So I have a mare I'd like to try hunting. Older, seasoned, but does get a bit strong in a group. A Waterford works well for normal trail rides, but I'd like something with a little more oomph just in case. She has a low palate and very thick tongue. Goes in a curved French link for normal work. In a group, she just sets her neck and braces, and goes -- not running away, she does it even at a trot, but it's hard on my shoulders with the French link. Waterford prevents the bracing. I also move her laterally as needed, etc to break up the bracing.
That all said, what do you think would be a good next step up? I actually got a Waterford Pelham (and am comfortable with 2 reins) but then read the long Pelham thread over on the H/J forum, and am second-guessing that option....
I haven't read that thread, and neither has my horse...
That said, does your mare go as well on the top rein of the Waterford pelham as she does in the regular Waterford? Keeping in mind that pelhams don't generally help with bracing or rooting behavior and may make it worse, I have no problem riding on the top rein of one if the horse really loves the mouthpiece and goes well that way. Top rein only, not one of those stupid 'bit converters', aka 'adult kimblewicke'. Then you have the bottom rein loosely through your fingers just in case it's ever needed.
I have a horse that will go entire hunts on the top rein but, every once in a while, I do have to pick up the bottom rein. My *goal* is to not need it at all (yeah, that 'training, training, training'). If I were needing that bottom rein several times each hunt, I'd be stepping down to a slower field for training, training, training and maybe looking at a different bit.
WildBlue--thanks for the thoughts. I guess I'll try the Pelham on our next hack in company, and see how she does. I truly don't foresee needing the curb rein much if at all, but would like to have it there just in case.
Equibrit--I agree she needs training, but I think I've done just about everything I can with her, short of actually hunting, so I want to be as prepared as possible to avoid being unpleasantly surprised. I've had this mare a long time, have evented, dabbled in jumpers, and she's well schooled in dressage. She can be hot, but is sensible. One never knows, but I suspect once she learns she needs to conserve her energy, she'll settle right down and be very workmanlike. I hope!
My main hunt horse goes in a smooth snaffle in the ring but for hunting I use a rubber Pelham which he thinks is SO much bit. The truth is I can ride the entire hunt on the buckle. Which is really nice for both of us. As long as you have well educated hands, I recommend hunting in more bit than you need. It just makes for a more enjoyable experience.
I tried hunting him in a snaffle and we were both miserable, he would root and pull whenever I needed to ask him to wait or stand back. The excitement of the hunt just overrode his excellent training, something that happens to many horses. The Pelham however is something he listens to no matter what, and therefore I really don't need to employ it's strength, I just need to put it on him and he is on his best behavior. You may have to experiment to find the bit that does this for your horse, and again I reiterate the importance of good hands. If your hands are not truly independent of the rest of your body, stay with less bit until you achieve that goal.
I have a Myler with triple barrels that is soft and bendy, like a lesser waterford when horse is soft, but locks up when they pull (like a mullen, allowing the poll pressure to work). The barrels mean I have completely independent side action and its a slotted fullcheek, so with the rein in the slot the one-rein-stop means 10X more then it does in a usual bit. You just have to commit to one rein and make sure your other rein is planted very firmly on the neck to prevent vering. Very effective but no so strong that most horses will back off it.
I do beleive though, that new in the field horses need to see a big arse in front of them and not see the light of day until they stop perfectly, respectfully, behind that big arse with minimal strength from the rider. If that means they have a come-to-jesus moment in the process of learning that lesson, then so be it. You can't blame a horse for trying to take the bit and run, the first time they try. You have to assume they honestly didn't know it was a bad idea. But you make that first time gawd-aweful for them, in whatever severity that particular horse requires, and they *hopefully* are smart enough not to try it a second time. Cause I WILL blame them for trying it again. The right bit won't train the horse without the right riding to go with it.
You also might consider tailing back on the bit rather than the using a bigger hammer as it were. Many horses brace out of fear of mouth pain. These horses go astonishingly well in a hackamore or the Micklem bitless bridle. No kidding.
I see nothing wrong with hunting in a pelham! A waterford wouldn't be my first choice (I'd prefer a regular ported pelham) but if your horse goes well in it, why not?
