PDA

View Full Version : Bit to encourage higher head carriage



meaty ogre
Jan. 13, 2011, 12:33 PM
Oh, I cringe to think I just posted that. Before you start telling me to learn how to ride properly, please read for comprehension:

I have a QH who was previously trained western, then converted to dressage before I bought her. Her build contributes to low head carriage, and she likes to carry her head low. She is not heavy or lugging on the bit (quite the contrary...she will actually neck rein beautifully in a snaffle). She has been in a fat KK ultra french link loose ring snaffle for several years (her prior owner sold her to me with her bit and bridle). I am going to change her bit because 1). I like to do that from time to time so they don't get deadened or desensitized and 2). because I'm hoping to find something that may be better.

The only bit that I know of that has a lifting action is a gag. I was thinking of trying one with 2 reins so I can ride off the snaffle but use the gag to lift when needed. Of course they aren't allowed in competition.

I know some bits are called elevators (and I actually have one "elevator" bit) but personally I feel that is a misnomer, as they provide poll pressure and usually result in lower head carriage or more often the horse curling btv (or a combination of both).

Yes, I do ride her forward. yes, she does pick her head up some when I ask for more trot, but she is also content and capable to give me more trot with her head still down (I am sure at some point she was spur trained to lower her head in response to spur pressure). I also have some other techniques that my trainer has given me to help achieve some lift (when negotiating corners, I do a sort of neck-rein/turn on the haunches maneuver prior to the turn and then leg-yield over...harder for her to get really low when she is engaging hind and using shoulders too). Basically the only time when her head is where i want it without any encouragement from me is when we transition into canter. And then as we canter she immediately wants to stretch down. Part of it is the winter doldrums and riding in an indoor does tend to suck the forward out of horses like her, but I assure you, I am riding her in a manner that requires her to use her hindquarters. Sometimes she does slow as she lowers her head, but due to her conformation and prior training, she is able to maintain pace and impulsion with her head lowered as well. She is a free walk and stretchy trot circle superstar, but I have got to get her head up.

Petstorejunkie
Jan. 13, 2011, 12:50 PM
I'm not going to judge, but do want to mention that if you are requesting she carry herself in a manner that has her head and neck too high, too compressed for how she's put together, her hind end will fall out.
Some photos of how she's going now, her in canter depart, and a stock photo of where you want her will shed light to everyone as to whether what you want is really best for this horse.

GallantGesture
Jan. 13, 2011, 01:02 PM
What happens if you just hold onto your reins at working trot length instead of at stretchy trot length? Not that you have to pull her head up with the reins, but just don't let go of them as soon as she wants to stretch?

Also, I think your big clue is here:
"I also have some other techniques that my trainer has given me to help achieve some lift (when negotiating corners, I do a sort of neck-rein/turn on the haunches maneuver prior to the turn and then leg-yield over...harder for her to get really low when she is engaging hind and using shoulders too)."

When you half halt and engage the back end, the front end should come up, and then you get the feeling that the part of the horse under the saddle has come up (the back, or shoulders or withers depending how you think of it) and the horse's head and neck come up with it, like when you do the turn on the haunches and leg yield. Try doing more lateral work and lots of half halts, combined with being conscientious about holding onto the reins and not letting them slide through your fingers. If she wants to pull the reins from you, do a leg yield.

Valentina_32926
Jan. 13, 2011, 01:12 PM
My SWB mare (who has a level build) also likes to fall on her forehand. Sometimes light (deceptive) sometimes heavy but not carrying herself either way.

GP trainer has me use a technique called a bump (same bit). You know how people tell you to drop reins so horse falls on nose so it will carry itself? As you may know that doesn't always work, so I was taught to use the "bump" technique.

If horse places head too low you use (inside rein) to bump rein straight up. NOT back but up. It's a simple up and immediate release - so horse is hit in mouth causing them to lift their head. You have already immediately rewarded by stopping lift and placeing hands to normal position. So horses lifts head in response to bump, then brings head down to meet rider's hands (which are in the normal position).

