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Harsh Bits

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  • Harsh Bits

    Now, I am certain I will be flamed for this, just because there are so many varying and strong views on this but...here goes!

    I do not understand why as soon as someone hears the words "bike chain bit" or any other "harsh" bit they begin to freak out. Is the bit not only as harsh as the hands it is in? This is what I have always been taught, and yet when people hear I am using this said "bike chain bit" to soften my ex-saddleseat horse's mouth and make him more controllable in a french link snaffle (which is our ultimate goal) I get very mixed reactions.

    I do not use this bit for every ride. It only serves as a reminder of how he should behave. When I use this bit I am essentially riding on the buckle. It sits in his mouth doing nothing, and why? Because he respects it. This does not mean I beat him up with it once before, it means he has hit it once (maybe when he lunged into the canter without me asking, or maybe when he threw his head in the air while prancing around doing little rears) and he knows it is in his best interest not to do those things again.

    This does not, by any means make it a shortcut to use this bit. It does not mean that I am getting quick results. Maybe if I were using it as a mean "weapon" I would have gotten what I wanted quickly, but it has taken me a long time to get him to this point. The point where I can reintroduce his snaffle and have him behave as a perfect angel. Sure he does not behave perfectly every ride in his snaffle, but then again either does any greenie (in this case green to his training as a hunter, non saddleseat, maniac).

    I'm sorry if I offended or irritated anyone but this is just my two cents.

    [This message was edited by 5mgn on Jan. 02, 2003 at 12:05 AM.]
  • Original Poster

    #2
    Now, I am certain I will be flamed for this, just because there are so many varying and strong views on this but...here goes!

    I do not understand why as soon as someone hears the words "bike chain bit" or any other "harsh" bit they begin to freak out. Is the bit not only as harsh as the hands it is in? This is what I have always been taught, and yet when people hear I am using this said "bike chain bit" to soften my ex-saddleseat horse's mouth and make him more controllable in a french link snaffle (which is our ultimate goal) I get very mixed reactions.

    I do not use this bit for every ride. It only serves as a reminder of how he should behave. When I use this bit I am essentially riding on the buckle. It sits in his mouth doing nothing, and why? Because he respects it. This does not mean I beat him up with it once before, it means he has hit it once (maybe when he lunged into the canter without me asking, or maybe when he threw his head in the air while prancing around doing little rears) and he knows it is in his best interest not to do those things again.

    This does not, by any means make it a shortcut to use this bit. It does not mean that I am getting quick results. Maybe if I were using it as a mean "weapon" I would have gotten what I wanted quickly, but it has taken me a long time to get him to this point. The point where I can reintroduce his snaffle and have him behave as a perfect angel. Sure he does not behave perfectly every ride in his snaffle, but then again either does any greenie (in this case green to his training as a hunter, non saddleseat, maniac).

    I'm sorry if I offended or irritated anyone but this is just my two cents.

    [This message was edited by 5mgn on Jan. 02, 2003 at 12:05 AM.]

    Comment


    • #3
      Unless you're doing western pleasure, you shouldn't be able to ride on the buckle, especially if you're planning on doing any jumping.

      Whether dressage or jumping, the horse needs to move off the leg and 'come into' the bit, not shy away from it because they're scared that they'll get zapped in the mouth. Your mistaken if you think he isn't scared of your bike chain bit. This has nothing to do with the bike chain bit being too harsh though. Harsh bits are appropriate for the right horse but NOT for a horse that's afraid to take the contact!

      Getting a horse to behave doesn't come from putting them in a harsh bit, it comes from relaxation, submission, impulsion, confidence, attention and respect of the rider.
      www.DaventryEquestrian.com
      Home of Oldenburg, Westphalian & RPSI approved pony stallion Goldhills Brandysnap
      Also home to Daventry Equine Appraisals & Equine Expert Witness www.EquineAppraisers.com

      Comment


      • #4
        A 'harsh' bit is only as harsh as the hands it is put in. Even a simple D-ring snaffle can turn into a 'harsh' bit with bad hands or an angry rider that takes their problems out on their horse. I do believe that these 'harsh' bits can be used to educate a horse further, especially those horses which have been ruined by poor riders with bad hands. (I have ridden some of those horses that literally have their 1200 lb body weight in their mouth... Which they eagerly pull away on your hands with! Now in such cases do you really think you can steer a horse or have a hope of stopping it any time soon (Without having to run into a solid wall) with a nice, lovely, 'non-harsh' bit? I don't think so.) I do not believe you should use a 'harsh bit' just for the sake of it. I think these bits should be used only in the hands of knowledgable riders that know how to use them without scaring their horse, and can further train and 'fix' 'bad mouthed' horses. I have used them with few problems and have been able to graduate several 'rock hard mouthed' horses to fat D-ring snaffles!

