View Full Version : Fundamentals and bitting question.

Dec. 14, 2011, 02:45 AM
First thread I've opened, so please be patient.

I am restarting my eight-year-old TB/ Appaloosa cross after a year off, and am trying to be more correct in his dressage training. Dressage is my weakness, and I am afraid I transfer that to my horses. He is a cross-country machine (Beginner-Novice).

He has never been quick to accept the bit and relax his back. Obviously, this is a strength issue at this moment, but I want to restart him correctly. He has a shorter, naturally high set neck, and is very balanced, fairly athletic. He likes to toss his head and get behind the leg. We are working on moving off the leg and working steady and straight. I pay less attention to the head, and right now am just asking for acceptance and a nice contact, though I would prefer it to be a little longer and lower. I always just ignore the head tossing and push foward through the resistance. After we have been working consistently in the past, we have achieved constant acceptance and contact, but never to the point I felt the back was relaxed for long periods.

He has only been ridden in a full-cheek Dr.Bristol that seemed to be what he preferred when he was backed first at 18 months. I am know wondering if he would be more accepting of a rubber bit. As I currently have none, and will have to purchase any to try, I would love some advise. I was thinking a Happy Mouth french-link boucher to try first. My past horses have all seemed to really like the stability of the boucher, but I don't know enough to know if it in particular would encourage acceptance. Any better suggestions?

I will definitely be taking some dressage lessons in the spring, but would like to get both of us stronger and somewhat functional first. I am reading some of the older texts on fundamentals too.

Any positive suggestions or exercises to help start the new year off right would be greatly appreciated!

Dec. 14, 2011, 03:49 AM
Maybe instead of waiting till spring to start lessons, you could just have one or two now, and get some exercises to work on from the trainer, and let him/her know your plans. Trainer should also be able to help with bit questions....
Good luck and I'd love to see pics!:D

Dec. 14, 2011, 03:53 AM
My go-to is a thick loose ring french link, or loose ring snaffle. If you're willing to start over, might as well go back to the very beginning :) You would be surprised the horses that ride exactly the same or better in a fat oval french link loose ring (http://www.happytack.co.uk/ekmps/shops/happytack/images/french-design-feeling-anatomic-hollow-loose-ring-cyprium-french-link-snaffle-bit-500-p.jpg) than they do in a bit they had been using for 2 years (http://www.sstack.com/product/fes-pinchless-moon-dee/)....! (in-barn example of the wonders of a loose ring oval french link :) )

From my amateur experience, you want a little contact in dressage. If your horse doesn't want contact with the bit i.e. hollowing, head up, head tossing, etc, then maybe you should step the bit way back (which you are doing.. I just mean I agree with your decision! :) ) If you go back to square one, rubber D snaffle, oval french link loose ring, etc, you might still have to teach your horse to accept contact if they have learned to become wary due to their previous bit situation.

I hope my thoughts came out clear....and I second the previous posters sentiments on working with a trainer to pick their brain... my thoughts are only good in cyber space. Someone who can see the problem would be able to help much better.

Dec. 14, 2011, 04:43 AM
Why do people prefer the loose rings over the d-rings or eggbutts?

Would you think a thick french-link would achieve the same effect as the rubber bits?

As for the immediate lessons, I would love to, I am starting a medical field grad school in 2 weeks in a very intensive program and will not be earning my normally comfortable income for what seems like ETERNITY! So it will be a couple of months until I am set-up to invest in a few lessons.

My wonderful mother will be exercising him during the week for me.

I have brought a horse up through preliminary myself, so I have a little experience, just would appreciate a few different views of the situation. Needing fresh ideas!

My original plan was to send him off for professional training for a few months and have him come back a made Grand-Prix schoolmaster and skip all this fun, but since I decided to bite the bullet and return to school, looks like I am returning to the trenches! LOL!

Dec. 14, 2011, 09:30 AM
Its difficult to make a true, proper assessment without seeing pictures or a video.

However, the loose ring/d ring/snaffle vs double jointed debate really comes down to what your horse likes. The guy I ride loves his oval french link, I put him in a fat rubber D snaffle and he was a whole new (worse) horse. Some horses love tongue pressure, some hate it - and prefer the pressure at the corners like a snaffle.