Beware: Horse will NOT have the muscle to continually carry itself - so (especially in the beginning) intersperse with lots of long and low stretching for their back muscles.

rileyt
Jan. 13, 2011, 01:44 PM
It's hard to tell for sure, but I suspect you're going about this the wrong way.

With a mare who has been trained western, she has probably been taught to "give" to the bit, as opposed to seeking it.

Putting her in an elevator or other bit may make her carry her head higher, but the critical problem here sounds like the connection. It sounds like she is TOO soft in the mouth, and giving too much as an evasion. This can be REALLY REALLY hard to fix... much like any horse who may hold his head higher but likes to duck behind the bit.

But the fix is all about the leg and seat. And-- perhaps-- finding a bit that encourages her to take hold of it. So a different (but equally gentle) bit might help. Lungeing with side reins can also encourage a horse to stretch forward and "find" the contact.

bort84
Jan. 13, 2011, 01:56 PM
Well I'll offer a bit suggestion even though it's not going to be your main fix.

If she is a type who is maybe, as rileyt suggested, actually a bit too light in her contact, something like a Baucher might be helpful. I have a gelding that likes to curl up, and I've found the Baucher adds a little stability that encourages him to take a steadier feel on the bit. I go back and forth between that and a loose ring lozenge bit.

In addition, we do a lot of lateral work to engage his hind end, and I also let him know when he's gotten too low and I haven't asked for it. At the very beginning of his training rehab, we worked him long and low a lot because he needed it. Eventually he had to learn the cues when we started asking him to carry himself a bit higher. One technique we use: use your lower leg to lift him up - you kind of think bring his tummy up to ask him to lift a bit and follow with your hands.

Your mare is probably working on strength to be able to carry herself higher and she may also not know that's what's expected of her now. I would not recommend anything too harsh in her mouth until you've explored other options.

cuatx55
Jan. 13, 2011, 02:13 PM
Be careful you don't get a bit that punishes her for taking contact. Never heard of using gags in dressage. KKs are the gold standard. Some horses like french link snaffles. I know western riders like to go to bits for a "fix" and tend to switch things up, but in dressage horses really don't get "used to" a bit or become dead. If they do, its a training issue.

To bring the head up I would ensure you are riding with bent elbows and not pressing on the bars of the mouth--- open the rein UP AND OUT not down/back by your hip. Also, transitions (LOTS) and spiral in/out should help. I've ridden a LOT of QHs and most do just fine in a simple gymnastic program.

meaty ogre
Jan. 13, 2011, 02:26 PM
Thank you to all who have replied. All very valid points and things that I have considered and am mindful of.

Valentina, that is precisely the technique that I would like to employ, but unfortunately the problem I am running into is that part of her western training was teaching her to respond by lowering her head in response to a bump with the bit. I don't know if you've ever had a chance to watch a western pleasure class. In her past she was taught that in order to get that release from pressure she had to lower her head. I am looking for a tool to help get me a moment of lift, so that I can release the pressure when she does to help her learn that it is OK to keep her head above her withers.

GG - in response to your simple question, I apologize but I don't have simple answer. she has a short, low-set neck, and I understand the limitations that presents. I am careful not to let my reins slip with her because she will follow the bit right on down to the ground a la peanut roller if I do. however, no matter what length, she seems to "sink" just a little lower than I would like, not pulling on me, not curling beind the bit, maintains steady pace and gait but her head just sinks. I apologize if that doesn't make sense...probably one of those things a video would be immensely helpful with. Just like half-halts with her - she does come under herself behind, and lift her shoulders, but her head stays low. Sort of like a reining stop but obviously not nearly as dramatic. She has some really nifty training. She does cool rollbacks, and sometimes I will halt her on the rail and turn her quickly to the inside. She will pivot on a hind leg, lift her shoulders and roll back the opposite direction, all while keeping her head at the same level (actually lowering it a smidge I suppose to compensate for the lift of her shoulders).