        That being said I do believe harsh bits should stay out of the mouths of most horses because a large portion of riders tend to unintentionally hit their horses in the mouth (which is what causes the pulling in the first place).

        Just my opinion.

        "The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when one asked me what I thought, and attended to my answer. " - Henry David Thoreau

        * * * "To wherever it may lead." - Orlando Bloom (Legolas)
        Quote for the week:

        \"Never under-estimate the power of stupid people in large numbers.\" - Shirt Slogan

        Comment


        • #5
          There are strong bits, and then there are harsh bits.

          The difference, to me, is that a strong bit, whether through leverage or whatever means, offers a rider more control - which can be necessary to ensure both the rider's and horse's safety. Nothing wrong with that. In the right hands, of course.

          Harsh bits, are those whose application is likely to cause damage to the horse if used in the manner they were designed.

          You could NOT convince me that any rider, no matter how talented, could soften a horse's mouth with a bike chain. The fact that you cannot pick up contact and have the horse go willingly forward into a sympathetic contact with this bit is proof of this, in my opinion.

          I choose my friends for their good looks, my acquaintances for their good characters, and my enemies for their intellects. A man cannot be too careful in the choice of his enemies.
          Oscar Wilde (1854–1900)
          \"It\'s a funny thing about life: If you refuse to accept anything but the best, you very often get it.\" ---W. Somerset Maugham

          Comment


          • #6
            I agree with Daventry.

            I would never use a bicycle chain to "retrain" a horse. It may be necessary, and even justifiable (I'm just leaving the possibility open), for CONTROL and SAFETY of the rider... but you will never teach him anything that way.

            In order to have a well trained, responsive horse,... he must TRUST the bit, SEEK it, and RELAX on it. You will never get this with a bicycle chain. If anything, you're teaching him to FEAR the bit, stay the heck away from it, and protect himself from it.

            Half of Riding is 30% mental ... no wonder there are so many bad riders

            Comment


            • #7
              Riding on the buckle IS used as an exercise and reward, at least in my barn.

              5mgn I think you are trying to use this thing to encourage the horse to stay backed off while snaffles are designed to be ridden on contact.
              Many Western Horses are taught this way as they need to work independent of any leg or rein pressure. The bit is only used to correct with a bump then the reins are dropped. That does not translate well to the Hunt Seat arena or jumping where constant contact is a must. In fact GM has a little thing he preaches about how many pounds of pressure you feel in your arms-don't remember the numbers but the point is there is always pressure there, softening does not mean no pressure on your hands it just means less.

              Now I learned Western many years back and have had a devil of a time learning that I am NOT PULLING it's just what contact feels like with a snaffle. I still have the urge to chuck the reins at times.

              I don't think there is anything wrong with what you are doing but if you are trying to soften a horse that jumps there are better ways then putting him on the buckle with a stronger bit. Several posters above are right to talk about using more leg and supporting with contact.

              That "bicycle chain" bit-we used to call them Mule Bits-long as its not really off a bike and has no points on it...little different then the multi part mouthpiece snaffles so popular today.

              You might try a couple of Dressage lessons to help with the whole leg to hand thing.

              Good luck and take care.

              The Horse World. 2 people, 3 opinions. That's the way it is.
              When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

              The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.

              Comment

              • Original Poster

                #8
                I'm sorry. Apparently I phrased it incorrectly when I said "I am essentially riding on the buckle". I meant that he was behaving like a gentleman without me constantly holding him back in the snaffle and needing ridiculous amounts of pressure. If you are going to tell me that constant heavy pressure from a snaffle will soften his mouth faster than little pressure at all from a bike chain then I have been seriously misinformed in my previous experiences with horses.