I like the loose ring for horses because the bit will sit in the same (general) location in their mouth, and provide even pressure across the tongue. The snaffle will apply pressure at the corners and potentially on the roof of the mouth.

I know there are some bit gurus out there that might be able to help as well...

Could he be back sore? Poor fitting saddle? You mention he could still be more relaxed at the back. Have you tried lunging him with side reins with or without the saddle to see his reaction to 'contact' then? That is where i would start - gentle loose ring or fat snaffle bit, elminiate back pain/saddle issues, run a mental check list you aren't (somehow) causing his stiffness while riding from personal habits, then start working with new bits.

Dec. 14, 2011, 09:49 AM
every bit feels different to the horse and to the rider.

I find that bit is as much rider preference as it is horse.

I prefer the feel of a loose ring. The others feel too stiff to me.

Though my current horse likes the D ring. Why? I have no idea. He might prefer the stability it offers. With a loose ring he fumbles all over the place with the bit.

I prefer KKs. They feel different to me.
Rubber or happy mouth is the LAST thing I go to. I prefer heavy bits. They are too light for my liking but I have had two horses that prefer them.
The horses that go well in the alternative bits (is what I call them) for me have been the overly sensitive horses.
The heavy or unaccepting horses I've had have only been worse in non mental bits.

When I have a horse that is stiff, unaccepting, or raunchy (your horse is raunchy--head flipping is completely unacceptable) then I lunge them a bit more than giving horses, and I use only a slide rein. And I make sure they stay deep to keep the neck and back muscles stretched out.

My most used bits have been the
Conrad KK (I have a D and a loose ring)
The KK Ultra.

Currently, I have two stock type horses and they both go in the conrad.
One likes the stability in the D and the other is more sensitive and she is waaaay better in the loose ring.

The conrad is ergo shaped.
Here is the conrad.
You can often find these bits on ebay.

they cost and arm and a leg but I have to say, I have a huge bucket of bits, of those bits I have 4 KKs.
90% of the horses I have ridden prefer the KKs.

I start horses in a D or a full cheek to help with stearing and they always end up in KKs once they show an opinion towards bits.

Dec. 14, 2011, 10:08 AM
Thank you for the well thought out replies! I definitely have material to work with. I have some loose ring and d ring metal bits. I shall take one variable at a time, lounging with no saddle with each bit, to see if we can find our happy place. Then progress to the saddle, and see if that is a irritant. Thank you! I feel like I have a game plan again!

Now if we can just modify that wonderful appy attitude! ........................Just kidding, gotta love the apps!

Dec. 14, 2011, 10:28 AM
My 2 cents (without seeing him go):

1. Don't focus on doing any flatwork until he is fit enough for self-carriage. Hack at the walk and trot to get the fitness back up first. Asking for more when he can't do it comfortably is just going to lead to tension and frustration (on both ends).

2. When his fitness is at the place described above, I would take at least one lesson to have someone with eyes on the ground give you some suggestions and exercises. If you really want to start the flatwork "correctly" and dressage is not your forte then go to someone who has experience starting flatwork correctly. I can get MONTHS of homework out of one lesson. After your lesson write down what you did, what your trainer noticed and what exercises worked, etc. Then use THAT as the foundation for your flatwork.

3. Horses who toss their heads are either unsteady in the contact because they are weak (see #1) or they are frustrated, IME. Let him get fit first and then be patient. Start by focusing on having him in front of your leg and don't think about having good "contact" quickly. Just ask for more contact over time. The minute that he gets frustrated or nervous, give a little bit, push him forward and encourage him to relax. Do not overface him - let it get "too easy" and "boring" before you ask for more.

I understand where your head is about grad school and money (I am currently finishing law school) but I caution you to not be too cheap about lessons given your goal of "doing it right this time." If it were me, I would rather spend the money up front to get him started on the right foot and then just go for tune-ups later than try to do it myself now and then spend the spring paying to remediate my mistakes. Just my preference.

Good luck!

Dec. 14, 2011, 03:28 PM
I would agree that you just have to try bits to see what he likes. Neither of my guys like a loose ring at all, too "noisy" in the mouth, too pinchy. They both like bits that are very stable, like the boucher. The TB likes something thicker, I've got him in a fatter eggbutt at the moment, the QH liked medium-size. So you just have to offer them choices and see which one they relax and go with.