I am a new to dressage rider (taking lessons for past 2 years). My horse doesn't know too much dressage either - just what we have learned in the past two years. I finally got my dressage tack and I think that the bit is perhaps not quite right for us.
I am fairly certain it is the bit, not the saddle, because I used this bridle with my old saddle several times and had the same problems that I am having now.
The bit is a sweet copper bridoon. My trainer said "get a bit with the thing in the middle" and recommended something like sweet copper. The tack store didn't have a french link in my size, so I got this one. My hunter bit is a slow twist stainless steel, but I also sometimes use a rubber bit - it just depends on her mood! But in general, she is pretty mellow, but is heavier up front.
Anyway, I thought that was had pretty much figured out the "on the bit" part and since using the new bit/bridle, I feel like we can't get on the bit until 40 minutes into the ride.
Part of me is wondering if I need to switch to a French link, which is not quite as gentle as a bridoon? The bridoon, I think, does make it easy for her to avoid my hands.
Also, I am working really hard right now on riding from back to front and making sure that I am not being too handsy. So, I don't know if I just need to keep working on this for a bit and seeing if my horse and I can figure this out.
What is the bridoon? All the word bridoon indicates is that the rings on the bit are smaller, such that it can be used on a double bridle alongside a curb. Bridoon doesn't indicate anything about the mouthpiece, number of joints, thickness, material, etc.
However, bradoons *can* be used alone as a snaffle bit, and some horses like them better because they are a little thinner and lighter.
OP, sounds like you are a little confused about bits. There are mouthpieces (e.g. french link, regular single-joint snaffle, mullen-mouths, nathe (a kind of mullen mouth), myler wide-barrel comfort mouthpieces and on and on and on). The slow twist, BTW, can't be used in the dressage show ring. And then there are cheek styles: loose ring (which is what you have on your bradoon), D-ring, eggbutt, full cheek, Baucher etc. The majority of dressage horses have a loose ring cheek but mouthpieces vary. Finding the right combination can be a chore but you're already pretty aware given that you use different bits depending on your horse's "mood".
My own horse currently goes in a Herm Sprenger eggbutt KK snaffle. It's an expensive bit, but good for her tendency to be a bit fussy about her mouth combined with my on-their-way-to-being-educated (snerk!) hands. Loose rings are too "noisy" for her; she hates single-jointed snaffles, and runs through the unjointed ones (Mullen, nathe etc.)
I ride my almost 5yo in a French link bradoon, to make things even more complicated. She has a tiny pony face though and would look slightly ridiculous with full snaffle bit rings. I chose one of the thicker mouthpieces, so effectively she experiences a french link snaffle, and I don't have to crank the cheekpieces on her cob bridle all the way over her poll. It's a win/win.
The root problem probably has nothing to do with the bit. the one you've posted should be totally fine unless your horse has a very fine mouth with little space for a bit.
Focus on transitions both from gaits, and within gaits, the quality of your geometry and bit acceptance will happen naturally. don't focus on the head. Noses come in, and necks arch from the engine behind working correctly, not from the rider placing it somewhere through contact.
Yup- no reason you can't use a bridoon alone since 'bridoon' only truly indicates that the rings are smaller. They typically come in narrower mouthes (like 12mm) that are harder to find in full-size-ring snaffles.
It looks to me like you have a 16mm sweet cooper, double-jointed snaffle with a bean in the center and bridoon-sized rings.
What is the rubber bit that your horse likes?
Personally, I doubt you will see much of a difference if the only change you make is going from a bean to a flatter french link.
I'd suggest you borrow a few bits and see if any of them produce a noticeable difference in your horse- since you have a 16mm, try a 12, a 14 and an 18 if you can find them. Try a single joint. Try a french link. Try a rubber french link. Whatever you can get your hands on.
Don't expect anything to be quite the same as the slow twist. In dressage, you want the horse to take a firm hold of the bit, and accept it - not drop back behind it because it creates uncomfortable feelings in the mouth when you use the reins. It honestly sounds more like a training issue than a bit issue.
If this is your bit, it a french link snaffle. (french links can be of diffrent shapes and sizes but not to confuse with Dr.Bristol)
A bradoon as others said just have smaller cheek parts in order to be fitted with a curb. But can be used alone too, looks sometimes better on really small headed horses.
IMO, I would make sure the bits you are using are right in size and thickness first. Putting and keeping a horse on the bit can take lots of time and only comes with regular good training sessions. Give you both a chance to learn since you are new to dressage and switching from a hunter position.
I agree with Petstoreaddict. It's not the bit. The trainer who is working with me and my young PSL mare said--all the time, when I wanted to try a different bit to solve a problem, duh--you should be able to do anything in a plain snaffle. Keep your horse on the loose-ring snaffle you're using now--or some kind of snaffle--and focus on the REAL basis of her unwillingness to go on the bit. Since you are new to dressage, I suspect the solution has to do with the rider's influence--or lack thereof--rather than the bit. If you think that you can mend a problem with a bit, maybe you need help on how to deal with a horse who has an opinion. I don't mean you should beat the opinion out of her, but tactfully try other ways of asking her to listen to you when you ask her to go on the bit.
I also agree with the suggestion of trying different widths of snaffles. I ride all 3 of my mares in a 14mm KK Ultra loose-ring snaffle. Some say that 14mm is too thin to be a gentle bit, but even a 21mm bit can be cruel in inexperienced hands. My girls like the thinner bit b/c 14mm is less "stuff" shoved in their mouths. Your horse may be the same way, less is more. But remember, with a thinner bit you MUST be quiet with your hands or you defeat the purpose of using it.
Thank you everyone for all the suggestions. You've given me a lot to think about and a lot to ask my trainer about. I am more than willing to concede that the problem is me. But it is frustrating to suddenly begin having problems getting my horse on the bit right when we changed tack because that is something that I thought we had figured out.
The rubber bit I sometimes use is a dee-ring black rubber snaffle. I use this when we go through a period of her being behind my leg. She goes better than this than the happy mouth dee-ring snaffle - the black rubber one is quite a bit thicker. I actually think that in this case, she doesn't like the thinner bit.
I guess that I just didn't expect her to feel so different with the different tack. That seems stupid now that I write it down, but I thought I would get the same feeling and same ride with a different looking bridle and different bit.
I have a few dressage lessons coming up, so hopefully my trainer can help me straighten this out.