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What bit to encourage more contact?

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  • What bit to encourage more contact?

    I have a four-year-old who doesn't pick up the bit as much as I'd like. One can work her up to it, via long bends and changes of direction, but she'll back off on, say, up-transitions. Her teeth have been done, there's no head tossing, nothing really "wrong" per se, but I feel I have to "artificially" get her to maintain good contact, rather than feel her do it willingly. As a result, I don't feel I can make much progress with her flatwork yet--I can't ask her for stuff until she's reliably "in my hand," so to speak for fear that, until she gets it, my requests may back her off even further. Same o/f: I think once she is reaching into the bit more genuinely, her whole topline will improve. Right now, unless you send her forward--and keep after her as she's quite lazy--it's like she "sags" in the middle u/s and is always ready to be flat or hollow o/f unless I set up a grid that forces her to be otherwise.

    Any suggestions?
    Sportponies Unlimited
    Athletic Thoroughbred crosses for the highly motivated, smaller rider.

  • #2
    Whats she in now? I always thought mullen mouths were supposed to encourage the horse to take the bit. But Ive never tried one myself.


    • #3
      Yes, mullen mouths are great for horses like this, especially the happy mouth type that have a little give to them.


      • #4
        Have you tried taking her out on the trails with a buddy? Cantering together etc.? Jumping things in the way? That might help with the forward and into your hand.

        You never know what kind of obsessive compulsive crazy person you are until another person imitates your behaviour at a three-day. --Gry2Yng


        • #5
          When Tess had this problem, I tried her in a Happy Mouth mullen. It did get her to take a feel of the bit much better. I would switch back to a french link with a bean middle, for dressage and keep her in the mullen for cross country.

          That being said, now that we have a new dressage instructor and are able to work more forward from behind, she is not just "holding" her head in a false frame with her withers dropped and her hind legs trailing. We accomplished this by going back to basics and having Tess understand my leg questions better. I had to quit relying on my spurs and learn to use a dressage whip in each hand, too. Can you say, "un-coordinated"?
          When in Doubt, let your horse do the Thinking!


          • #6
            Try a nathe. I've had them work wonders for horses exactly like yours (and ones that had been over-bitted in the past and were scared of the bit). Although the happy mouth mullen appears similar, I really think the nathe is a superior bit for this situation.


            • #7

              Just want to say I second the opinion on the Nathe...worked wonders on a similar situation/horse. I do feel it is somewhat of a training bit and I eventually progressed (that particular horse) out of it.


              • #8
                Wynn--what's she in now?
                Is she getting behind the bit, or above it?

                How does she do on the longe with side reins?

                If behind the bit, I might try a mullen mouth Happy Mouth, maybe in a full cheek or boucher, to give her something really mild and stable.

                I'm actually thinking of backing my gelding down from a loose ring, french link Happy Mouth to something like the above to see if that gives him more confidence--he is 15 and came to me last year with serious contact issues and gets really anxious, poor guy.

                He's a 180 from my mare, the stiff one who likes to leeaaan....
                Custom and semi-custom washable wool felt saddle pads!


                • #9
                  The HS Duo is similar to the nathe, and has worked wonders for my TB (who was ridden in draw reins before I bought him and developed issues with contact). After 6 months in the Duo, I can ride him in a regular or french link and he will accept the contact.


                  • #10
                    I found that with my guy that was this way, the KK with a fixed ring made a huge difference and that often fussy horses or TBs particularly are much more willing to accept contact with an eggbutt or D-ring than with a loosering with the same mouthpiece
                    OTTBs rule, but spots are good too!


                    • #11
                      I have used a full-cheek rubber snaffle for horses that were reluctant to take up contact. I figured that since some strong horses I've worked with leaned on a full-cheek or D-ring, that maybe the reverse would be true where a light-mouthed horse would be encouraged to take more of a feel.

                      I know Nathe and Happy Mouth bits come in full-cheek and D-rings, so maybe that is another idea.
                      Leap, and the net will appear


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by fordtraktor View Post
                        The HS Duo is similar to the nathe, and has worked wonders for my TB (who was ridden in draw reins before I bought him and developed issues with contact). After 6 months in the Duo, I can ride him in a regular or french link and he will accept the contact.

