"Stoic mouth" pony - bit choices (opinions wanted)
I purchased a pony back in mid December as a schooling project. He is about 12.3 and built a lot like a Welsh Cob.
History may help explain, sellers kids rode him a little, as a family I believe they did cow type events, rodeos etc. Said the kids didn't want to ride him any more and liked the 'big horses'. Pony is about 6/7 years old. THEY got him the year before when their neighbor was riding him home drunk from the local horse auction at 2:am. :-P
When I test rode him he was VERY balky. Lordy getting him to move was a chore. ;-)
Got him home and realized he HATED going to the right which made the balking worse. A tap of the crop cleard the air but then he produced another 'nasty' - slamming on the brakes (reining style I might ad). His seller said "he is very athletic". ;-)
Anyhow - spent 2 weeks doing ground and then started lunge work establishing some voice commands (specifically WHOA, 'easy' which translate to half halt, walk, trot, canter). TERRIBLE temper tantrum when trying to lunge to the right (stop and spin, run off bucking etc).
So I've been spending the past 3ish months getting him to just walk and trot relaxed (in hand, on lunge, and under saddle). Thats it.
I have started taking him out to a local trail park that is 'walk only' and has very steep hills and twisty turns. Let him do practically the entire 3 miles on a loopy rein with out much assistance, and he is very sure footed.
Unlike other horses I have ridden I don't think this is a balance issue, and I think he is fit enough now to just hack around the riding arena for 45 minutes doing walk trot.
I think he just has a lot of 'bad paint' that needs to be taken off.
So far he is learning to come down into the bit, has decided he kind of likes 'long and low' (though it is more of a posture he chooses and not so much of a 'I am placed thru the aids into long & low'). He has learned the basic concept of turn on the forehand, and basic half halt at the walk (thru my aids and the voice).
However - he still has his temper tantrums. At the drop of a hat he can decide "This pony has run out of quarters" or "Heck no I'm not going to the right!". Its getting less, its gotten leaps and bounds better on the lunge, but riding he can still toss this in.
He has an apt with the vet in 3 weeks so I'll have his teeth checked, and I don't see anything as far as obvious lameness. I think he was just 'soured' and 'spoiled'.
But to my question - now that I have said "NO" to the balking, when ever I triumph over that evasion he goes "FINE, you want to go? LETS GO!" and will start cantering, and cantering, and cantering... and honestly, he just is not easy to influence (laugh, yeah I am 120 pounds and 5'5" but he is a SOLID chap!).
I don't have many bits in my tack room for a pony of a small cobby size so I'm going to order one or two and thought I'd ask here first what others might try before I spent the money.
I am riding him now in a D ring JP french link (its the only bit I have aside from a loose ring that will fit him).
The other day I got the idea to ride him with his bit AND a mechanical hackamore - and boy oh boy did that put an end to that behavior. He started to have a fit and picked up a canter, I just picked up the hack reins, dropped the snaffle reins, and asked him to stop and there was no pulling, no 'water skiing' on the reins... he came to a stop, and I released the reins and we kept walking.
I feel like I'm not asking him to do anything difficult, at this stage all I want is walk and trot around the arena, big circles, for about 40-45 minutes worth of work. Easy. I just want very basic safe obedience. And I feel like the more he does this behavior and I have to resort to literally pulling on the reins the more ingrained it will become.
So - I think a slightly firmer bit is in line.
He is not hot, he is not spooky, nor is he 'sensitive'. Actually, I think he is lazy and has a tremendious work ethic problem.
;-) No bucking, no head flinging, just a very dull 'nothing' at the end of the reins when he decides to have these temper tantrums.
Any bit suggestions to help out with the rest of his educational process?
Have you tried a nose piece like a half-breed or a kineton? I have a great nose piece from a cowboy out in Nebraska of all places. It is metal and squared off and only comes into play on the nose when the horse blows through about 3-5 lbs of pressure on the bit (you can kind of adjust it yourself).
It is slightly thin and kind of trains the horse to listen to your mild bit cues. But if he blows through those cues, the nose piece engages. It isn't really super harsh. I've put my hand under it along the bridge of the nose and engaged the piece on my fingers. It's more uncomfortable and just something you want to move away from. I've heard (from the cowboy) that a few eventers/showjumpers have started picking up on his piece as a little bit of "insurance."
I like it for insurance, but also for re-educating or educating a horse on the bit. It worked great for my own mare who was super worried about the bit. It wouldn't let the bit collapse or hurt her bars so she became less worried and started to actually understand what the pressure meant.
