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Which Bit to Use?

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  • Which Bit to Use?


    I have a 17.3 Hanoverian that I ride hunter/jumper that gets extremely forehand heavy and strong on the bit. Sometimes he lays on it and gets very lock-jawed and stiff to where I can't get him to supple up his neck or jaw and get him on the bit. Right now I ride him in a Happy mouth pelham. My trainer and I have tried a whole bunch of bits; really heavy-duty jumpers bits will get him up and off the bit, but with no stride and he gets very nervous and worried. When we have flatted him, we have tried using very light bits, like loose-rings and egg-butts, but he just gets heavier and unresponsive. I would really appreciate some feedback with possibly your experience with situations like this, and what I can do to get him better. I'm not asking for a complete solution that will get him lighter and off his forehand 100% of the time, but something that will help and assist him would be great. Thanks so much for your time and feedback.


  • #2
    Have you tried a gag bit with a soft mouth piece?

    I hate to go straight to a big to solve a problem though :/


    • #3

      I'd suggest a trainer who will teach you how to teach the horse how to work from behind. More basics, more foundation. Jumping should just be dressage over fences.

      Progressive schooling exercises and patterns (Training Scale!!) that engage him from behind will lift his forehand; you can use those same patterns and exercises later to remind him as you increase the challenge (ie, jumps). Your job - and that of your hands - is simply to softly guide the power your horse gives you. Otherwise, it's your job to teach him to carry himself (after developing the necessary pushing power and strength!) via progressive exercises that engage him naturally (of his own accord).

      ETA: I'm not saying don't try different bits and especially something that might better suit him and suit his mouth conformation (and definitely make sure teeth are utd and saddle fits)... definitely do. But I do not subscribe to the belief that increasing the bit is the answer. It usually leads to evasion, tension, and anxiety. Could changing the bit work - definitely possibly. But that is something only you can determine by taking a look in his mouth and trying various bits, OP. I suggest researching what different mouthpieces do, how they act on the horse's mouth. I second trying something ported - I love the Mylers and the ideas and studies behind the Myler bits.
      Last edited by naturalequus; Apr. 8, 2011, 07:01 PM.
      ....horses should be trained in such a way that they not only love their riders, but look forward to the time they are with them.
      ~ Xenophon, 350 B.C.


      • #4
        Sometimes I just like a good old cheltenham gag with both a direct rein and the gag rein. It takes a good set of hands, but you can ride mostly off the direct rein to reinforce good behavior with good hands/appropriate bit, and you can rely on the gag rein when the horse opts not to be a player (to remind him he should be a player )
        Your crazy is showing. You might want to tuck that back in.


        • #5
          One can say what one wants about better/more flatwork and "dressage over fences" - which is true! - but the fact of the matter is that there is a reason many Grand Prix horses do not go around in snaffles... and I highly doubt in most instances we can say it is because the flatwork is lacking.

          So I'm going to assume that the OP *has* been working on correct flatwork, and it's helping, but something is needed in the interim.

          Based on what you've said, and not knowing what you mean by "heavy duty jumper bits," I'm going to get on board with DMK's suggestion of a Cheltenham gag with two reins.
          If we have to nail on talent, it's not talent.
          Founder, Higher Standards Leather Care Addicts Anonymous


          • #6
            I have a big 17.3 hander myself who has been known to dive on the forehand and rush when hearing the footing hitting the jump or the arena wall.

            I ride him in a french link pelham which is great until that particular problem occurs.

            One thing we've been working on is training him that when he does this (on the flat, actually causing him to spook a bit) is that when I lift and give short pulls, he lifts his front end and comes back to me. It is taking some practice but is really starting to help.

            I know not what you were asking but I thought I'd share anyways.
            Stoneybrook Farm Afton TN


            • #7
              My mare had these same problems and she's an exGP horse and has evented through the top levels, so she has the dressage work on her. I've found that she goes best in mullen bits (mostly because she can't lock on one side or suck it up into her teeth). I rotate between 3 bits: Happy Mouth mullen eggbutt snaffle, Myler D-ring mulllen (without rein hooks) with a plain mouth and copper center, and a twisted Myler mullen D-Ring (without rein hooks) with a copper center. That, plus drilling her on lateral work, has gotten her quite supple in the mouth, neck, and body and taken away 99% of her nerves and problems.


