Bit suggestions for a strong pony who runs away with her rider....
I have a boarder with a very strong Fjord pony mare. For the most part the mare is a saint, which is good because the rider is very timid and petite. But when alone on trails she has taken to to bolting home with her owner (does not do it to me - doesn't even try - darn thing is so smart she knows with whom she can get away with it).
I have all of my horses in loose ring JP copper mouth bits with the bean, but when I saw how strong this mare was and how "Mr. Burns" her rider was I suggested she go with a full cheek so she is currently in the JP full cheek with the copper bean. This bit works very well for her for ring work and for learning to jump (the rider is still just learning to jump and occasionally grabs the horse in the mouth over fences, so I do not want anything harsher in the horses mouth for her lessons).... but I am thinking perhaps something with a bit more bite for trail riding? I am a somewhat at a loss because my goal has always been to find the most gentle bits that I can for my horses - this is outside of my knowledge base. I see the twisted wire full cheeks and I cringe - but then if it keeps the horse from killing her rider maybe it is what she needs. Any suggestions? I would prefer something that didn't have a nut cracker effect if possible. Maybe a pelham or kimberwick? Would a gag be over kill?
I would work with the horse/rider until it works with the bit they have now. I'd say until she learns to control the horse she shouldn't trail ride. I think a harsher bit, especially with this type of rider, is cruel.
Does the rider know how to do a one-rein stop ? I have a very tough mare
who gets very, very strong when riding out (not towards home, just in general).
I have found the one-rein stop really sets her back on her butt, even with
a snaffle, and reminds her who is in charge.
After that, the rider needs to turn the horse around and trot away from
home, so the mare realizes that trying to bolt for home just means that
she doesn't get to go home for a while, and she has to work harder LOL.
Is she always walking towards home ? I would make sure she does nothing
faster than a walk for now.
I agree with the others, keep her in the ring or just on trails with others until this rider is further along and this pair communicates better. Uneducated hands have no place with bigger bits, safety or no. In this case we need to avoid that situation.
If you do go more bit, use a pelham and teach her to ride confidently and correctly with two reins. My experience with wire is that it doesn't actually stop horses that don't want to stop anyway, aside from all the other reservations.
But I would also say it's clear that this rider should not go on trail rides alone until she has confidence and control, and that a bit won't really make that OK.
If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats. - Lemony Snicket
Agree with all of the above, and also a suggestion to try a hackamore (for both jumping and trails).
I use mine a lot. I can basically ride off my seat and legs aids unless I need to rebalance a little, but if I need to I can really get his attention if he's decided to blow me off -- without hurting his mouth OR causing a temper tantrum. Especially with a petite rider versus the Fjord neck... there won't be a pulling contest.
I'm a big fan of Kimberwicks for sometimes naughty ponies. Rather than just more in the mouth, it adds some leverage and the chain. Another option would be something like this http://www.justforponies.com/shirestworinggag.aspx with the reins on the bottom smaller ring for a little leverage. I am certainly on board with the keep working with the rider to get her hands quieter, etc., but many ponies do fine with more bit and dealing with a bolting pony occasionally isn't the end of the world for the rider, especially if the pony pretty much bolts in a straight line without any dropping the shoulder/spinning or other things much more likely to scare/dislodge the rider. Keeping her in the ring is probably just going to magnify her fears of riding outside the ring.
Lol, sorry I have to smile because I used to have a Fjord and I can relate They are special. When my gelding tried the bolting trick I switched to a 3 ring elevator. Only had to go down to the middle ring. I barely had to touch the rein to get him paying attention. They are STRONG horses, and put together in a way that even makes the pully rein method useless at times. I only needed it for a handful of rides to get the message through, then went back to the loose ring snaffle.
Does the student need to learn more and develop as a rider? Of course! But assuming she's no asking for much and on a light contact, there's nothing wrong with going down the trail with a little leverage on a horse who bolts, it's not like she's going to be lessoning in it.
I'm a big fan of Kimberwicks for sometimes naughty ponies. Rather than just more in the mouth, it adds some leverage and the chain.
Keeping her in the ring is probably just going to magnify her fears of riding outside the ring.
- kimberwicks are made for just such behavior
I don't see this rider managing an effective one-rein-stop against a Fjord neck & shoulder.
Riders who lack confidence, or who are rightfully scared (in this situation, I think she should be scared) often grab the horse's mouth. Generally they are afraid to let go of the horse "in case" it runs off. This usually creates a scenario where the horse feels restricted and is even more likely to jog, get hot, and bolt. And also, learn to ignore any hand aids since they are being contantly applied.
The rider and the horse need to learn to remain in the gait requested, and to ask for & respond to half-halts and halt aids.
I agree with all the others that this doesn't seem like a situation where the pair should be out on the trails together.