                If someone had asked me to put a bike chain bit in my horse's mouth 9 months ago I would have just died laughing. I wouldn't come near one of those things. When my horse and I were having serious problems and I was making excuses for why I wasn't ever riding I became very desperate. It was suggested that maybe I try a bike chain bit. After my trainer showed me in several lessons how to use it carefully, without hurting him to get the desired results I began to use it.

                Now, this is just a thought, I'm not trying to start an arguement, but maybe it is not as harsh as people like to think. I mean how many of you "I would never ever touch one of those things. EVER!" people have actually used one to know the effects of it. I mean my horse, oddly enough, is more willing to let me stick the bicycle chain bit into his mouth that his plain old french link snaffle. He isn't avoiding it either when it is in his mouth; he mouths it and chews it, etc. and I have always been told mouthing the bit was a good thing.

                Comment


                • #9
                  ok well thanks for adding more info here.

                  If you feel like you are holding up a building when you ride a different bit is called for.

                  Try switching around to keep him guessing and I would try gag for sure. That way you can keep the snaffle but get some help from a new pressure point-his poll. See if you can't borrow one and give it a try.

                  I have no problem with what you are using assuming there are no sharp points on it.

                  The Horse World. 2 people, 3 opinions. That's the way it is.
                  When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                  The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Daventry:

                    Whether dressage or jumping, the horse needs to move off the leg and 'come into' the bit, not shy away from it because they're scared that they'll get zapped in the mouth. Your mistaken if you think he isn't scared of your bike chain bit. This has nothing to do with the bike chain bit being too harsh though. Harsh bits are appropriate for the right horse but NOT for a horse that's afraid to take the contact!

                    Getting a horse to behave doesn't come from putting them in a harsh bit, it comes from relaxation, submission, impulsion, confidence, attention and respect of the rider.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

                    We found this to be completely true with my 'cement mouth' horse. After everything I've been through with him, in hindsight I feel that beening hard mouth means that they are actually very, very sensitive in the mouth. At first we tried a variety of harshish bits, and he would do everything in his power to evade the bit. Then we went to a thin snaffle, he accepts it, and I found that he responds being seat and leg driven. I also have to constantly roll the bit, and he is a happy responsive horse who in now 'happily on the bit'.

                    '...she speaks to the horse through her movements and her spirit. In the exchange, she regains her wonder, and her wonder replenishes her...' M.D. Midkiff She Flies Without Wings
                    ReRiders Rock *grins*

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      With bits, sometimes "less is more." True, there are some freight-train horses who can't be safely controlled with anything but a double-twisted wire, but they are rare...especially in today's world of specialty bits.

                      Your horse does not sound like a freight train. Therefore, I would throw away the bicycle chain and put a plain snaffle (though not a fat one) on him. My mare was an OTTB with a tough mouth, and I tried every bit under the sun, finally discovering the bit she went best in was a plain hunter dee.

                      It may be true that barely having to touch a harsh bit is better than having to constantly haul on a mild one. But more to the point, IMO, and more consistent with good training, is the idea of "Let's find the mildest bit this horse will safely go in."

                      So, instead of experimenting with harsh bits in your horse's mouth, I would be experimenting with milder bits. How does he like a Waterford? A loose-ring bradoon? A hunter dee? IMHO you should give these a try first, before you whip out the big guns.

                      ~Sara
                      *Charter member of the GM Fan Club*
                      *Member of the Dirt Divers 78th Airborne Unit, ATH Squadron*

                      Comment

                      • Original Poster

                        #12
                        I can deffinately see where all of you are coming from, as I was strongly against them myself less than a year ago. However, I now have difficulty believing they are as terrible as they are cut out to be, considering it has helped to get my horse going in a french link snaffle.

                        All last week I was riding him and he was controlled, on the bit, and in his french link snaffle. After several rides with him deciding he was no longer going to listen to the french link snaffle and he was going to hop around and burst into the canter again (he is too smart for his own good and he is always trying to find ways to get out of doing what I ask) I reintroduced his bike chain. I rode him in it last night because he was really fighting me. When we could canter both directions and walk around the ring four times in each direction without a fit from him I got off. Today I rode in the french link snaffle and he behaved perfectly.

                        I know you are going to tell me it is because he is afrain of the bike chain and such, but the french link snaffle is not a bike chain...who knows, maybe I have no idea about what I'm talking about...