              • #8
                Originally posted by pattnic View Post
                One can say what one wants about better/more flatwork and "dressage over fences" - which is true! - but the fact of the matter is that there is a reason many Grand Prix horses do not go around in snaffles... and I highly doubt in most instances we can say it is because the flatwork is lacking.
                Yes, contrary to popular internet belief, horses come with a certain degree of free will and occasionally figure out how to almost outsmart even the best of riders (of which I will lay no claim to being).

                FYI - you won your division in the hunter pace last Saturday. Congrats!
                Your crazy is showing. You might want to tuck that back in.


                • #9
                  Originally posted by DMK View Post
                  Yes, contrary to popular internet belief, horses come with a certain degree of free will and occasionally figure out how to almost outsmart even the best of riders (of which I will lay no claim to being).

                  Originally posted by DMK View Post
                  FYI - you won your division in the hunter pace last Saturday. Congrats!
                  Holy cow! Wow! I had no idea! Yay! and thanks!
                  If we have to nail on talent, it's not talent.
                  Founder, Higher Standards Leather Care Addicts Anonymous


                  • #10
                    yes, we left early as well but I asked Lee Ann to post the results online, so you can even see your name in print if you like. We were the 2nd place pairs in our Old Lady Bluebird division, but I believe we erred on the fast side by a few minutes.
                    Your crazy is showing. You might want to tuck that back in.


                    • #11
                      Play around with mouthpieces. Some go better in a mullen or a double-jointed bit or one with a curved mouthpiece.

                      Sometimes less bit and more caveson works better than more bit and a normal caveson. I realize you can't show hunters and eq in some of the "more caveson" options, but you might get a carry-over effect. I have a Kineton (which we jokingly refer to as the anti-spinning noseband) that I bring out for special occasions, like a T° dip, a few days off, the warm-up day at a show.

                      Sometimes a waterford mouthpiece works for horses that lean. Sometimes not. Bitting seems to be less of a science and more trial-and-error.
                      The Evil Chem Prof


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Peggy View Post
                        Sometimes a waterford mouthpiece works for horses that lean. Sometimes not. Bitting seems to be less of a science and more trial-and-error.
                        I fully agree with this. Everyone can give you 7,000 different types of bits/nosebands/devices that have worked on a horse of theirs that leans. Listen to all of them and then start trying things until you find what works for your particular horse. I recommend borrowing bits if you can until you figure out what your horse likes, otherwise it can get expensive. I have one I also change bits on every couple months so he doesn't figure them out. Good luck!
                        Windy Meadows Farm


                        • Original Poster

                          Thanks everyone for the responses. My trainer is extremely good about working with me about getting him light, instead of just going to a bigger bit, but there does come a point where him being heavy gets very old, very fast. I'll mention using a gag on him to her for schooling. We have tried using a flash noseband, and he's actually really good in it, but only when he's using it. The minute we take it off it's back to square one. We have tried a Mullen-mouth pelham before, and it worked the first time, but then never again. He'll get REALLY good one day, then the next day he'll be locked up again. I'll try your suggestions, thank you



                          • #14
                            I have a mare who can get really low and heavy on her forehand. I must have tried 20 bits on her (no exaggeration) and found that she really likes a fat snaffle gag bit. It allows me to be soft when she's soft but gives me the leverage I need when she gets heavy on her forehand. I've also found that lunging hre once or twice a week in side reins has helped her to not hang on the bit.


                            • #15
                              Here's what I would do, based on what my trainer and I did with my old 16.3, now retired OTTB freight train:

                              1) Make sure you're current on his teeth. Sometimes they lock up easier if they've got a couple of points that hook together when they clench their jaw.

                              2) It's really helpful if you have several bridles. I would start with a slow-twist gag with a direct rein and a gag rein. Ride off the direct (snaffle) rein until he tanks downward, then use the gag to lift him up, and immediately go back to the snaffle rein. If he opens his mouth to evade, the next day use the same set-up, but put your figure eight on, too. If he's good in the original, regular noseband, then the next day use the same set up (gag with both snaffle and direct reins). If he's afraid of the slow twist, then use a standard snaffle gag.