Having said all that, I have seen success with a combination of Pelham and standing martingale. I agree that a wire-type bit doesn't usually help in these situations, as the bolt is a decision on the horse's part (disobedience) and is less about control of the mouth than of the mind. The standing can help if the horse is doing a bolt with its head up or putting its head up to evade the bit when asking to halt.
You never know what kind of obsessive compulsive crazy person you are until another person imitates your behaviour at a three-day. --Gry2Yng
I agree with the kimberwick or elevator, I've ridden bad fjord ponies before, and I am a confident rider and they aren't going to scare me, but damn they are strong! When their neck and shoulders work against you rein stops are going to cut it.
That said, I agree with getting the rider more confident about hacking and not having that happen, even if that means a stronger bit for a few rides. The ones I've ridden that once they figure out they can't get away with it will stop, but if there is even a small chance of whatever they got away with and feel like doing again they will just keep trying.
I will give you advice that is more to do with training the horse with the rider aboard. Take the horse out on trail but don't go far, turn the horse toward home. When you get to the barn, WORK. Make the horse work hard in the ring. Do this each day going farther and farther out. It should only take a couple of weeks and the horse or pony should realize, going home is NOT fun and relaxation. And the new rider should gain more confidence and control. I would start teaching the one rein stop in the ring and use it anytime it's needed. Trail riding should be fun but sometimes it takes a bit of small rides to work up to big ones for new or timid riders.
You won't like this, but bigger bits are a graduation, not a flunk out. Get the horse better in the current bit, you will be glad you did later. As was previously posted, one rein stops are a very good thing.
Kimberwicke! I have a horse with a thick neck & big shoulders who would bolt right through a one rein stop while we learned to rate in the open. The kimberwicke stopped him cold. After a few weeks we switched to a full cheek and that's what he runs XC in to this day. The kimberwicke was a godsend in those first few weeks though. It's not a subtle bit but it works well in precisely this situation.
While I am 99% anti draw reins, I'd give her a second rein that's a draw rein, not attached in between the front legs, but to the sides. That way she can do a one rein or pulley rein stop and actually have some leverage against that tree stump of a neck fjords have.
I agree with the other posts that it's best to sort it out through training, but have you considered changing the noseband? I have had good luck with a kineton paired with a snaffle for my pony who gets very strong and locks his jaw. Not a Fjord, but he does have a history of bolting BADLY. I actually have both of my horses in a no-pull type noseband for jumping right now and like that I don't have to go to a bigger bit to get more control.
Wow, I was just going to post something similar (but different!) about my daughter and her pony. DD is a pretty experienced rider, she's 10, riding 2' XC confidently and 2'6" stadium. Pony is also 10, we've had him for 2 years now. Problem is her cute little pony sometimes will bolt when he is startled and/or naughty. She can generally get him quickly under control again, but it's beginning to scare her a little. Recently on XC, his MO was to take off after the jump. After the 2nd time, she ended up trotting the rest of the course and bringing him down to a walk several times. Thank goodness it wasn't timed - she still finished quite well! He is rather sensitive, but usually doesn't jig and settles right back down after something has startled/spooked him. Problem is she is a little scared by it. I have tried a kimberwicke on him - but little pony over-reacted to curb pressure (I had curb on mildest setting and loosely adjusted). I was able to ride him in it, but he would not go forward in it at all for DD and she refuses to try that again (I don't blame her, to be honest). I ended up with a baucher for dressage and even for stadium. But for XC and for trail riding, I want a little something more that she can get a more immediate stop and feel more in control. Someone suggested we try a Micklem, and after watching her go in stadium lesson yesterday, I do agree it looks like she has more control (used a french-link loose ring that I knew he would go in). The pony was abused in his distant past and does seem to have issues with certain bits - chomping/chewing if he doesn't like it. DD has good hands, but has begun to 'hold' the pony a little over fences and must be reminded to release and fix any thing that comes after when it comes. He generally doesn't do this at home, sigh (except on trail rides occasionally). He is a lovely little pony with no vices, has a great dressage test (with serious, attention-to-detail riding), and he can jump the moon. But this running off thing isn't cool. I would appreciate bit suggestions or comments on the use of the micklem bridle for more control when she needs it.
The name makes it obvious. We have one of those ever so cute and saintly Fjords (putting aside the occasional buck or other naughtiness.)
Best thing about them: They are Sooooo smart.
Worst thing about them: They are Sooooo smart and too cute; so easy to forgive their naughty times. As my daughter said growing up, "he's so cute and so sweet, he will always be able to get away with everything." How true!
Number one, as others have said, continue to work with rider to improve their skills. Fjords need their active brains kept quite busy; lots of variety in what you do. If you don't spell out the work, they'll come up with their own program; sometimes not always such a good one, he hah.
