 8? I'm assuming full cheeks are really only effective with the keeper, am I right?


Generally speaking, I've always used pelhams like this: regular laced reins (i think rubber may be too bulky) on the snaffle ring, and flat leather reins on the curb ring. They make reins for this, they're generally a fraction as wide so it's easier to hold. And yes, I think for a lot of horses it can cause them to get on the forehand and it will also give them a hard/sore mouth (using the connector i mean).

As for the full cheek: yes, you can use it with a figure 8 and it will not interfere. I've seen it done. they can be used with or without keepers, though i think they're a little more effective with keepers. But I know plenty of horses that go in them (in a figure 8 so obviously without keepers) and can get around tight turns just fine.

As for reins, maybe some brands make cob size reins? i'm not sure, to be honest. I've got a mare with a relatively short neck, but regular horse size reins seem to fit her fine.

Dec. 6, 2009, 12:50 AM
I think you will find that a slow twist pelham will be too much bit for a horse that can go cross country in a KK loose ring... You might look for a regular Tom Thumb pelham to try... However, I don't think that the pelham will help you with turning power that you are seeking. I agree with others who have suggested a full cheek. If you need more stopping power go with a thinner mouth peice or something with a twist... You could also try something with a D ring if your horse doesn't like the full cheek with the keepers which puts a little pressure on the poll when you pull on the rein.

Dec. 6, 2009, 01:08 AM
I would go to a full-cheek in whatever type of mouthpiece you are already using. If you just need a little more turn, this should do the trick. If you need brakes, I would go with a slow twist.

I'm a pelham fan, and have had horses go beautifully in them, but it doesn't sound like you need leverage, and if you horse is already soft, just a full cheek should be plenty. Use keepers to stabilize it. One of the huge hunter Dee rings might also work. I don't care for the look of dees, but I'm obviously in the minority, and it doesn't really matter what it looks like anyway.

Not So Practical Horse(WO)man
Dec. 6, 2009, 01:20 AM
Ok...I'll just try both and let you know how it goes. Since I have easy access to the pelham I'll use that one for a week or two then switch to the full cheek and see which one is like more.

And for what its worth, cross country is zen time for my mare. Put her in a ring and she get fired up. Start galloping around in a field and its cruise control..she wont get aster, she wont get slower. When theres a fence, I point her to it, she sees it, sets herself up, jumps it, then goes right back to cruise control. This horse is definitely an eventer and a jumper. She LOVES to jump! She just gets a little too excited about it in the ring and stops listening then gets herself inverted and wont turn. I just need a little reminder.

Thanks for all the awesome advice...keep it coming and I'll get back to you all when testing is complete.

Dec. 6, 2009, 01:59 AM
Wow. She sounds like an awsome mare. Have fun bit testing.

Dec. 6, 2009, 03:16 AM
As suggested I would try a slow twist in a full cheek. Some horses get too 'curled under' in a pelham and in some cases get sloppier in the turns. If that makes any sense to anyone?

Dec. 6, 2009, 03:38 AM
I am not an eventer and agree that a jump from a kk snaffle to a slow twist (or any) pelham is a big one. I am all for trying different bits, but I would try a slow twist D or full cheek first, then a corkscrew or Dr. Bristol, then maybe a french link with a little leverage (a 2 ring, maybe), then a pelham. Pelhams are not especially known for giving turning power so I am not sure why all the suggestions for one of those.

IME, some horses go well in them and some really overreact to the curb chain. If your horse is naturally sensitive, she probably will not appreciate the curb -- the horses that tend to go well in them are big lugs that need to be made lighter.

Easiest of all to try is to put bit guards on your KK -- anything that keeps the bit from pulling the loose ring through her mouth and puts a little pressure on the other side is going to help you turn.

IME, start with the smallest change you can and work your way up the bit list until you get the desired effect.

Oh, and of course you know this already but it isn't a bit thread without someone saying that more flatwork will help your horse become more broke. Make sure you are asking for the turn using opening hand and a supportive outside rein, not hauling on the inside rein. Have a supporting inside leg at the girth and push her around the turn with your outside leg behind the girth. Ride a jumper turn like you are asking for a dressage turn. Balance, balance, balance.

Good luck! All these bits should be easy to borrow and test drive before buying. Try riding in each for a week before you evaluate.

Dec. 6, 2009, 09:13 AM
I think that if your mare is happily going along in a fat loose-ring snaffle with a peanut in the middle, a Pelham would be complete overkill. If you want a little more turning power, all you have to do would be to find the same bit in a full-cheek. The shanks on a full-cheek bit aid in turning. I don't know that HS makes one of these, but you can buy a full-cheek French link snaffle elsewhere for not too much money. If that is not enough turning power, then you could try (again in a full cheek) a thinner snaffle, a slow twist, or a Dr. Bristol.

On the other hand, if you want leverage, I believe that HS makes a version of the bit you're using in a two-ring elevator. Even putting the rein on the main ring might be sufficient for your needs.

Dec. 6, 2009, 09:34 AM
For better turning, try a full cheek snaffle, or if you want some leverage, try a boucher snaffle (which will also help with the turning)

If you find you need more than just a straight snaffle mouth, try a Dr. Bristol or a waterford mouth. Waterford bit looks a bit scarry at first but horses can't really lean on it and it's actually quite soft, esp. if used correctly.

Come Shine
Dec. 6, 2009, 11:39 AM
Another bump to the turning power is to put bits guards on the loose ring snaffle you have now and snug up the noseband a hair.

If you want a different bit and are looking in the pelham family (leverage), ditto the Myler D with hooks. Another option to think about is the wonder bit (Willkie snaffle, Golden Wings Wonder bit). You would get that in the same mouthpiece you have the options of different leverage arrangements.

Be careful going up too much with the 'whoa' on the bit because you want the horse to listen but still come forward through the turn.

Not So Practical Horse(WO)man
Dec. 6, 2009, 10:31 PM
Got my hands on a slow twist full cheek today. I watched the Mclain Ward clinic at OSF today and he said almost every single one of his horses going in a twisted snaffle and he has 100 horse coming through every year. Full cheek is going on Wednesday. If it works, I won't even bother with the pelham.

And I dont think you can put bit guards on the KK? Its specifically designed to not pinch so it makes it really fat around the edges. I dunno, I just dont see it able to fit a bit guard on there comfortable.

Dec. 7, 2009, 09:07 AM
then up the ante if needed

Come Shine
Dec. 7, 2009, 10:00 AM
And I dont think you can put bit guards on the KK? Its specifically designed to not pinch so it makes it really fat around the edges. I dunno, I just dont see it able to fit a bit guard on there comfortable.

The bit guard suggestion was because you said your mare went well in the bit she had but needed a titch more help turning. Adding the bit guards would increase the lateral info for the mare, which is also the reason for a full cheek. Has nothing to do with the bit pinching. Just thought that if the mare likes the current bit, and goes well in it, bit guards to address the specific turning problem might be worth trying. They are cheap and, if they don't work, not a biggie.

However, given my collection of bits in my box, I can see how trying a new bit can be very attractive. :)

Not So Practical Horse(WO)man
Dec. 7, 2009, 06:08 PM
Come Shine...its not the pinching aspect. I'm saying the sides of the KK looks different from regular bits so I dont think a bit guard will fit properly to the KK.

fatorangehorse- I dont know anyone in my barn who even owns a HS bit let alone a full cheek KK...and they're just way to expensive to try.