And rileyt those are indeed issues we are having. She is extremely soft in the bridle (but unfortunately dead to the legs). I have been working hard using Jane Savoie's techniques to resensitize her. I suspect the previous owner had the same issues and found that chasing her forward did temporarily get her to lift her head, but repeated overuse of that technique caused her to become less attuned to the leg. Which I why I am looking for multiple techniques to use here. It is a challenge to keep the contact with her, without using too much as she is very willing to back off, but without losing the connection as well. She is very sharp in the downward transitions, but dull in the upward ones (though I am making progress there). It is very difficult and I am definitely going to be working on this for some time.

She reminds me of those fleas who learn where the lid of the jar is, and they become trained to not jump any higher than that so they don't hit the lid. Even when you take the lid off, they will jump no higher. It's like somebody put a lid on her.

ginger708
Jan. 13, 2011, 02:32 PM
I would have to agree with other posters that say in may not be a bit change that you want. I am wondering also how long your reins are and how much lateral movements and transitions you are doing.

I would think that if the reins are at the right length your horse could not get her head to low unless you are letting it go there. The reins there should be a straight line from the mouth to your hands no loops, and that should not change from walk to trot to canter.

The reins and arms should act like elastic side reins. Only forward so far and never able to pull back. Unless of course there is an emergency and you need to stop at that moment. So if the horses head goes to the ground and you have proper contact you should go forward with it. But if you have proper contact and sit up tall in the saddle and you arms are like side reins the horses head should be approximately where you want it not able to drop to the ground.

The other major factor in head carriage is working the horse from back to front strengthening the back through teaching half-halt and lateral movements will promote self carriage and proper head set.

Eclectic Horseman
Jan. 13, 2011, 02:51 PM
Regular snaffle bit (single jointed) has a lifting action.

You need to shorten your reins (about 50% in the bight--meaning your hands are halfway up the rein.) Horse needs to accept a steady light contact. If the horse gets light in the contact by going behind or above the bit, and will not take a steady contact with a long relaxed neck you have a lot of reschooling ahead of you. There is no magic bit or other magic fix--it is a reschooling problem.

For me, it would mean back to the longe line with appropriate length side reins, moving the horse forward with the whip until he relaxes and accepts the contact. You are looking for the horse to reach for the contact by telescoping his neck out and down.

rugbygirl
Jan. 13, 2011, 03:00 PM
Would the use of cavaletti help here? It helped my little stock bred. Especially lots of gymnastic work that changed frequently. Taking one cavaletti out of the line, etc.

QH horses seem to often have a lower carriage naturally, but if it is forced down, they can't see very well. The natural inclinaton for her, I expect, would be to look up.

My horse was also started Western. The bit does play an important role in his head carriage. If I put a non-jointed bit in his mouth he's kind of a different horse. The role the snaffle plays is mental, it gets him to shift gears to his "English" schooling. He objects mightily if I attempt to put any contact on the unjointed bit, but is accepting of the contact in a snaffle.

meaty ogre
Jan. 13, 2011, 03:13 PM
EH - Several have mentioned longing with side reins. I wonder if part of this is a re-muscling issue and doing that might help her stengthen those muscles to help carry her head in a more elevated position. I think I will give it a go. I'm stuck in a small indoor right now and running out of things to do anyway. maybe I will also try a single jointed snaffle before trying a gag. thanks!

Rubygirl, she stretches down over cavaletti, but she does lift her head to go over a crossrail. unfortunately there is only room for one x in our small arena but I have been throwing the crossrail in schooling...it is one of the few times she rocks back and lifts her head!

Oh, and as far as regularly changing bits, there was an article in one of the horse mags I subscribe to years ago that cited this study:
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6WXN-4TYXM84-1&_user=8995183&_coverDate=12%2F31%2F2008&_rdoc=1&_fmt=high&_orig=search&_origin=search&_sort=d&_docanchor=&view=c&_searchStrId=1606357180&_rerunOrigin=scholar.google&_acct=C000110353&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=8995183&md5=6c7988e3c294a0f506ebd2d59e6a6117&searchtype=a
One of recommendations of the article was to change the type of bit (different thickness, different metal/composition, different joints, mouthpiece, etc.) to give a break to the bars/tongue/palate etc. It just made sense to me...I have shoes that are high quality and fit me perfectly, but my feet still feel better if I switch them up from time to time give certain pressure points a break. I realize that most snaffles are still going to hit the same pressure points but any break is better than no break.