Fjords are also "pleasers." they will try to anticipate what you want. For all their saintliness - and they have LOTS - they can actually be quite sensitive and a little nervous under the surface, which often goes unnoticed until you sit on one. The rider needs to learn to feel that and divert the energy elsewhere. Anything that is truly work is good - small circles, serpentine, leg yield, you get the idea...
It helps to teach them both to get that Fjord listening carefully to the seat. When the rider says halt, that Fjord should sit. They are quite capable of it and truly sensitive enough to do so. If they aren't convinced the rider is serious a few reinbacks (NOT the yank mouth and run back), nice controlled dressage style pick your feet up and back straight between my aids will usually bring their brain back to remembering who is calling the shots.
We found that a rubber mullen-mouth pelham worked well for our Fjord in his stronger moments. The leverage helps a bit for young/petite riders. Rarely need it now (being 5'9" and 190# helps too.) His normal schooling bit is an eggbutt with french link with a relatively loose caveson so he can work his jaw and relax. (I did use Rein-Aids with the elastic insert for a while to help him discover that.) He actually has a very sensitive mouth and sometimes I think he bore down on the bit to relieve the pressure. Not surprisingly, the lighter your hands, the lighter he is most of the time. Unyielding hands definitely give him something to set his jaw and neck hard against and pull. (After all they are conformationaly built that way.) As any fjord owner knows, you will NOT out pull a fjord!!!
So keep working with the rider to build confidence and feel. Once a Fjord knows the rider has their number they will give you the most fun ride. It's especially fun because for the most part Fjords are pretty unflappable when it comes to water, wildlife, obstacles and all those other "scary" things in life. Yes my other horse is a OTTB so I've had the pleasure of both sides of the coin. They are at times so opposite and yet so similar.
Good luck, give it time and practice and have fun!
Agree with the others - safety first. Don't put the child (I'm assuming it's a child?) and the horse in the situation where the horse can/will bolt for home. Keep up with lessons to improve her skills. Keep working the fjord with a more experienced rider, so he knows what the rules are. And, when it's time to take the pair back to the scene of the crime, put enough bit in its mouth that the child's small effort is appropriately amplified so the fjord will hear the message! A little "hey you" isn't a bad thing, and that head and neck can be amazingly heavy and strong when they've got their earplugs in ("da,da,da,da,can'thearyou"). I honestly believe, having spent too much time with kids and horses, that some horses need a little consequence in their lives just like kids do. Kids need to learn to stay on the ball and pay attention to the signs that their horse might be cooking up trouble - consequence of spacing out = pony heads for home without permission. But ponies need consequences, too -- "hm, I tried running for home and that pipsqueak on my back actually used her seat and legs and REINS! to stop me, and I kinda didn't like that feeling in my mouth. Maybe I'll try something else next time."
I'd be tempted to start with a baucher (french link or single joint), on the off chance that your fjord is one of those who would curl up and shove their nose between their knees when they took off if they had anything with a stronger curb. A jointed kimberwicke (uxeter, right?) would be my next step - I'm picturing the worst case scenario of that big old head and neck leaning on the straight mouthpiece of a kimberwicke and curling up and pulling your child over its head as it ran for home. A little bonk in the roof of the mouth might help him reconsider (and in case anyone is thinking I"m being cruel, I'm picturing the 60 lb kids I know vs the 1100 lb fjords I know. 60 lb timid girls are not going to pull hard enough to do much more than tickle his palate, unfortunately)
Is there another horse she can ride until she gets a little bigger? Or, rereading your original post, is there another horse she can practice on or a rider she can trade with for riding in the open until she gets more confident and builds some skills?
As the owner of 19 Fjords (with another one due any day now) and an active breeder since 2000, I have seen what this breed can do. I agree that they can be very strong. They are a light draft breed and heavy on the forehand. If you have a petite, timid rider, the rider needs to learn to sit back and use her seat more. You are not going to win a rein pulling contest with a Fjord. My stallion evented very successfully at BN for the last four years. He always wore a twisted wire snaffle on XC and stadium (versus a KK Ultra for dressage). However, he was ridden by a pro and she has wonderful hands. I would be very hesitant about bitting up a Fjord with a less talented rider. I have one mare that I got with a mouth like concrete thanks to being bitted up for bad riding. Nice mare, but not a beginner's ride. As others have said, I would definitely advise the rider NOT to trail ride by herself for the time being. Trail ride with others, work in the ring, but don't set yourself up for a bad situation. It's too easy to get badly hurt. I'm had at least two Fjords sent to me for consignment who knew this bolt back to the barn trick with their timid owners, but I could ride them without problem. If she can't control this mare, I would suggest selling her and getting a Fjord that she can ride. It's just not a good match when a horse takes such bad advantage of its rider.