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What bit do you endurance ride in?

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  • What bit do you endurance ride in?

    I have a youngster who is 'enthusiastic' on endurance rides, obviously I want to maintain some resemblence of control out there. I trail ride him in his baucher and he's fine but the trouble on an endurance ride is he can see the other horse in front and wants to catch them.

    I am looking at using a Mikmar combination bit to help spread the pressure (it uses poll, nose and mouth).

    What do you all use and why?
    I have horse to sell to you. Horse good for riding. Can pull cart. Horse good size. Eats carrots and apples. Likes attention. Move head to music. No like opera! You like you buy.

  • #2
    I ride in a hackamore. But I used a Mikmar combo the second year of distance competition. My mare was very excitable and sometimes ignored me in the whirl of competition plus had a tendency to spook and bolt. I liked the Mikmar but it is a very "talkative" bit combo and really needs a light hand.

    I only used the Mikmar for one year of conditioning and competition. I really wanted the mare to have an easier time to eat and drink and a bit didn't allow that.

    Frankly, it took lots of miles, esp riding w/calm, experienced horses and basic dressage lessons for both of us to move up from the Mikmar. My hackamore now has long shanks but I ride in a loose rein prefering to use my seat and legs and by the second or third loop I take it off and ride in halter and reins. We're going to try the S hack this fall for ease of grazing and drinking. I'm more of a minimalist at heart. And she's still excitable but far more manageable.


    • #3
      Good question! The answer for us is, it depends.

      Taz goes in a french link snaffle 90% of the time at home. It is what he does dressage in and trains in mostly now that I found out that he likes it. I did his first few distance rides last year in a mullen mouth rubber coated snaffle, as that is what he came to me with, and I assumed that he wouldn't tolerate anything more than that.

      Ha! The groom that packed his stuff at the trainer's sent the wrong bridle with him. Not her fault, as the trainer didn't make it clear what she was to send, but nonetheless, I found out that he pulled a lot in that bit because it wasn't at all the right bit for him!

      So, I bought a tom thumb french link snaffle pelham for Sam to try, and Taz came back from a brief layup right as I bought it and I thought "hey, why not try this?!"

      Well, for a ride, it is close to perfect. For the first loop, I use the bottom rings -- the shanks are short, but I need a little "whoa" -- for the second loop, I can usually go to the snaffle ring or to his french link snaffle bridle.

      My training partner rides in an s-hack most of the time and always on the second loop, and I like it, but I'm afraid Taz's reaction would be at me.

      The only time I've been able to use his sidepull on his endurance bridle is on an LD that had 85% of the ride totally under water. He so didn't care then that it was all I needed.

      Maybe this year at some point we can try a hack and see how it goes? Ok, maybe not. I do want to live to see the end of the season . . .

      I have Higher Standards ...do you? Find us on FB!
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      • #4
        I'm going to try a curb bit that has a snaffle setting for the reins. I'll ride in double reins, using the snaffle rein when my horse listens well, but I'll have the shanked curb for those times he gets too strong. He's used to a snaffle or a hackamore, but when he's fit and at a competition, he's simply too strong and too fast (OTTB) for me to feel very safe. I'll use it for lots of trail rides before trying it in a competion. We won't be trying to compete again until spring, but we can go out on other group rides and see how he does.

        My plan is to start out with the curb bit and later switch to a French snaffle when he is easier to control. If all goes well, we can end the ride using a side pull. Don't know how wise this is, but that's what I'd like to do. As he gains experience, I might try starting in a snaffle again. There are few things I find as scary as being on an OTTB who is trying to achieve race track speeds in an open meadow with tall grass, and all the horse can think about is passing every horse he sees. That was NOT fun!
        "Passion without knowledge is a runaway horse."


        • #5
          I use a mullen mouth rubber Tom Thumb pelham - four reins are pretty natural for me to carry and I can throw away the curb in essence after a few miles but can ask for some collection when I need it. I ride with a halter beneath the bridle (no cavesson) and a leadrope around the neck and can change to just the halter with the leadrope for the last few miles if that seems wise.

