View Full Version : bit strength/unexpected reactions--weird?

gully's pilot
Dec. 19, 2011, 11:21 AM
OK, everybody, I'm not bothered by the story I'm about to relate, but I think it's a little strange--not what I expected--so I'm wondering what y'all's experience is.

My DD has a new horse, a 13 yo TB named Mickey. He's an experienced LL eventer, and when she tried him he was a complete gentleman--open xc schooling at KHP, so plenty of chaos, very good boy. At the time (late Sept) he was wearing a three-ring bit on the "moderate leverage" ring, and he went quite lightly.

I've always been a fan of using as little bit as possible, within reason. Katie's old QH went in a loose ring snaffle on the flat, and wore a jointed kimberwicke when jumping. We brought Mickey home and started him in the loose ring (French link) snaffle, bringing him along quite slowly as he and Kate got used to each other. He had to have a few weeks off due to an eye problem, so they've had time to get to know each other on the ground, too; his manners are lovely and his whole personality is super sweet. But--the more she jumped him, or rode him at faster gaits outdoors, the more forward he wanted to be, and the more he seemed to not hear what she was saying. She could always stop him, but he started rushing at very small fences, and generally putting his nose in the air. She kept telling me he wasn't being bad, he just wasn't listening. She was very good about patiently correcting him and not getting upset, but it was a bit difficult for both of them.

So yesterday she suggested putting him in her old kimberwicke. We did--and much to my surprise, the horse appeared grateful! He made one or two small bids to speed up, she checked him, and he quit trying. He started to look very mellow and happy, and she kept saying, "now he gets what I'm asking--he didn't before."

This doesn't really make sense to me, but it's sure what it looked like. Comments?

Come Shine
Dec. 19, 2011, 11:27 AM
Maybe it's not that he wasn't listening, he just couldn't hear her. Like when someone is mumbling and you can't really understand that they are saying. Once they speak up, it all starts to make sense.

Dec. 19, 2011, 11:42 AM
I also like to use as little bit as possible - but there *is* an advantage to using more bit and having to ask less/have a more clear message.

Example: I can jump my mare around in a snaffle... but both of us are happier when she's in her Pelham (she LOVES her Pelham). I can ask more softly and not have to nag to obtain the desired response.

Dec. 19, 2011, 11:51 AM
Maybe it's not that he wasn't listening, he just couldn't hear her. Like when someone is mumbling and you can't really understand that they are saying. Once they speak up, it all starts to make sense.

This - he was used to having more bit and hearing the aids more clearly. Jumping and going faster increase the adrenaline and decrease the sensitivity.

Beam Me Up
Dec. 19, 2011, 12:02 PM
Also sometimes using a stronger bit allows you to soften and use your aids more clearly.

If he was dragging her, she may have been pulling back on him (hence the nose in the air), but with more bit was able to get the response she needed and then soften.

I prefer to have enough bit to make my point and then back off vs. a constant tug of war, if those appear to be the choices.

Dec. 19, 2011, 12:14 PM
Another thing to consider is that a loose ring french link isn't The Best Bit Ever for every horse. A lot of people seem to feel it is or that it should be. In fact, I've known quite a few horses (especially small TBs) that did not like french links and preferred single links or straight bars. He may have liked that solid feel of the mouth on the kimberwicke. What was the mouth on the ring bit she tried him in? That might give you some hints.

Also, athletic horses do sometimes just blow off little jumps, which is tough when you're talking about a kid on a new horse! She might find him far more rideable once they start jumping fences he respects.

gully's pilot
Dec. 19, 2011, 12:28 PM
Well, that's the thing, it was the same fences, only suddenly he wasn't rushing.
I'm guessing it is a "hearing" thing--because he clearly wants to please, and Katie was adamant that he was trying to be good all along, he just wasn't getting the message. It's a new one for me.

Gully (my horse) really doesn't like regular snaffles; he much prefers the double break of a French link. It makes sense that some horses would prefer the opposite. I expected Katie to have more control with more bit, I just didn't expect the horse to seem so happy! As though now it all makes sense. Katie said he told her, "Finally! You learned how to talk to me!"