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  1. #1
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    Default Western Horsemanship

    These days I am riding at a mostly western barn.

    It is a DIY barn and most of the owners know very little about horses (don't know about worming schedules, don't do lessons, etc.).

    One family has just bought their first horse: a 4yo for their young teenager. They were told she goes in a "broke" bit, not a solid-piece. She is in a trail bridle with a loose-ring sweet-iron snaffle. They have asked my friend and me for tips, help, advice, and we are glad to give it because a lot of horsemanship crosses discipline lines.

    But I would like to feel more knowledgeable. Is a "broke" bit any bit with a jointed mouthpiece, including a jointed-mouth shanked bit? Is it OK (safe) to ride a horse in a ring snaffle in an open bridle (no cavesson or noseband)? Do you need a curb strap even with a ring snaffle?

    Is it a good idea to ride in a western saddle wearing shorts and western boots? I know that in an English saddle you can get your knees seriously pinched and bruised, but the western one this girl is using looks more comfortable for riding in shorts.

    I have suggested they go see our local friendly tack shop owners and buy basic horse-owner-type books but so far they haven't done so. I really want to help all I can, but need to learn more. I also want them to come online to COTH!
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  2. #2
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    See my comments in blue.

    Quote Originally Posted by Wellspotted View Post
    These days I am riding at a mostly western barn.

    It is a DIY barn and most of the owners know very little about horses (don't know about worming schedules, don't do lessons, etc.).

    One family has just bought their first horse: a 4yo for their young teenager. They were told she goes in a "broke" bit, not a solid-piece. She is in a trail bridle with a loose-ring sweet-iron snaffle. They have asked my friend and me for tips, help, advice, and we are glad to give it because a lot of horsemanship crosses discipline lines.

    But I would like to feel more knowledgeable. Is a "broke" bit any bit with a jointed mouthpiece, including a jointed-mouth shanked bit? My assumption based on what they said would be yes, that the horse goes in a bit with a moutpiece with a joint. However, if the horse is still young and green, I'd assume that to mean a snaffle. Shank bits with a jointed mouthpiece are NOT snaffles, they are still curb bits, with a jointed mouthpiece. Snaffle = jointed mouth AND rings, never shanks. Shanks do not = snaffle no matter what the mouthpiece. Is it OK (safe) to ride a horse in a ring snaffle in an open bridle (no cavesson or noseband)? Yes, western riders do it all the time. Do you need a curb strap even with a ring snaffle? You do not need one. However, a curb strap will help keep the bit in place. Typically, the curb will be a leather curb strap, and will be in front of the reins so that when rein action is applied, the curb is not affected (i.e. doesn't move because of the rein movement. It's not for leverage action like shank bits; with snaffles, its simply to keep the bit in place and from shifting side to side. However, you can ride without one.
    Is it a good idea to ride in a western saddle wearing shorts and western boots? I would not. I know that in an English saddle you can get your knees seriously pinched and bruised, but the western one this girl is using looks more comfortable for riding in shorts.

    I have suggested they go see our local friendly tack shop owners and buy basic horse-owner-type books but so far they haven't done so. I really want to help all I can, but need to learn more. I also want them to come online to COTH!
    "If you think nobody cares about you, try missing a couple payments..."



  3. #3
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    One thing I forgot...

    If they are going to ride the horse in a snaffle, make sure the headstall has a browband and a throatlatch. There is a thread on here that explains one-ear headstalls which will tell you why. Basically, snaffle bits lift in the mouth, thereby lifting the headstall up on the poll, allowing a bridle without a throatlatch to come off very easily. Therefore, when using a snaffle, use a bridle with a throatlatch.

    One and two ear bridles are for use with leverage bits (i.e. shank bits) because when rein action is applied, they actually apply pressure at the poll (which means they don't lift up, but instead bear down, and don't pop off the head).
    "If you think nobody cares about you, try missing a couple payments..."



  4. #4
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    The reference animal in this write up is a mule, but the same rules apply for a horse.

    "The Difference Between Snaffle and Curb"

    One ongoing debate between mule riders seems to be the difference between a snaffle and a curb bit. It's very simple. The snaffle has no shanks - no leverage. The curb bit has shanks - leverage.

    The mouthpiece does not determine whether a bit is a snaffle or a curb. Many riders feel that any bit with a broken mouthpiece is a snaffle. On the contrary, the only distinguishing characteristic about a snaffle is that it does not have shanks. And a shank bit, no matter the kind of mouthpiece, is a curb. Both bits come in a variety of mouthpieces. You can find broken, Mullen mouth or straight mouthpieces in snaffles or curbs. The curbs, however, go on to an almost infinite continuation of mouth pieces used for different disciplines.