KBEquine
Jan. 13, 2011, 03:17 PM
Re an earlier suggestion, I think the bump works better on a horse who hasn't had western pleasure training because some WP horses will take a bump in the mouth as a signal to lower their head even farther. And if she is very light on the bit, she might be afraid of it (because she's been bumped -- HARD. Not meaning the prior poster was intending a hard bump, just meaning that's what I've seen some WP trainers do in the schooling area, or in the show ring when the judge's back is turned).

Once the horse is sound, relaxed & moving forward (no matter where it is holding its head) you can then see if there is equipment that is interfering with what you are trying to achieve, or if there may be equipment that will make it easier for the horse to get the best balance (including headset) it can, for its particular conformation.

There is a real challenge and art in retraining a horse from western or English pleasure to dressage. One of the most important pieces of the puzzle is to know how the horse was originally trained for WP - spur broke, as you say, primarily "bumped off the bridle" or some other way.

The horse needs to understand that what you are asking now is not what someone who did the exact same thing to them was asking for before - it is easy to accidentally use the same signal they associate with prior training. (This is an issue that arises when folks get TBs off the track who have only had track training. While OTTBs are never spur broke or bumped, race-training gives them completely different signals & experiences than what they'd have gotten from a dressage or other riding horse trainer & often both recently off the track horses & their new riders are unpleasantly surprised by a failure to communicate.)

Try different bits, but by that I mean stick to jointed bits & try different thicknesses, as well as using the french link, normal snaffle and the like. Do NOT go to gags or elevators because you will merely create a different problem. Stick with the legal dressage bits and figure out what the horse likes.

Also try adjusting where the bit sits in the horse's mouth - that makes a world of difference with some horses.

But mostly - IF you can find someone to work with you & your horse who understands both dressage AND western pleasure training, one session might allow them to assess your horse enough to offer suggestions (which you can try to implement, or you may want to consider working with them further).

I know of 2 people who meet that description, one in FL and one in PA. And I know there are others out there, if you can find them.

naturalequus
Jan. 13, 2011, 03:19 PM
when negotiating corners, I do a sort of neck-rein/turn on the haunches maneuver prior to the turn and then leg-yield over...harder for her to get really low when she is engaging hind and using shoulders too

You said it yourself. You might be working her in such a way that she uses her hindquarters (a video would help us know better what is going on!), but not enough.

Bits are NOT for head elevation. Period. The poll and head falls into place as the rest of the body engages. It HAS to, according to the body mechanics of the horse. Read "Tug of War" by Dr. Gerd Heuschmann for an accurate explanation of the body mechanics of the horse.

Raising her head with a bit is the wrong MO IMHO. You ride the body, not the head, as another poster recently put it on another thread.

As far as changing the bit up because you want to find something more suitable, by all means, if you think something else might better suit her mouth conformation and level of collection, go for it! But bits are for refinement, NOT for correction. They are a means of guidance only. Saying you don't want her deadened or desensitized to the bit is like saying you don't want her deadened or desensitized to your leg so you change up legs or spurs. It doesn't work that way. Use the bit in a way that she doesn't become deadened or desensitized to it. Then as you progress in level, you can up the bit for refinement and subtler communication. You are not there yet, by the sounds of it.
ETA: changing bits so as to relieve certain pressure points is valid IMO but changing it to prevent desensitization and deadening is not.

ETA: If you work her in such a way that she progresses through the training scale, her head WILL come up and she will naturally seek contact. Lateral work, ground poles, transitions (within and between gaits), spiraling circles, etc. More of it. Take a closer look at the TS. The book I always recommend that has really done wonders for myself over the years is Progressive Schooling Exercises for Dressage & Jumping (Islay Auty).

And yes, I am saying this from the perspective of someone who has done a lot of western work as well (I was raised riding both western and english) and who understands what western pleasure is about.