          A note of caution - we have learned from experience that the solution is NOT to simply go to a stronger bit. Training is everything with your young horse. We had a similar very enthusiastic young horse who as he got fitter got harder to handle. We switched to a harsher bit but he was a very strong horse and would just run through the bit. Pretty frightening if he took you under something in his bolt. Also, although I didn't have it in my bag of tricks when I probably needed it most, develop a good one-rein stop just in case.

          Also I have been told by a Tevis Cup winner that the best bit for endurance is the kimberwicke. I am still too much of an English purist to use one but that's what she said.


          • #6
            No bits here either. I ride my Arab mare in a rope halter I really like bitless as it makes it so easy for the horse to eat or drink. The reason why there are so many choices out there is because a single item doesn't work on every horse. You have to experiment and find what suits you and your horse the best.


            • #7
              Originally posted by Auventera Two
              he 3rd option is an Argentine snaffle with swept back bars.
              If it has shanks (you meant "swept back shanks" not "bars", yes?), it by definition is not a snaffle. It's a broken mouth curb. </petpeeve>

              I would definitely be scared of those Mikmars. Those look like some barbarbic torture device.
              Hands, curb strap tightness etc. all being equal, the solid mouth Mikmars are going to be less severe than that broken-mouth curb you use.


              • #8
                GTD, I hadn't even considered riding my boy in a gag bit. I should have, since I know plenty of race horses are ridden in gags. One of my trimming clients (and fellow trail rider) uses a gag all the time. There is something about it that I don't like, but maybe that is an old bias rather than having anything to do with the actual bit. I'll rethink it.

                What made me try the curb with two rein settings is a Linda Tellington Jones book. She had some interesting things to say about it, so I thought I'd try it.

                I agree about training being paramount. But there are times when training is overridden by instinct, and the horse takes off at dangerous speeds. In my case, it happened because my riding companion's horse kept blowing into a full gallop, my boy would hear the hoof beats and take off. She could get her horse under control quickly (but somehow not stop him from surging into a full gallop), but once my guy was trying to reach full speed, it's like I wasn't even there. I did manage to get him stopped both times it happened on the ride, but I'm lucky that there were no holes or that another rider didn't inadvertantly cross our paths. There would have been a wreck for sure, I had so little control.

                Butch and I hand-gallop @ 20mph quite a bit during training rides, and he is always so easy to bring back. So I thought we were fine for the ride. Ha! I had failed to anticipate that other horses would surge into a gallop just off his butt and stimulate his urge to race. I HATE being run away with!
                "Passion without knowledge is a runaway horse."


                • #9
                  Originally posted by matryoshka View Post
                  Butch and I hand-gallop @ 20mph quite a bit during training rides,
                  If you don't mind my asking, what tool do you use to determine your speed? Just that you know the length of where you ride and the time it takes? Or is there something that will tell you what speed?

                  Arab Dressage Riders Clique


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Lune du Cheval View Post
                    If you don't mind my asking, what tool do you use to determine your speed? Just that you know the length of where you ride and the time it takes? Or is there something that will tell you what speed?

                    I use a Garmin 205 which gives me distance, time and speed including speed averages. Great little training tool.


                    • #11
                      Like many endurance riders, I prefer no bit in the mouth. I've been using hackamores for some years now. My favorite is a very short shanked "english" hackamore, with a neoprene padded nose piece and a wide, heavy english curb chain. The curb chain with the hooks can be quickly adjusted but more importently it has never rubbed my horses while other types of curb chain and straps have either rubbed thinned skinned energetic horses or were so mild that they just leaned on them and pulled.

                      Personally, I think a lot of horses are happier out on the trail with non-jointed bits. A mullen mouth kimberwick or pelham or one of the Myler bit mouths that have rotating joints that are not the same as the typical snaffle joint. I really, really really don't like snaffle jointed mouth pieces on a shanked curb bit. Sorry, I know some of you are using this type of bit but rein pressure on shanks really skews a jointed mouth piece in the horses mouth.

