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Mikmar Bits/Strong pony/Stiff neck

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  • Mikmar Bits/Strong pony/Stiff neck

    Today while I was hacking my pony another rider asked if I had ever tried my pony in a mikmar bit. I told her that I have not and asked her more about it. She said her old mare was a lot like what my pony looked like to ride and the bit had helped her a lot. Since our conversation was less then five minutes, what I heard about the bit was that it had a curb chain and put some pressure at the poll. She offered to let me to borrow it to try it out and I am considering taking her up on that offer.

    My pony is a 14.1hh arabian/welsh mare. She is currently going in a D-ring double jointed happy mouth. She has recently come back from a few weeks off because she ran into the electric fence (whole different story. Although, she did end up turning around and jumping over the 4'9 fence!). She is usually very strong when I hack her. She grabs on to the bit and runs (especially after jumps) and is very stiff in her neck.

    For the past year I was riding with a trainer who loved riding all of her horses in draw reins (I wish I had known this before deciding to switch). Of course, draw reins seemed to fix the problem but didn't. Now that I have stopped riding with this trainer my pony has gone back to running and avoiding bending.

    My post has sort of evolved into other problems I've had with her. But to the original question: Does anyone have experience with Mikmar Bits or opinions on whether it would help my pony or not. Any other suggestions on what may or may not help my pony would also be appreciated. I am currently not riding with a trainer and any advice helps.
    Last edited by preciouspony; Aug. 9, 2009, 01:38 PM.

  • #2
    Mikmar Bits should only be used by a very educated hand


    • #3
      Sometimes when a horse goes with its head braced up all the time, it becomes a vicious circle with the rider. The rider's hands might be a little too heavy or not following, so the horse puts the head up, and then it's choppy and hard to ride with a following hand, so it sort of enforces the bad habit.

      As I understand it, because the Mikmar is quite severe (a sort of heavy curb, and some models have a cable that puts pressure on the nose) it can force the horse's head down, but it is really no different in that sense than using draw reins - it allows the rider to force the horse into more of a frame, but doesn't solve the problem of the horse not understanding how to carry itself softly or the rider not understanding how to stay out of the mouth and use the half halt and bend correctly.

      Ideally you could find a trainer who could help you and your horse both learn how to work through the problem with exercises, rather than equipment?


      • #4
        Just like using draw reins every day, a contraption that complex will simply hide your real problem, which is a TRAINING issue. I think the Mikmars do have their place -- in extremely educated hands that only puts them on a horse for say three rides to show them something when all other avenues are exhausted. But other than that -- if I see that much crap on a horse's face, that just says to me that the rider is taking a lazy way out.
        Life doesn't have perfect footing.

        Bloggily entertain yourself with our adventures (and disasters):
        We Are Flying Solo


        • #5
          Perhaps some lessons with a good dressage trainer would help. Does not sound like a bit issue, but more of a suppleness/bending issue.
          "To do something that you feel in your heart that's great, you need to make a lot of mistakes. Anything that is successful is a series of mistakes." -B.J. Armstrong


          • #6
            I wonder how your pony would do with a Waterford bit. It's sort of weird to look at since it's not a solid mouthpiece, but it's not an aggressive bit. It is easy to use, and is great for horses and ponies that grab the bit. I'm just wondering. You might ask around and try it. Sounds to me like you might have to experiment to get what you want.--Remember that a lot of people think they have THE answer, but sometimes it really is trial and error.


            • #7
              If you have the opportunity, why not try it? Like the others have said, you have to be good with your hands. I've seen the Mikmar bits help a number of horses. The combination bit has a nose rope and a curb strap. When you activate the bit, the first thing the horse feels is pressure on the nose rope. My horse is sensitive, so I wrap the nose rope with vet wrap. The bit seems to help the horses understand how to carry themselves instead of you trying to carry them with your hands. IME, it takes only a light touch to get the effect you want, and to me this seems much better than hauling on their mouths to get a response.

              One horse in our barn used to bolt with his young teenage rider. With the Mikmar, he just said, "Yes, Maam". And no, she wasn't harsh with the bit.

              My trainer uses my combination bit regularly as a training aid for his very large and long horse. It helps the horse learn how to frame up and manage his very long body.

              Good luck to you. The Mikmar is not a magic bit or the perfect choice for every horse. But why not give it a try to see if it will help in your case.


              • #8
                Certainly you should try it. I tried both the combo bit and the one with just the mouthpiece on one of my horses and the horse hated it! If you can borrow it, why not? They are expensive to buy and they don't always have that "magic bullet" effect that the advertising material would have you believe .

                Lots of the people who jump in and talk about the Mikmar bits have never used one, so take the discussion here with a grain of salt.

                The severity of the Mikmar bit depends on which one you are using. The mouthpiece per se looks like an instrument of torture but it's very light weight and it is a pretty mild mouthpiece. My horse objected strongly to the nose rope in the combo bit. I put sheepskin over it, but even then he spent a lot of time fussing over it. In the end, he just didn't like the mouthpiece. I was looking for a bit that would work with a horse that had a low palate and a thick tongue and I hoped that would work.

                The Mikmar does not act like draw reins. I don't know why anyone would think that. The combo bit acts as a combination between a hackamore and a bit. The pressure is across the nose. Some horses respond very well to that and others don't.

                As for the Waterford, I tried that too. My horse found that way too strong and would curl up behind it. It is a pretty strong bit but it does have the advantage of draping in a horse's mouth which a lot of horses like.

                However, you can probably accomplish what you want without going to a stronger bit. You need some remedial training.