                        I like the HS Duo as well. Very good bit for this purpose and has been a very used addition to my bit collection....but the Nathe is very similar and much cheaper so if one didn't want to cough up the $$ for the Duo...I'd recommend the Nathe.
                        ** Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. ~Winston Churchill? **


                        • #13
                          My mare did not want to take contact at all, I tried anything and everything. The mullen and nathe mouth bits made her pull and didn't give me the correct contact I wanted, and anything with a double joint backed her WAY off.

                          The magic bit for her was a single jointed loose-ring happy mouth. After going to a dentistry/bit fitting clinic now I know why!!

                          It's all about the bars/tongue/pallet and cheeks, there's no one magic bit for all.

                          Now I know to try single, double and non-jointed bits as well as metal, plastic and rubber .
                          On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Perfect Pony View Post
                            It's all about the bars/tongue/pallet and cheeks, there's no one magic bit for all.

                            Now I know to try single, double and non-jointed bits as well as metal, plastic and rubber .
                            And that's why I have my Magic Box o' Bits, something for every occasion!
                            Leap, and the net will appear


                            • #15
                              Every horse can be pretty different, but the two things I find that work best are a soft, lightweight plastic or rubber bit like a Nathe, happy mouth, or Duo, or something kind of heavy. Paco goes this way. He prefers a bit he has to "carry", and really like this rather heavy, copper eggbutt we have. That might be something to try with this horse. Find something that will feel pretty solid in her mouth that she feels like she CAN go into.


                              • Original Poster

                                Ahhhhhh! So THAT's what that bit is! A nathe!

                                When Cat came back from driving, she, too, wouldn't reach into the bit. Now that she's back on the leg, she's easy enough to push into it--or at least that's what I find--but would ya believe that the nathe is exactly what Karen put her in! I did a search and found a picture of it and went "ahhh!" NOW I get it!

                                The four-year-old is has been hacking and jumping in an old-fashioned, all-leather hackamore and schooling u/s in a single-jointed, happy mouth eggbutt. A while back, I put her back in the dog-bone bit we broke her in (I can't remember why we went to the eggbutt--y'know, thinking about it, it might simply have been laziness--stupid me--because the mare ridden before her wore it!)

                                Y'know, not only does asking the question yield great advice, it also makes one think more clearly. Hmmmm...

                                BTW, she was longed ONCE in sidereins--not at all tight. I think that was just before she had her teeth done, although her teeth hadn't been bad, according to the dentist. Still, I'll never forget how just the weight of those reins had her looking like a western pleasure horse. Ridden the next day--the very next day!--Meredith said the moment she picked up the reins, the filly dropped her head and backed off the bit like she was in the sidereins again. We never put her in any kind of gadget again after that! (In fact, that was when I put her in the hackamore.)

                                Anyway, I'm gettin' me my own nathe now. Clearly, it's something I shouldn't be without. Thanks!
                                Sportponies Unlimited
                                Athletic Thoroughbred crosses for the highly motivated, smaller rider.


                                • #17
                                  Sounds liek she has a low palate. I would go with either a french link or mullen mouth.


                                  • #18
                                    For others, this is the Nathe


                                    and this is the HS Duo



                                    I think that the Duo is more flexible than the Nathe...but both are good bits. I have used the Duo with D rings a lot on greenies...have gotten enough use from it for the cost. It isn't what most stay in long term but very good for helping teach them to reach for the bit and to be more accepting of it.
                                    ** Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. ~Winston Churchill? **


                                    • #19
                                      I have a loose ring Nathe for dressage and a 3-ring Nathe for XC. Fr even the advanced horse, I like the Nathe simply because it is lighter in the mouth and has a much more uniform flexibility to account the changing shape of my horse's mouth.



                                      • #20
                                        I was having all kinds of problems with my four year old last summer. Finally took a clinic with Brad Hall and he said she had a low palate and recommended a dog bone.

                                        I ended up with this after some searching around. It's a straight egg butt happy mouth. I also have a loose ring but she doesn't like it as well.


                                        It's much cheaper than the nathe bits.
                                        -Painted Wings

                                        Set youself apart from the crowd, ride a paint horse, you're sure to be spotted