I think riding in a pelham with two reins is a great option because you only apply the curb rein when you need it. My current horse really respects that curb chain. I tried him in a two ring elevator and he absolutely hated it. With a Pelham or a Kimberwicke I can ride him on very light contact but he pays attention when I need it.
Keep in mind that a bit that backs your horse off a bit much during a hack may not have the same impact during a hunt. I ride my horse in a snaffle unless I'm hunting -- I stopped hunting him in it when he figured out he could put his head down, grab the bit and RUN.
As for hunting bitless? My last hunt horse hunted great in an LG or Micklem bitless bridle but you need to make sure you have a horse that responds well to that type of pressure. About 4 times a year I try my current hunt horse bitless, just out hacking. He completely ignores it! Same with a hackamore.
Thank you all for the input, I really appreciate it. We are going to stay in second field for a while, but my hunt's second field is not much slower than the first, so I am trying to make extra sure we have some emergency brakes if needed.
This thread has had some good reminders of things to consider. I know this mare really well, but as they say, you just never know if they'll hunt. She does not go bitless, but if I didn't already know that, it would be a good option to consider. I do have a rubber Mullen mouth Pelham I can try, too. My concerns with that are twofold: it may be too thick for her mouth, and I would need the curb rein more. She likes and does well with the Waterford mouthpiece, which is why I planned to start there.
To clarify my concern, some posters on the H/J Pelham thread to which I was referring in my OP, opined that a broken mouth Pelham can have an unpredictable, unnecessarily strong action. I'm sorry I didn't make that clear. Perhaps I'm over thinking this, but since the whole family has been sick, I've had more time to ponder this than to ride!
Just remember that your horse doesn't read the posts or the marketing literature .
According to all the literature, a double jointed bit is more comfortable. Tell that to my OTTB, who vastly prefers a single joint.
I ride him in a Mikmar pelham or a jointed half moon Kimberwicke when hunting. It took some trial and error and some luck.
I buy many bits on eBay to try them out as you often don't know exactly what will work and some of the bits are wickedly expensive if you buy them new.
A couple of other things to try -- add a running martingale. My hunt horse also goes very nicely in a loose ring Waterford with a martingale. Try adding a neck strap and then schooling with one. My horse responds very nicely to the pressure from a neck strap when I ride. When we're out hunting, I don't get the same response but it allows me to give him a "half halt" without touching his mouth.
Teach your horse a verbal cue for the downward transition. Once again I use this out in the hunt field and I find it really helpful.
When you start hunting, try to find territories where you'll be mostly in the woods, behind another horse. Where we hunt, I always tell people to be wary the first few times they go out in the wide open fields as some of the horses just lose their minds and NO bit will reinstall them.
My own goal out hunting is to use as much bit as I need and then to use it judiciously. I prefer not to be in my horse's face too much. I have a horse that no one (including me) thought would ever hunt because he was too strong and too competitive. I started him in circumstances that were as controlled as possible for the hunt field and gave him time to learn his new job. He'll always be a handful but at least now he's a controlled handful!
The Great White North, where we get taxed out the wazoo
I like the above posters comment about verbal cues- sometimes the whoa get thru when nothing else does. I use it for instant brakes, and use "easy" to mean a combination of slow down and be careful, something to watch out for. My guy learned both and hunts (mercifully) in a french link D ring.
Good thoughte about both the neck strap and the running as well. Trial and error for tack- tweaking it you will find the best combo.
Most of all- enjoy!
I had the BEST time hunting this past Sunday. Why? Because not only did we have some great runs on coyote across hayfields I had an adjustable, responsive horse!
I spent all of last year teaching him to gallop as fast and as collected as I say. So even though he knew half-halts, etc... from his dressage training (we train for eventing), it wasn't until we spent an entire off season galloping once a week with or without company - with me dictating pace. We'd go from flat out to collected canter, to hand gallop, etc... We'd gallop in company and I'd tell him WHERE I wanted to gallop, when to pass, when to slow and be passed. And WOW! What a ratable horse I had this season!
Full speed in the hayfields and I was able to control him by just squeezing my fingers and bringing my shoulders back to rate him and a touch of my leg to allow him to go. Most fun I've ever had galloping in the field. Like driving a responsive sports car!
So the lesson I learned is... there's a difference between training in the dressage and jump ring and training for coyote runs.