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          The KK bits are really great for your type of horse..those bits work on a lot of different horses!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by 5mgn:

                            After several rides with him deciding he was no longer going to listen to the french link snaffle and he was going to hop around and burst into the canter again (he is too smart for his own good and he is always trying to find ways to get out of doing what I ask) <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

                            Just curious, but have you investigated any further to find out *why* he is trying to "get out of doing what [you] ask"? Is there a pain issue? A boredom issue? A turnout issue? A too much high energy feed issue? An "I don't like what I'm doing, I want a different career" issue?

                            Not knowing you, or your horse, this is only a guess, but it sounds like he might be trying to tell you something.

                            You really shouldn't have to put him in such a strong bit so often if his training is truly progressing. You said he went for a week before reverting to his old self, and I'm taking a guess here, but it sounds like this is a normal routine and the "effects" of the harsh bit only last so long, and whatever is bothering him is overcoming his dislike of the chain bit. Horses shouldn't need such strong tune ups that often. Please, look into some of the other possibilities with an open mind.

                            ~&lt;&gt;~ Remember, the Ark was built by a rank amateur; the Titanic was built by a team of experts~&lt;&gt;~

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Just to clarify with everyone

                              A bicycle chain bit (unless it is all sharp or covered with spikes) is not a harsh bit. The reason *most* horses won't pull on it is because all of its joints don't allow them to.

                              Any bit is harsh if it is used incorrectly. If anyone with me yanks a horses face off, they are kicked out of the ring and putting the horse in its stall right away. No matter what a horse does, there is no justifying ripping their face off.. it doesn't do the horse or the rider any good. Yanking a horses face off with ANY bit is uncalled for.

                              If you want all the mechanics of a bike chain bit and why they aren't harsh give Jay Shuttleworth a call.

                              ~~Kate~~

                              --------------------------
                              I would sooner fail than not be among the greatest
                              -- John Keats
                              --------------------------
                              I would sooner fail than not be among the greatest
                              -- John Keats

                              Comment

                              • Original Poster

                                #16
                                <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>You said he went for a week before reverting to his old self, and I'm taking a guess here, but it sounds like this is a normal routine and the "effects" of the harsh bit only last so long, and whatever is bothering him is overcoming his dislike of the chain bit. <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

                                If this were the case I would certainly agree with you; however, everytime we have to go back to the bike chain the effects on his work in the snaffle lasts a little longer.

                                And as for the "issue" we have done everything. Originally his hips and back were really bothering him because of all that time working in a saddleseat frame. After months and months of just working to make him comfortable by stretching his back and neck by doing various excercises and corrective shoeing he is finally comfortable. And let me tell you, he has changed so much because of it. I am sure that is part of the reason we are all of a sudden making so much progress in the snaffle.

                                I like to believe he is happy doing his job. He was uncomfortable doing saddleseat (I have no problems with the discipline, it just wasn't right for him) so we "rescued" him and started him doing something more suitable for his conformation/mindset. This thing was hunters. When I got him he had never seen a pole on the ground before but in no more than seven months he has taken to jumping so well that it has even been suggested we do jumpers instead and he clearly likes it. He really will jump anything you stick in front of him (2'9" and under but it can look like who knows what). And please, don't get worried, I would never ever jump him in the bike chain. God forbid he should trip or I don't release just on time.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  .......A bicycle chain bit (unless it is all sharp or covered with spikes) is not a harsh bit.......

                                  It's also known as a "mule bit." There was an exciting thread on this subject a few months ago.

                                  Comment

                                  • Original Poster

                                    #18
                                    And about what Hick Chick said, I have never ever ever drawn blood with it! My goodness. If he ever started bleeding with that bit (or any bit) I would switch it right away.

                                    I guess its a little bit like when you carry a crop on a horse that you know you don't ever have to use it on, they just know its there, so they behave and go forward. I don't have to use the bike chain, he knows it is there so he will behave. Same idea.

                                    Comment

                                    • Original Poster

                                      #19
                                      A mule bit has spiked edges. A bike chain bit does not.

                                      I could not find a picture of an actual bit from this angle, but here is a picture of a bike chain compared to a mule bit.
                                      Attached Files

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by 5mgn:
                                        A mule bit has spiked edges. A bike chain bit does not. <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
                                        Oh. OK. In our world we call 'em both mule bits. Thanks for the clarification from the H/J world.

                                        Comment

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