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Need help choosing a western bit...

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  • Need help choosing a western bit...

    I have a 15 yo QH mare I got as an auction rescue. I don't know a whole lot about her riding background except that she was a working cowhorse, and has done some team penning and barrels. That's basically it. I would like to begin working with her some--starting with groundwork-- but I'm not sure what to do for a bit. My own background is dressage and I've hardly ridden western at all and don't know much about the different types of bits, and I have no info on what she used to be ridden in.

    What would be the best bit to start her out in? I aim to start with lungeline work and go from there... eventually she will hopefully be a trail horse, so I don't have any real restrictions on what I use... I just want to find something that works for her. My general bitting philosophy is pretty much to use the mildest possible one that will do the job for any given horse, but as I said, I'm really out of my element with the western assortment of bits.

    I'm also making the assumption that since she has only ever been ridden western, she is going to only know to neck rein, not direct. otherwise I'd probably just try to put her in a snaffle and see how that went.

    I guess the dilemma is this: I know I have a horse who is more seasoned and educated than I am myself -- so I want to strike a balance with the bit. I don't want to use something that I'm not able to handle properly, and cause her any pain or discomfort in the process.

    I have thought about going the bitless route, but as some may know from another thread, I have issues with her being headshy and am looking at starting her work in a halter-bridle to get around her ear issues. I simply can't imagine being able to get anything on if it has to be slipped over her ears. not at this point anyway.

    Any thoughts?

  • #2
    Most western horses are started in a plain snaffle and they do usually understand crude direct reining. In my limited experience with 1 WP horse, switching her to my dressage tack, I simply started lunging her in a double jointed snaffle and eventually added side reins briefly to get her used to contact -- but, since I didn't plan on riding dressage (just trail) I didn't do much contact work at all, just enough to get her to where she didn't throw a fit with contact, and so she knew she wasn't being punished. I don't ride western, I just use my dressage tack for everything.

    Many are also use to a bosal as youngsters. I have switched to a hackamore and it's been a very good middle ground for us both.

    If you do want to go western, just use a snaffle or a short shanked grazing bit with a very low port and a leather curb to start. Simple and not harsh.

    Comment


    • #3
      My Arab really likes his western bit. I mostly foxhunt and ride endurance, but I do occasionally play around with western stuff. He wears this
      http://www.chicksaddlery.com/page/CDS/PROD/1040/238315 bit. He seems to really like it and he's fairly fussy about bits.

      Comment


      • #4
        Western horses don't get started under saddle neck reining in big curb bits from day 1.

        Put a snaffle on her and go from there. Once you have an idea how broke she is you can think about choosing an appropriate shanked bit down the line. Or not. Nothing says you can't trail ride in a snaffle her whole life.

        Comment


        • #5
          Another idea, as she is the head shy one is to try out a short shanked mechanical Hackamore, such as a Little S or an "English" hackamore. You have a lot more play in the headstall when bridling, you can even easily take it apart to put it on her as the hackamore just slips up over the nose, just like the noseband of a halter. You can hang the hackamore on a halter/bridle. Just open the halter crownpiece and "halter" her. Voila! she has a hackamore on and I will bet she will really prefer it to any bit. Most (not all) horses are extremely happy in a hackamore. As long as you don't feel the need to do a lot of arena bending work with her. I have been using a nice short shanked english hackamore for years, on several horses, and find I can also direct rein them reasonably well with it. I put a nice wide and flat english curb chain on it and it works close to the same as a short shanked pelham wioth nothing in the mouth. Really nice item for trail riding.
          http://www.hought.com/end.s.hackamore-engjump.html This one exactly except I put a curb chain on it.
          Bonnie S.

          Comment


          • #6
            Perhaps you may wish to try a side-pull type bit-less bridle? I purchased my "indian hackamore" for $17. My gelding that came to us only knowing how to neck rein loves it. Perhaps you could experiment using a ring snaffle with a bit hobble?

            I love the tack from Hought. A bit out of my budget, but so beautiful.
            PA Hi-Ly Visible [PA Hi-Noon (by Magnum Psyche) x Takara Padrona (by *Padron)]

            Proud member of the Snort and Blow Clique

            Comment


            • #7
              I will encourage you NOT to use a Tom Thumb style that s common to many western riders. They aren't snaffles, like many think they are - they don't work the same way direct pressure from a snaffle would because of the loose shanks that swivel all over.I think they work fine for dead calm, tolerant horses but I've seen my neighbor struggle with all of her sensitive horses because she insisted that was the "best" it, and all it did was make them evasive and confused by the flimsiness and inconsistent feel. When she switched to something stable, her horses all changed their behaviors. Just my observation.

              Comment


              • #8
                Not an expert but will share my experience. Most of my riding (~30 years?) has been done in either an english hack (lots of trail riding) or simple snaffles. While living in Nebraska, I did take some western lessons so that when riding borrowed horses, I would have an idea of what the horse was expecting.

