Hey everyone. I need some help with a bit issue and I am looking for general guidance. My horse is 7 and has been going in a Happy Mouth Snaffle always. She is ready for a grown up bit and I have just come to accept that she is no longer a little baby anymore! She is getting a little heavy in my hands and it seems she has also trained me to let go of the reins when she is cantering or else she will break gate. She's a great horse - I just need something to bump her back up to me and get her to respect me more. She is also doing this when my trainer gets on. I don't board with trainer so she just comes out several times a month. Trainer suggested an elevator but I also am interested in what other people may think. I would like to have her go in a D ring snaffle 'big girl bit' eventually. Anyone else out there go through this and have some suggestions?
I'd try schooling in a pelham or a D ring with hooks and once she's sharpened up a bit you should be able to move back to a regular D! I rode a horse like this and the pelham worked wonders on him. Also used an elevator on him and it worked well.
Pelhams and elevators work great so long as your horse doesn't have a tendency to curl and over flex at the poll. I had a gelding that would get heavy, but if you stuck a pelham or elevator on him he would curl and suck back. I tried a segunda on him and it worked so long as I was extremely soft with my hands. He worked great in it with my trainer and pretty good in it for me, but I got so paranoid about catching him in the mouth or making some silly mistake with such a harsh bit that I just went back to a slow twist. I never really found a perfect bit for him though.
If she's leaning on your hand, maybe try a waterford. I love waterfords and have found that they're really useful for horses that lean because with all those joints, the bit just gives when they try to get heavy on it. It's also a good one for young horses because they can play with it a little.
Are y'all really suggesting that someone go from a happy mouth snaffle straight to a gag or segunda?
Bits do not equal lightness. Lightness is a matter of training, not hardware.
OP, you may want to find a new trainer that understands that.
OP I would sugest you do a lot more schooling on the flat. Transitions not just trot-walk type but medium trot - short and lively trot do lateral work keep your mare guessing and her brain actively engaged. Make it your goal each ride to get her chewing on the bit. My young one had a tendency to get heavy. I was told it was because I wasn't doing enough transitions. I recently went to a Claudia Cojocar clinic and she told us the she read an article written by a British dressage rider that he does 200 (yes 200!) transitions in the first 30 min of his ride to get his horses light and supple.
Spend so much time improving yourself that you have no time left to criticize others.
Thanks everyone. I actually just spoke to a dressage trainer that has given me a lesson before and she suggested I buy a regular D ring snaffle and that we lunge her in side reins some to get her to learn to come into the bit. She had some interesting things to say, so I think I will try this before I go into a harsher bit. She had an good take on it saying my horse doesn't have a bad habit we are trying to correct, she just doesn't know what she is 'supposed' to do. She thought that putting something harsher in her mouth might just scare her.
I appreciate all the suggestions and I will definitely keep this for reference if the lunging doesn't work - fingers crossed!
Going from a happy mouth on a horse that has spent its life in one to an elevator or other leverage bit would be a HUGE change for a horse and might have the opposite effect of what you're going for. I'd try a waterford or even just a metal snaffle and see how that goes.
Try lots of lateral work & figures, get the horse moving from your leg into a soft, following hand. Do lots of transitions and work up to transitions in the gait to teach her to stay more on her hind end. It sounds to me like she's just green and not quite sure what to do with her body
Trying a life outside of FEI tents and hotel rooms.
My horse had recently gotten a little heavy in my hand. He was using me to balance as we progressed to more difficult work - and I had slowly fallen into the trap of letting him. Your horse can't get heavy on his own - it's a two way street.
Go back to some basics with your horse and retrain him. Stop letting him train you how he wants to be ridden. I went back to simple 'I ask, you give, I give.' Over and over and over and over. One rein, then two reins. At walk, at trot, at canter. Then 'leg on, you go.' And 'I pull back, you stop/slow.' The key to getting the lightness is the release to the aid, so make sure you are quick to give when you get the right answer. Then combine them. It really is as simple as that for most horses. Don't fall into the trap of trying to use them together until he responds all the time to the aids individually.
Take a couple weeks to do only this. It can be painfully repetitive, but it needs to be repeated until it's automatic. When you think you've done it enough, do it some more. Then go back to your regularly scheduled programming. But if your horse gets heavy during an exercise, pause and fix that before continuing your exercise.
While I realize there are exceptions, there is no reason most horses need to grow out of a snaffle.
Personally, I use and recommend the KK Ultra bits.
I absolutely agree with posters who said to focus on fixing through training/transitions/etc. However, if you need to save your arms/back as you work through that process, you could get a happy mouth elevator with the same mouthpiece you've been using. Ride off the snaffle rein with the second rein extra loose. It can be there as the correction of last resort when you hack if other things aren't helping.
Yes please don't think a harsher or "more" bit will solve this issue. Work transitions, work transitions within the gaits also and make sure she is forward and engaging her hind end. If shes getting heavy she is probably on the forehand and making you carry her. You don't want to carry her and she needs to learn to carry herself. She also seems to have figured out she can old around in the canter on the forehand because she has you tricked into thinking if you ask for contact she breaks gait and so you just let her keep happily plodding on the forehand. If she gets heavy you need to ask for more. Lift with your leg and seat and engage her rear if she continues to stay heavy drop her and pick her back up.
A good dressage trainer would be able to fix this and if your trainer doesn't know how to fix this without a bit change I'd say there are some problems there.
Horses aren't our whole life, but makes our life whole