Eclectic Horseman
Jan. 13, 2011, 03:57 PM
Bits are NOT for head elevation. Period. The poll and head falls into place as the rest of the body engages. It HAS to, according to the body mechanics of the horse. Read "Tug of War" by Dr. Gerd Heuschmann for an accurate explanation of the body mechanics of the horse.

Raising her head with a bit is the wrong MO IMHO. You ride the body, not the head, as another poster recently put it on another thread.


Well, yes, BUT-

there is no question but that the different types of bits act differently on the horse and encourage a different natural reaction. The curb has poll pressure and leverage and the horse brings his poll down and tucks his chin in. The single jointed snaffle acts like a nutcracker and it encourages the horse to raise his head.

So we do use bits for different purposes and effects, not just for style.

The problem it seems to me, is that the OP is talking about "raising the head" at all. We don't ever want to "raise the head." Attempting to raise the head usually results in the horse shortening the neck. When the neck is raised and shortened, the back drops and hollows. Think about the neck as a drawbridge and the withers as the hinge; we don't want the neck hanging down out of the withers like the horse is grazing. Nor do we want the horse's neck elevated like drawbridge in the open position. A neck that is disconnected at the withers does not allow the aids to go through from back to front. The circle of the aids is broken and this can result in all sorts of problems from gait impurities to unsoundness.

What we really want to do is elevate the withers (the entire forehand really.) When this happens the horse rounds by engaging his core and lifting his back. The neck is long and arched, the horse is reaching out and down for the bit. Then as the degree of collection is increased, the entire forehand of the horse is further raised when the horse lowers his haunches and carries more weight in his hind quarters.

A high level of collection is not really possible for horses with croup high conformation, particularly if they have straight hind legs. Many stock type horses have this type of conformation.

lstevenson
Jan. 13, 2011, 04:05 PM
It's hard to tell for sure, but I suspect you're going about this the wrong way.

With a mare who has been trained western, she has probably been taught to "give" to the bit, as opposed to seeking it.

Putting her in an elevator or other bit may make her carry her head higher, but the critical problem here sounds like the connection. It sounds like she is TOO soft in the mouth, and giving too much as an evasion. This can be REALLY REALLY hard to fix... much like any horse who may hold his head higher but likes to duck behind the bit.

But the fix is all about the leg and seat. And-- perhaps-- finding a bit that encourages her to take hold of it. So a different (but equally gentle) bit might help. Lungeing with side reins can also encourage a horse to stretch forward and "find" the contact.


I agree with RileyT. Half halts will not work correctly without a connection. And that's what you need to lift the front end correctly from behind.

A "lifting" bit at this point will only lift the head, and hollow the back. Nor does it change the actual carriage of the horse for the better to "bump" upward with the hands. If instead you want the horse to come up in front correctly, as a result of true engagement of the quarters, "bump" the horse upwards by doing repeated half halts.

This was written for a horse that gets heavy in the bridle, and I know you said yours is not. But read THIS (http://www.myvirtualeventingcoach.com/articles/20101221) on half halts and downward transitions, as it will help with your problem as well.




http://www.MyVirtualEventingCoach.com

naturalequus
Jan. 13, 2011, 04:53 PM
Well, yes, BUT-

there is no question but that the different types of bits act differently on the horse and encourage a different natural reaction. The curb has poll pressure and leverage and the horse brings his poll down and tucks his chin in. The single jointed snaffle acts like a nutcracker and it encourages the horse to raise his head.

So we do use bits for different purposes and effects, not just for style.

The problem it seems to me, is that the OP is talking about "raising the head" at all. We don't ever want to "raise the head." Attempting to raise the head usually results in the horse shortening the neck. When the neck is raised and shortened, the back drops and hollows. Think about the neck as a drawbridge and the withers as the hinge; we don't want the neck hanging down out of the withers like the horse is grazing. Nor do we want the horse's neck elevated like drawbridge in the open position. A neck that is disconnected at the withers does not allow the aids to go through from back to front. The circle of the aids is broken and this can result in all sorts of problems from gait impurities to unsoundness.

What we really want to do is elevate the withers (the entire forehand really.) When this happens the horse rounds by engaging his core and lifting his back. The neck is long and arched, the horse is reaching out and down for the bit. Then as the degree of collection is increased, the entire forehand of the horse is further raised when the horse lowers his haunches and carries more weight in his hind quarters.