                Anyhow, last summer, I bought a 10 year old "old lady" horse - very nice, calm guy, and I really didn't want to use the "Argentine Snaffle" he was being ridden in when I bought him. He had an extensive history of real trail-riding and trail-camping, all with Western training. He worked great off my seat and I was told he neck-reined. I tried a low-port kimberwick - he was ok in that, I tried my english hack - he was ok in that too. He was ok when he wanted to be, but as time went on, he tested more and more. He was never -bad- but was beginning to believe that he could carry his head anywhere he liked, he got hollow, he began going through my hands... By this time I found my old Argentine snaffle (bought long ago and abandoned) so I tried that on him. Wow - attitude adjustment. I don't have to get after him, he breaks at the poll on his own, I can ride with just the contact from a draped rein, he generally carries his head where it belongs and lifts his back into the saddle most of the time, and is getting better as he becomes fitter.

                We are doing much better these days... I would still like to go to my english hack as we do more real trails (and compete in either CTRs or LDs) but for now, working with the equipment he knows is giving us a good platform to work from.

                Comment


                • #9
                  I'll second the others that advised you to start her in a snaffle and ride her like you would any other green horse, since you don't know exactly where her training is.

                  Western horses are started in snaffles, just like English horses. Many Western trainers even use dressage as a base in which to start their young ones, teaching them to move off of seat and leg cues.

                  The end results are different, as most don't move past training level or 1st because of the end goals for the specific discipline, but seriously, people get way too hung up on the tack aspect. You ride every horse the same, no matter what saddle you have on them.

                  Tell with your seat.
                  Ask with your legs.
                  Whisper with your hands.

                  It's all the same basics. Saddle up and see where you're at, go from there.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    This...

                    Originally posted by gaitedincali View Post
                    ...Put a snaffle on her and go from there. Once you have an idea how broke she is you can think about choosing an appropriate shanked bit down the line. Or not. Nothing says you can't trail ride in a snaffle her whole life.
                    and this...

                    I will encourage you NOT to use a Tom Thumb style that s common to many western riders. They aren't snaffles, like many think they are - they don't work the same way direct pressure from a snaffle would because of the loose shanks that swivel all over.I think they work fine for dead calm, tolerant horses but I've seen my neighbor struggle with all of her sensitive horses because she insisted that was the "best" it, and all it did was make them evasive and confused by the flimsiness and inconsistent feel. When she switched to something stable, her horses all changed their behaviors. Just my observation.
                    Tom Thumbs are crap bits and IMO, shouldn't even be offered as a bit, period.
                    "If you think nobody cares about you, try missing a couple payments..."

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      My own background is dressage
                      Ride this horse like you would a dressage horse. IMO, there shouldn't be much difference between a well broke western mount and a dressage mount. I take lessons with an instructor with Dressage background, and her help with my gelding (western) has been instrumental in getting him going properly.
                      "If you think nobody cares about you, try missing a couple payments..."

                      Comment

                      • Original Poster

                        #12
                        Thanks everyone for your input! Some friends of my roommate's were over the other day-- and one just happens to be a professional western trainer. He asked to ride Glory to test her out (heck yeah!!) and she did surprisingly well with a simple one-ear headstall and snaffle bit. This is the first time I've ever even seen her work under saddle (b/c she was an auction rescue and I haven't ridden her since I got her) and she was so much better than expected that *I* even got on for a bit I didn't have trouble communicating with her using the snaffle/direct rein and she wasn't tossing her head or anything, so I think I'm going to go that route. She's perfectly responsive and cooperative so I don't see a need for anything stronger, or even different. I already have a fat ole eggbutt, and I ordered a couple others to try out (a loose ring and a copper D ring).

                        If anyone wants to see... here we are! http://s1331.photobucket.com/user/pl...c2d42.jpg.html
                        Last edited by Glory; May. 27, 2013, 09:20 AM. Reason: adding a pic

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          It sounds like you got a good girl . Great to hear!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            A few words of wisdom: Get a browband headstall with a throatlatch if you're going to stick with a snaffle, and put a curb strap on the rings so that if she gapes her mouth, you won't be pulling the rings through her mouth. Or you could just get an english snaffle bridle with a cavesson.

                            But trust me, you don't want to be using a one-ear headstall with no throatlatch and a snaffle bit. The one-ear headstalls are designed for a curb bit. You don't want to pull back on the snaffle and have the headstall lift off of the horse's poll and come off. Been there, done that.

                            Good luck, looks like you've got a good girl!

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Most western horses get started in a snaffle bit and understand both neck reining and direct reining. I would suggest using a snaffle. A plain ring snaffle or a full check are the lightest on the horse. If the horse is well trained, she should also be able to neck rein with just a snaffle and not a curb. Don't use a curb if you can help it. Because of the ear issue use a headstall with a brow band and troat latch. You can also but a loose curb strap on the snaffle to keep the bit from pulling through her mouth. I would defiantly try to transition her to bitless, it is wonderful for horses and makes them much healthier happier mounts.

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