                      When I was a riding instructor I found most of the lesson horses were happier and less fussy with a simple mouth piece and those that had been strong and pulling in a snaffle were able to relax and settle in a simple kimberwick. This of course had a great deal to do with the inexperience of the learning riders and their unedjucated hands. But, even for more experienced riders, once on the trail and in competition, finesse of hands often declines, horses get excited, heads are tossing, sponges are being flung at puddles and reins are carried in a single hand for miles. Keeping it simple with a mild curb bit or hackamore (my horse's favorite) or a halter/sidepull for the well behaved, can really allow the horse and rider to relax.

                      For a puller that leans down hard into a bit a gag bit is handy as a curb bit lowers a horse's head carriage. But if you have a high headed horse who is tossing his head way up and not looking at the ground (trip hazard) then a curb bit or hackamore will lower that head, tuck the chin a bit and bring eye focus down to the trail.



                      • #12
                        we just trail ride, not "endurance" per say, but we use one of those flexible plastic mullen-mouth happy mouth bits with the three rings and two reins-- one set of reins on the snaffle ring, one set on the bottom ring. So if he gets a bit feisty you can use the leverage of the bottom ring; otherwise you have a nice soft snaffle bit to ride off of.


                        • #13
                          Depends on the horse and the day! I have used a regular o-ring snaffle, kimberwick and an S-hack.

                          If I use a bit - I put it on a halter bridle combo so the bit can be removed immediatly after I loosen the girth at a check point.


                          • #14
                            I don't ride endurance but hope to someday. We mostly trail ride. I do, however, have an old schoolie QH who's been there, done that and would tend to ignore you on a spirited trail ride with other horses. I started using a custom Myler Level 1 bit that I came across in a random conversation with a local trainer. You have to order it with the specific mouthpiece and shanks.

                            It has 5" shanks for a bit more control but has a hinged barrel mouthpiece (3 pieces). The hinge allows the bit to move so that you can isolate a shoulder or side without the bit engaging the other side. Plus the mouthpiece has copper inlay for salivation. My QH has become so much more responsive with this bit. Regular snaffles didn't have enough stopping power and the Tom Thumb that was recommended when I bought him caused such stiffness.

                            This is the mouthpiece:

                            These are the cheekpieces that I have:
                            To many, the words love, hope and dreams are synonymous with horses. ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes



                            • #15
                              No bit here...

                              I rode my gaited morgan in a french link snaffle when I first got her (the owner like to ride in bits). As a way to "signal" to her when I wanted her to gait and not gait (arena work for english disciplines), I switched her over to "bitless" out on the trail. I rode her in a sidepull for a few years until she got into shape but with her improved fitness emerged a much increased "competitive spirit" and she became a bit difficult to "contain" during endurance races (would yank to loosen the reins in the sidepull when impatient) so I switched her to a Hought endurance s-hackamore and she works great in that. I have no issues controlling her in it. I have also ridden several horses (and several friends have borrowed mine) in them, and highly recommend them, they are awesome!!


                              • #16
                                Just a trail rider too

                                My daughter not only trail rides her mare in a "Little S Hackmore" she barrel races her in it as well. No problem stopping. Her gelding will ride in either, she races him in the hack, when I trail ride him I usually use a reining bit that he responds well too.

                                My mare rides in a very tiny aluminum curb with short swept back shanks. I think it was made specially for a pony, and its the only bit I have that fits her small mouth. We are schooling her in a little S, and she will soon be switched over to trail riding her in that as well.