                              3) Eventually (maybe in just a couple of days, maybe a couple of weeks), he'll so infrequently grab and hang on you that you'll be able to flat him most of the time in just a slow twist or just a snaffle. The day he hangs on you again, the following day go back to the gag for a day or two.

                              There are some really good Myler bits out there that help for lifting up just one side, or unlocking one side of the jaw, too.

                              My other horse, who is not a hanger, but gets really quick and strong and airborne during the jumping, absolutely hates standard snaffles. We have three bridles: A special hinge bit that has two curved pieces that attach in the middle with a horizontal hinge (not a joint)---this has a regular noseband. We also have a slow-twist version of that same bit, with a regular noseband also. Then, for jumping I have a French-Link gag with direct and gag reins, and he wears a running martingale on the direct rein and a figure-eight noseband. Soft, yet with direction and brakes/lift.


                              • #16
                                I know some people may be against them, but for one mare I rode that can be a bit strong I showed her in a studded noseband. It worked great for her, I was able to show her in a HMMM D. It was complicated as she could be so strong yet if you put more bit all she did was curl behind it which gave me even less control. At home I pretty much always rode her in a figure eight and did tons of transitions. She really only got heavy while jumping so she spent a lot of time cantering corners trotting jumps, cantering in and trotting out. I also was very careful about letting her learn, and yes sometimes it was not pretty, but in the end she was very soft and went extremely well for me. I honestly can't really say why the studded noseband worked so well for her. I guess it had to be how she set her jaw or something. Using the figure eight at home and the other noseband at shows allowed me to be really light with her and she was always awesome in this setup.


                                • #17
                                  I have a heavy mare, not overly large but just a big girl that likes to get heavy.

                                  Previous years I've resorted to pelhams- I'm much smaller, however have realized that this has probably only furthered the heavyness.

                                  For at home schooling I try to keep to a full cheek with keepers with a copper mouth (plain snaffle). The odd time adding a slow twist.

                                  For the really heavy horses I have a western gag I picked up for 5$, http://images.auctionants.com/240408.jpg looks like this. I try to leave it for those heavy days- or days when I know they're going to be a pain. I do try to match this with a flash though- find it more effective.


                                  • #18
                                    try a ported bit. Contrary to popular belief ports are milder than jointed bits that work off the tongue. A port frees up the tongue and allows the horse to swallow. When you pick up the reins a port rotates down and off the sides of the tongue.

                                    I have seen many many horses relax in ported bits and get light and responsive.

                                    There are many ported bits on the market you can try, but to my knowledge Myler is the only company that rents english bits with PORTS. I think Sprenger rents but they do not have ported bits.

                                    I agree, training is great but there is no amount of training that will make a bit that is uncomfortable to a horse comfortable, just like no amount of training will make an uncomfortable saddle fit!

                                    They do have opinions and preferences!


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by gloriginger

                                      but only after I spent a few minutes trying to figure out what the heck the OP was suppose to do with the softball bat...
                                      LOL, I thought that was one of the regular posters who generally doesn't make any sense.
                                      Last edited by tidy rabbit; Apr. 8, 2011, 10:48 PM.
                                      Stoneybrook Farm Afton TN


                                      • #20
                                        I had a thoroughbred mare like this, I rode her in several different bits but nothing seemed to work. She would rather tuck her head in and run...

                                        I personally think you should maintain the pelham, preferably a pelham with a snaffle and if you do not already, look into one of those connectors that attach to the curb and bit while using one rein. I like the pelham for difficult horses because the bit remains soft on their tender mouth but the curb gives a quick "hello... listen to me"...

                                        Then work on a ton of gymnastics, popcorn jumps as we call them or bounces... 3 or 4 set in a row, low x's at first and you can gradually increase the height as your horse get's a bit better.
                                        These jumps really helped with my mare, took a few times plowing through but it helped greatly!

                                        Throw in coming to a halt after a fence and if your horse won't stop, use a wall or a fence.

                                        Use roll backs or tight turns/circles, you need to get his attention and make him sit on his hindend, as difficult as it may be.

                                        Harsher bits in my opinion make things worse, turns riding into unpleasant experience for the horse and rather than them listening to your aids they fight you instead.

                                        It is not going to be an easy process but it will come!