For me keeping track of the hack reins feels very clumsy - and if I ride double reins I have to have the hack rein loose enough due to the shanks so they are not applying a dull constant pressure. It is kind of ON or OFF. So I feel like in that split second it takes me to shorten up on the hack rein to apply the 'naughty pony brakes' I've lost the moment where I feel it coming and am having to correct him 3rd or 4th stride into his canter (or even stomping off power trot) instead of nipping it in the bud.
I was thinking something more of a cork-screw or even a waterford mouth piece - something I can have a 'soft' but 'there' contact (even just a light floating presence) with that would also give me the ability to immediately pick up more of a presence vs fumbling around with the hack reins. Since I am not a rein-surfer (probably what caused this in him to begin with), I know when I have 3X more bit and to ride him appropriately when he is being polite.
And of course a bit more bit is just to get thru a 'breaking that habit' process and not a long term piece of hardware.
HA its been a long time since I've ridden an equine that had so much bad paint. I normally ride all my guys in the the JP mouth pieces
and have lost all opinion of other bits, hence me asking.
Seriously, try the cowboy's nose piece. It's cheaper than most you'll find ($25) and he'll refund your money if you don't like it and want to return it. He's slightly coarse around the edges and thinks showing is silly (and just about everything that isn't ranch riding lol), but the darn things are awesome.
I feel like I've become a personal spokesperson for him or something haha
SNAP ! Just what I was going to suggest. I love the pelham with two reins for exactly this. The contrast between 'No' on the curb rein, and 'yes that's fine' on just the snaffle is big and clear. But it doesn't solve the problem if you really don't like working it two reins. I find that without gloves, I have enough range of motion in my 4th finger, (or maybe it's the third, but let's not get picky) that I can go from slack to on, without having to fumble around picking the reins up.
OP- I purchased a pony 1 1/2 years ago. Started his life doing barrels and such, but he didn't do well as he was too hot for the work with a young rider. He then was sold to a spunky young rider who used him as a lower level event pony. He learned lots of fun/bad habits in his years there. I bought him and have been using him as my hunt mount.
He's in his 20's, so has had many years to engrain lots of bad habits.
List of habits
1. Any leg, no matter how slight means get the he** out of dodge
2. Gallop to jumps, STOP, jump, Gallop away from jumps
3. Halts, on his whim, could be smooth, non-existent, or jolting, bounce you out of the tack immediate halts.
4. Always inverted
5. Race into a canter(really a hand gallop) Extended trot/canter/extended trot canter/extended trot finally down into a trot.
Things that helped
1. Lots of transitions from walk to halt, walk to trot to walk to halt.
2. Lots of walk, halt, back, turn on the haunches trot away.
3. Lots of circles, spirals, serpentines
4. NO CANTER WORK for months He had to forget about speed
5. Riding with out reins. I'd set the pace, lets say trot, and ride without reins. If he went faster, either in a trot or picked up a canter, I'd pick up my reins lightly and ask for a circle. We'd stay on that circle until he slowed to my desired pace. Back to no reins. REPEAT often. Same thing in the canter
6. Lots of grid work for jumping, so that I could push him, instead of hold back
7. I tried out lots of different bits and found that he actually went better in a french link snaffle with a flash. Bitting up actually mad him madder and more resistant to work. TRUST was much more important.
8. Placed a neck strap on him (old stirrup leather adjusted to fit his neck). If he got quick, I'd try to rebalance him with my seat first, then my seat and a tug on the neck strap, if he still was quick, I'd then use my reins. He was very resentful of the bit. By using this warning system, he knew what was coming and knew he had a chance to fix it before the bit would be used.
9. Rubs and massages and treats when he did a REALLY good job. Walking on a loose rein when he got the right answer, but not an amazing jump forward in out progress. Making him want to search for the right answer and become a partner with me was difficult because he was such a stoic pony, but well worth the effort to find his buttons.
I am only able to school him 1-2 times a week and hunted him 1 time a week. He has made tremendous progress, much more pleasurable to ride. It took 8 months to get there, but without consistent work and age, I think he's done wonderfully well.
Well, since you said that most of his issues stem from him going to the right, I might suggest a chiro eval as well. It sounds like something might be zinging him somewhere! Certainly doesn't help the attitude when something is biting you, you know? Don't have any other bit suggestions that haven't already been suggested, though.