    Curb bits use a curb chain to add to the leverage. Snaffle bits may have a leather curb strap, but they are attached below the rein position and do not have any leverage action when the reins are used. A leather curb on a snaffle is used simply to keep the snaffle from being pulled through the mule's mouth.

    Just to add to the confusion, you will hear individuals refer to Tom Thumb Snaffles, Shanked Snaffles, Broken Leverage Bits and Curb Snaffles. The action of these bits is that of a curb because they have shanks and use a curb chain. The action of these bits is that of curb despite the broken mouthpiece. These are leverage, curbs, bits with a broken mouthpiece. Since they rotate the bit and cause the curb chain to tighten under the chin groove, it's a leverage bit.

    The snaffle bit affects the mule's lips, bars and tongue of the mule; while curb bits can act on up to five of the seven basic pressure points of the mule - chin groove, poll (via the bridle), bars, tongue and the roof of the mouth, the palate.


    http://www.saddlemulenews.com/WesternCurbBit.htm
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  5. #5
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    I posted the above, because a lot of folks think if the mouth is a broken mouthpiece that its a snaffle, and that is a HUGE pet peeve of mine. I felt the need to pass along the education since you were seeking to learn!
    "If you think nobody cares about you, try missing a couple payments..."



  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by SuckerForHorses View Post
    I posted the above, because a lot of folks think if the mouth is a broken mouthpiece that its a snaffle, and that is a HUGE pet peeve of mine. I felt the need to pass along the education since you were seeking to learn!
    Yes, I have come across the same way of thinking in several western articles and catalogs. I agree with you about the differences between snaffles and curbs, but knowing that apparently some western riders think otherwise I was trying to sound really open-minded!

    Thank you very much for your replies, SuckerForHorses! I will tell the family the next time I see them about the browband and throatlatch; their bridle is a one-ear with a throatlatch. If I don't see them at the barn tomorrow I will leave them a note!
    Founder of the People Who Prefer COTH Over FB Clique
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  7. #7
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    Image to show correct curb strap placement on a snaffle:

    http://i238.photobucket.com/albums/f...um/Snaffle.jpg

    You want it snug enough that it keeps the bit from pulling thru the mouth, but not too tight to restrict the bit from workign properly. Basically, it should be just tight enough that it doesn't flop around.
    "If you think nobody cares about you, try missing a couple payments..."



  8. #8
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    If their one-ear has a throatlatch, they may be alright; however, my personal preference is to have the full browband with throatlatch because I feel it keeps the bridle better balanced on the head for use with a snaffle.
    "If you think nobody cares about you, try missing a couple payments..."



  9. #9
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    My assumption based on what they said would be yes, that the horse goes in a bit with a moutpiece with a joint. However, if the horse is still young and green, I'd assume that to mean a snaffle. Shank bits with a jointed mouthpiece are NOT snaffles, they are still curb bits, with a jointed mouthpiece.
    One would hope.

    However I've seen an awful lot of green horses and riders using Tom Thumbs or "cowboy snaffles".

    I agree, neither is a snaffle nor a good choice for a green horse. But if these folks don't know much about horses they may very well be using one or the other. For some reason, these bits are really popular with the not-so-experienced western rider around here.



  10. #10
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    Default Tom Thumbs are the devil!

    I HATE TOM THUMBS. Here pony, let me put this nutcracker in your mouth...
    "If you think nobody cares about you, try missing a couple payments..."



  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by SuckerForHorses View Post
    I HATE TOM THUMBS. Here pony, let me put this nutcracker in your mouth...
    Nutcracker for sure! I HATE Tom Thumbs. I also hate some of the twisted-mouth, gag, prong-mouth, and other western "speed" bits that are advertised as being able to lift the horse's shoulder, bend his rib cage, bring his "back end" up underneath him, and cause him to break at the poll. One of the kids at the barn told this new horse owner that if their horse didn't respond well to the sweet iron single-joint loose ring, they should just try a stronger bit. This for a young kid who has never taken a proper lesson in her life ...

    Aarrrggghhhhh ...
    Founder of the People Who Prefer COTH Over FB Clique
    People Who Hate to Rush to Kill Wildlife Clique!
    "I Sing Silly Songs to My Animals!" Clique



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