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Bit question (not another!) - slightly too soft or slightly too heavy?

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  • Bit question (not another!) - slightly too soft or slightly too heavy?

    My fancy schmancy new-to-me Nathe came in the mail last week, and I feel confident asking this question now that we've put in a few rides in it. Horsie is a bit out of shape, so I'm taking that into consideration as well.

    Prior to his 2.5 month bout of bedrest for an abscess, he was going relatively* happily in a french link D and had made some serious progress in the weeks leading up to time off. Good connection, really lifting the back and stepping through from behind UP into the bridle, scoring low 70's at a show about a month before the time off began.

    Fast foward to now, and his first dozen or so rides being back into work, still in the french link D. He's wanting to hide behind the bit in that all too common fake arched neck posture, with corresponding dropped back, trailing hind leg, and heavy shoulder. He's weak, so I'm not wanting to over do it and ask for something he can't sustain, but at the same time I just couldn't seem to get him up in front of the leg and into a solid connection, even at the walk. So I came across a Nathe being sold second hand for a good price(never used, only tried on) and jumped on it.

    In the Nathe, he's much more willing to take and keep the connection - still the occasional unsteady wobble or bulge, but I feel like I can steady him easily and he doesn't seem so disrupted by half halts with this bit. And he's not hiding behind it or trying to fake me out. He is, however, a bit heavier in it and I am having some trouble here and there with asking him to really lift his shoulder and not putz around on the forehand at the trot. I understand some of this is probably a strength issue.

    So, I ask - what is better? Working in the french link D to get him back in front of the leg and accepting contact, or staying in the Nathe, where he readily accepts the contact but is slightly heavier, and working to lighten the forehand? I'm trending towards the Nathe, but would appreciate input for either side.

  • #2
    I'd stay in the Nathe unless he's really leaning on you. You want to encourage the horse to carry the bit, take a solid contact with you...all of which you get from a straight rubber bar bit. But, as you noticed, it also comes with a bit of leaning sometimes. Be sure to use lots of leg; if the horse is carrying himself from behind, he won't be leaning.

    However...I don't usually stay in the Nathe forever. A lot of horses will get heavy in it, but by then they are happy to seek contact in a regular jointed bit, and have learned not to hide or curl. Have you tried other bits rather than a french link D? My 5 y/o OTTB prefers single joints (or nathe) to double-jointed...I used to ride everything in a french link or KK, but he is clearly an exception. I used a nathe on him for quite a while to get him into the bit, and now often use a single joint happy mouth or plain eggbutt when I need a bit more lightness/brakes.
    “A clever person solves a problem. A wise person avoids it.”
    ? Albert Einstein



    • #3
      I rather them take the bit a little bit than hide from it, which is why I often like things like Nathes. They are my go to bit for a horse that wants to curl or evade by sucking away from the bit. Sometimes I feel like the horse likes to "carry" it more, and others just appreciate the feel and will go into it more than a jointed or metal bit.

      Toby likes his Nathe. At first he could be more into it than his little Happy Mouth, BUT, for him, he didn't over react in it if I REALLY set him back with a big half halt or halt. Now, he can be quite light in it (when he's got his game face on). He respects it, but doesn't find it too harsh in his stupidly sensitive mouth (he's a hard horse to bit because he's kind of fragile and over reactive, but he's game and wants to take you on sometimes).

      I bet as your guy gets stronger and more broke, he'll lighten up in it.

      I do find a lot of TBs, especially smaller ones, do not like double jointed bits. French links aren't always the softest bits for every horse.


      • #4
        Use the nanthe more then the other but I would switch them around to keep him guessing.

        Use the same thing all the time and they come up with new ways to evade. Don't be afraid to take ahold of him a little and add more leg when he gets heavy in the nanthe. And don't be afraid to lift your hand up, add leg and give him a little nip/bump/snatch in either bit if he gets heavy or wants to curl up behind it-lift and quick nip gets them off your hand and they can't lean against it or drop behind it because it's quick and then gone. Most of them figure that one out pretty fast.

        Soft is great but it can turn too passive and they'll take advantage.

        ETA I had one that was great at dropping behind and sort of curling up behind anything you put in it's mouth. Ended up adding a dressage whip for a quick flip on the butt along with that leg, raised hand and little nip-that worked better then anything else. Horse hated the smack on it's butt but it got them uncurled and only took a few times to just raise the hand and leg to get the job done.
        When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

        The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


        • Original Poster

          Originally posted by EventerAJ View Post
          Have you tried other bits rather than a french link D? My 5 y/o OTTB prefers single joints (or nathe) to double-jointed...I used to ride everything in a french link or KK, but he is clearly an exception. I used a nathe on him for quite a while to get him into the bit, and now often use a single joint happy mouth or plain eggbutt when I need a bit more lightness/brakes.
          Dear me, yes. He prefers something very still - generally either a full cheek or D cheek - which is why I thought he might like the nathe, being so soft and flexible but relatively steady (despite the loose ring cheek). Most of my arsenal is loose ring, he went in a KK for a while but would never settle in it. Same with the Myler, a happy mouth (both single jointed and mullen), and a couple other snaffles (there are only so many!).

          YB, the part about being able to give a BIG half halt without the horse overreacting is this guy, exactly. And when he gets heavy, I am doing as is suggested, trying to push him forward with a slightly raised hand. He's out of shape, though, and that nice uphill topline I had built melted back into the hunter-y, flat (and strung out) topline he naturally wants to have, so it's an uphill (har har) battle.