                                That said, I agree that sometimes there are situations that you need more control. For years I rode a huge appy that had a mouth like iron from years at Claremont. He was a great horse, but tended to 'snatch and grab' if given the opportunity. He rode in a Pelham, with me switching from one rein to another depending on his 'listening abilities' that day He could also be ridden in a hackmore, if just riding with his pasture buddies, but add a different horse, and his competative instincts kicked in I had many an interesting ride on that horse After one wild gallop up a mountain dodging bushes, rocks and tree limbs to beat an approaching t-storm, I was offered quite a bit of money for him. No way, he looked out for his rider that day!
                                Facta non verba


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by prudence View Post
                                  Also I have been told by a Tevis Cup winner that the best bit for endurance is the kimberwicke. I am still too much of an English purist to use one but that's what she said.
                                  I have been riding my horse for 2 1/2 years, all that time in a kimberwick. He is a very strong horse. The first year I got him he would gallop away with me when I asked him to canter. Finally he only canters when I ask him to canter. I think that came from putting long miles on him. The Kimberwick works ok. I'm sure there is something better that could work better.

                                  Last week my bridle broke so my friend said why don't I try a sidepull. Sure, why the heck not. He did pretty well in it, even though we were with 5 other horses. He did so well with it I rode him the next time and it was awfull. My shoulders hurt so much and I was afraid he was going to run away with me. He definetly took advantage of "the situation" and I don't think I will ride him in that again.
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                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by Lune du Cheval View Post
                                    If you don't mind my asking, what tool do you use to determine your speed? Just that you know the length of where you ride and the time it takes? Or is there something that will tell you what speed?

                                    I've got a GPS I can wear on my wrist (a Garmin). It keeps track of mileage, elevation, average speed, and top speed. I can check my speed any time I want. It's fun. I wish I had it on me the day Butch ran away with me so I'd know what speed he reached, but somehow, it felt like cheating to wear it, so I left it at camp. I dont' intend to go that fast again.
                                    "Passion without knowledge is a runaway horse."


                                    • #19
                                      Late to this ...

                                      ... but all of mine get schooled in dressage in snaffle bits, but for endurance I've got two who wear a simple two-rope sidepull hackamore (one is my young horse, who is rateable and a joy to ride in front, behind, wherever at whatever speed, and trust me, he is hothothot by nature).

                                      The other two wear a Little S hackamore, which has just a little bit more leverage but stays nicely out of the way for eating, drinking, leg rubbing, etc.

                                      I'm sure this is a tangent, and I'm a bit of an anal-retentive type re: training, but we rarely, if ever, open our horses up on trail and "race." Especially with the horses who are not seriously seasoned to going at a sane pace. In fact, I think both of the veteran horses were in their third season of fifties before they ever saw a good galloping fartlek on trail. The young one is in his second season of fifties, and nope, he's not done that. A canter from time to time, but well in hand.

                                      We have plenty of friends with horses that cannot safely and pleasantly go for a plain ol' walking trail ride. They go out and "condition" when they ride and so all their horses know is to go and go fast.

                                      Ours do walking trail rides on the buckle because we often do just exactly that. If one of ours thinks he needs to be in front in order to be pleasant, he's guaranteed to spend lots of quality time 2nd or 3rd in a group.

                                      I'm sure this is something you already know, so I hope it didn't sound preachy, but our sport is so much more about strategy and training and a cooperative partnership than it is about racing a horse who is anywhere near the edge of control. IM often-in-the-middle-of-the-pack E.


                                      • Original Poster

                                        So it seems that many of you are having success with using the Little S Hackamore on more 'enthusiatic' horse, is that right?

                                        And thanks for all the info.

                                        Patti - My guy is pretty sane out on a normal trail ride and is learning to go quietly behind (sane as in we can happily walk on the buckle) The trouble is he is naturally a 'leader' type, so while on our regular trail rides this is being worked on at the endurance ride he sees a horse ahead and gets a little excited. The idea on our first ride was to go sloooow and teach him that a ride doesn't = fast. Hmmm lets just say didn't work. I am hoping by doing more and more rides he gets over this which I'm sure he will as he started his first show season this year with the same excitement and is now for the most part an 'old pro'

                                        So while I am definately working on the too forward issue at the rides I want a bit to help keep him sane and more importantly happy in the mouth until he calms down.

                                        (he currently trail rides in a french link)
                                        I have horse to sell to you. Horse good for riding. Can pull cart. Horse good size. Eats carrots and apples. Likes attention. Move head to music. No like opera! You like you buy.