A high level of collection is not really possible for horses with croup high conformation, particularly if they have straight hind legs. Many stock type horses have this type of conformation.

Eclectic, we think along parallel lines :winkgrin: I was never disputing your above point and am in total agreement, that is where I am coming from as well.

Certainly we use different bits for different purposes, hence my mention of such (sort of, I did not really go into depth), but not to the extent the OP is looking for.

cmdrcltr
Jan. 13, 2011, 05:45 PM
If your mare really does have a super soft mouth and stays just behind the connection, you might try a rubber mullen mouth snaffle for a while. Years ago I rode a mare that had been put into a frame to early and had learned to curl behind the bit. I rode her for a year in the rubber mullen mouth until she learned to almost lean on the bit. Only then could I switch back to a jointed snaffle and truly work on connection.

meaty ogre
Jan. 13, 2011, 08:59 PM
Ooh, I hadn't thought of that. I was thinking of trying a fat rubber D, but I have a full cheek mullen happy mouth that I think I'll try this weekend!

Thank you again for all the replies. I know that a bit or any other piece of tack or training implement is not going to be a magic fix; I am just looking for the right tools to help in the reschooling. This mare has been taught both by the bit bump (and any bit pressure) and by leg aids to put her head down. I am not trying to get her to carry her head artificially high, I just want to help her understand that it is OK to carry her head naturally, which for her conformation and level of training is going to be just above the withers.

I am anxious for the weather to clear so I can get back to regular lessons.

eponacowgirl
Jan. 13, 2011, 10:41 PM
I agree with a fat snaffle or happy mouth mullen mouth- I've had several western converts that I have taught to really PUSH on the bit before I could change their carriage. Horses who are taught to be behind the bit or give to the bit do need to learn to lean a little.

meaty ogre
Jan. 13, 2011, 11:05 PM
To those that suggested the mullen mouth - I have a full cheek...should I use it with or without the keepers? Does it make a difference?

eponacowgirl
Jan. 13, 2011, 11:06 PM
Mmm... I don't know that it would make a difference, I would probably use it without so it was more like an eggbutt.

CHT
Jan. 13, 2011, 11:22 PM
Have you considered trying reschooling her for a while in a sidepull and then reintroducing the bit once she has learned to rethink contact, and to build different/better muscles? This can work well on a horse that fears contact.

AnotherRound
Jan. 14, 2011, 11:35 AM
May I ask what is a "sidepull"?

meaty ogre
Jan. 14, 2011, 11:52 AM
it's a bitless bridle (usually western folks refer to them as sidepulls).

http://www.sstack.com/Western_Training_Sidepulls/Billy-Royal-Padded-Nose-Leather-Sidepull/

meaty ogre
Jan. 26, 2011, 01:57 PM
Just updating in case anyone cares...

I tried the mullen mouth, but she hated it. My mullen mouth is a slightly ported happy mouth, which is thick, and I have found with the few horses I've tried it on they either love it or hate it. She was firmly in category 2.

So I found an old myler bit I hadn't used in ages - a western style d-ring with sweet iron mouthpiece and a copper roller barrel middle. I also switched to a figure 8 noseband to give her a rest from the crank that she has been ridden in for years (her previous owners sold her with her bridle/bit). I'm getting increased salivation and I think the increased stability over the loose ring snaffle combined with the thinner mouthpiece is helping.

however, probably the biggest change came out of sheer boredom, I tried some counter canter work the other day. She was fantastic. I think we've been working on the same things for so long that we were both over it, and we are both enjoying the change. Her head came up and never seemed to sink like it does when we work on the usual stuff.

I still can't wait to get out of the indoor and hit some trails, etc. I'm also keeping at least one x-rail up and throwing it in randomly which does seem to get her to pay a little more attention rather than slipping into her western jog.

I'm still trying to longe her in sidereins a couple times a week too for her fitness. It is hard though since I always have my daughter and my niece with me, I'm usually tyring to hop on and ride before they get into something!