I have a 5 yo thoroughbred who is 17 hh, and short coupled (re: he wears a 75" blanket - think about that one for a moment). He never raced, and he is fantastically nice to watch move. Our dressage has really been flourishing, especially since we just moved to a new barn with a massive indoor - he doesn't feel like he has to suck in his stride to keep from hitting the short side and scramble.
This, it seems, has been working really really well for him.
Up until this week, he has been going in a KK Ultra Loose Ring Double-jointed snaffle (14mm) with his figure 8 bridle for jumping in addition to a running martingale. It has been good, most of the time, to keep him responsive on the rein aids. I think, now that he is getting more confident over fences, though, he is starting to get heavy on my hands.
This week, we toyed around with it a bit.
Day 1, I tried him in a Micklem bridle with a JP Korsteel Oval Mouth Loose Ring - a double-jointed bit. This was the bit we used previously with dressage, and since the Micklem seems to be more involved with poll pressure, I thought a milder solution to do our "first ride" with. It. was. horrible. Head up, head down, ducking out from the bit, gaping mouth, tongue sticking out (which this horse has never done in his LIFE). So, a bit fat NO.
Day 2, we tried it with a Myler, Level 1 Loose Ring. Can I tell you how much I hate this bit? I know some people swear by them, but the minute I asked for a canter, his poll goes knee-height low, and he tucks his chin straight into his chest. My horse put himself in rolkur, and he stayed there even when I practically threw the reins at him.
So, day 3, we went back to the tried and true: the figure 8, with the KK Ultra Loose ring. We go the same exact response at the canter.
So, now I'm starting to wonder - is it the bit, or the bridle? I have had great luck so far with the figure 8, and I'm thinking now that the bits are perhaps too much pressure on the tongue and bars? I've always been a fan of the double-jointed bits, especially since he's young and has such a soft mouth, but perhaps he really really is against the pressure on the tongue? In which case, my trainer and I were discussing options, specifically options that might keep using the poll pressure (because it's true, the two days in the Micklem, I had a much softer horse in my hands - it was just the bits he kept getting pissy with) but relieved pressure on the tongue.
In that case, I'm thinking that a regular old single joint snaffle is the right move. My trainer, meanwhile, suggested the 3-Type Single-Joint Loose Ring. I am not a fan of the gag option on this (personally, I avoid gag bits at all costs), but we were considering attaching cheek pieces to one of the small loops, and allowing the reins to swing on the bigger section without the loop for the other.
Anyone have any experience with these sort of problems, or have any bit suggestions? Have you used one of the bits my trainer suggested, or anything similar? I think anything bigger than 16mm (such as a happy mouth, unfortunately) is too much bit for his mouth - his bits are only 5", and I think he gets claustrophobic when the bits are too large in diameter for his little mouth.
Thanks for your help!
Last edited by Kelimation; Mar. 23, 2013 at 08:41 PM.
Reason: Fixed links
I, like many people, always try a double jointed bit on my horses so I did that when I got my newest horse. He had previously gone in a single jointed bit and has always been weird with his mouth (he plays with bits and makes weird faces). Me being a believer in double jointed bits, thought it would help. Nope. Tried him in a simple 16mm HS KK Ultra D-ring and he went from being sort of sensitive to super super fussy, tossing his head, and impossible to get through into the bridle. When he wasn't fussing he had the bit in his teeth and was leaning. So back to single joints.
He is now going very happily in a single jointed rubber coated full cheek of all things on the flat (flash noseband) and then a very thin (14mm?) HS single jointed loose ring over fences with a figure-8 and a running martingale. He does still get sort of strong but the key is to not give him something to pull on. Rather than fight to have him round over fences he goes more high headed (hence the running martingale) and all I do is push him into the contact, not down into the contact. With the rubber, I thought it would be too much for him as well but he *loves* it. In fact, now for the first time since I met him last July, he is accepting both bits into his mouth without me forcing his mouth open.
I think, now that he is getting more confident over fences, though, he is starting to get heavy on my hands.
Here's your flaw. Horses don't lean on your hands as they get more confident, they lean to offload their hind ends.
Quit searching in his mouth and start searching behind the saddle. He probably needs a few days rest, then some extra schooling of transitions on the flat and some grid work.
It's so rarely a bitting problem. I bit down just about every student that comes to me, and their horses go better for it because I also appropriately gymnasticise them.
I confirmed something very important with my young OTTB last year:
Bit down before you bit up.
It sounds counter intuitive, but it can be helpful, at least in schooling at home (bigger bits have a place in competition). Try a single joint, or (my preference) try a nathe, try unstrapping his mouth and loosen the noseband. Sometimes tying the mouth shut actually gives the horse more leverage to bear down and pull on you; with a looser noseband, his mouth will gape (yes, unsightly) but he puts more pressure on his jaw. Doesn't always work, but might be worth a try.
If you have a horse with a soft mouth, definitely try the nathe or equivalent. Sometimes a horse that won't take a half halt that really NEEDS a half halt (fussy face, getting strong), will accept the contact much more readily in a kind bit. Especially young green horses-- they don't know any better, yet, all they know is "Go" and "pain." Sometimes they don't hear you say "slow your rhythm, use your hind end," all they understand is "kick, pull on my face." Spend extra time on the flat (possibly with canter rails) to get a good response to the half-halt and teach the horse to carry himself better.
If you try to bit down, and it doesn't work, it's okay. It was only ride, and you learned something; if it's truly awful, you can always get off and switch bridles. But you might also find a kinder solution to a problem, so it's worth a try.