                Honestly, what I'd try with a horse that wasn't listening to me, was grabbing the bit and running after fences is a one rein stop. I have a trainer who regularly uses that as a "time out" and as a way to get a horse's attention. You don't need to be harsh or rough, but you do need to be firm. It doesn't take a horse too long to realize that it's no fun to bolt. As an added benefit, this will help with neck flexibility, too!

                Hint: If you're not sure how to do a one rein stop, start by doing it at the walk and trot. Make sure your horse is completely stopped and that he has accepted the stop before releasing.

                I always try training before bitting up as long as you are safe.

                Have you tried a plain old pelham? If you ride with two reins (not with a connector) you can ride off of the snaffle rein when the horse is behaving and just use the curb when you need a bit more.
                Equine Ink - My soapbox for equestrian writings & reviews.
                EquestrianHow2 - Operating instructions for your horse.


                • #9
                  Ride the neck- to a limp noodle

                  If you ride the neck to a limp noodle feel you will solve a lot of problems.
                  Bend beyond bend back to neutral. SUPPLE SUPPLE --


                  • #10
                    Mikmars can be very severe if used in the wrong hands, and it kind of sounds like that's what you're looking for? Mikmars aren't meant to be a huge bit that gives you a lot of brakes. To me, the mikmar does not seem to be the best thing to use for your pony, but I guess you won't know until you try. Not sure if anyone else said this, but I'd definately say don't try it without your trainer, so she can tell you how to handle the bit with your pony. This might be just me, but I don't usually take suggestions from peers without talking to my trainer first.


                    • #11
                      Ok I just read that you don't have a trainer right now, so I say dont try it! Since you don't know how to use it and don't have any experience with it, you may end up doing more harm than good.


                      • #12
                        From the Mikmar Website, the goals of the bit are to provide:

                        • An all-around bit for everyday use on trail and in arena.
                        • Effective results without abuse.
                        • A bit with three pressure points - nose, jaw, and bar or tongue.
                        • To put pressure at the most responsive points.
                        • To maintain the horse's soft, fresh mouth over time.
                        • To protect the horse's mouth while a new rider was learning to ride.
                        • To provide a satisfactory transition when changing from a snaffle to a hard or leverage bit.
                        • Professional results for the amateur trainer.
                        I am not saying that this bit is right for the OP. I agree that it's best to work with a trainer who can help you understand the root cause of your pony's issues. Rather than fork over the $160 for the bit, the money would be better spent taking a few lessons. But, the bit mouthpiece is not particularly harsh. It's really just a western snaffle. What can make it harsh is the use of the nose rope. Some horses find a ported bit to be very comfortable which is why it works so well on many horses.

                        This bit does not work from poll pressure (only a gag will do that). The only leverage here is on the nose.
                        Equine Ink - My soapbox for equestrian writings & reviews.
                        EquestrianHow2 - Operating instructions for your horse.


                        • #13
                          I recommend finding some exercises to help the pony learn to go on the bit. Even circles at the walk, with the right aides, can help teach this. Find your local DQ and see if she's available for a lesson or two and make sure you explain to her exactly what you want to work on.


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by spmoonie View Post
                            Perhaps some lessons with a good dressage trainer would help. Does not sound like a bit issue, but more of a suppleness/bending issue.
                            Ditto that.

                            Originally posted by JinxyFish313 View Post
                            . Find your local DQ and see if she's available for a lesson or two and make sure you explain to her exactly what you want to work on.
                            Same suggestion, same "ditto". The new bit will only mask the problems just like the draw reins did. This is a training issue.


                            • #15
                              A vote for the Waterford here. My horse was massively heavy on his front end when I got him, and still can be when he wants! (Trainer rode him the other day and he made her arms sore ) However, he has come a LONG way with the Waterford, and my hands were not exceptional as a re-rider. We are looking for something that's just a little more now and will help to pick him up (he's an ex-eventer and very excited to be working back through some more advanced stuff, and the more excited he gets, the more he ploughs through me and says, "Down transition? Now? Bullsh!t!") So pelham is probably a step for a while for us. But I agree, this is a training problem for now, to be solved with exactly what he hates, transitions, circles, halts etc. But his original problem (also included his current one) was very similar to yours OP, rigid neck, nose in the air, hard to steer, refused to give his jaw at all. And pretty hot under saddle. NO walk at all, started trotting the minute you swung your leg over, BEFORE your butt hit the saddle, and if you had the strength, you could pull his nose into his chest and he still would not walk. His previous owners "managed" it with a double twisted wire in his mouth and this was the result. So the first thing I did was put a fat loose ring on him and prayed I could stop him at all. But "whoa" he always got. And eventually we got to walk. He still wanted to lean, and the Waterford did help quite a bit with that, so much that I had to explain the other day to my trainer that, no, this is what he's really like, you just finally got his full on personality!
                              Blog: The Continuing Adventures of an (ahem) Mature Re-Rider without a Trust Fund...but, finally, A Farm of Her Own!!


                              • #16
                                Sure, I'll try any bit once so long as...

                                I understand how the bit was designed to work.

                                I know I can adjust my riding to use it as intended.

                                I can see when it is making my horse better (even a tad), when I should try a different approach to a problem during the test ride, and *most important* when I might get killed. The horse who feels traps, begins to lift the whole front end off the ground is telling you that you need to change, quit or die.

                                In the OPs, case, I'd try a totally different approach. If the pony is both stiff and strong, you might try getting her to bend her neck-- even too much. Horses are very strong if they keep head in line with shoulders and have decided to just stoically go that way. They can't pull nearly as hard, or choose the same path of resistance when they are asked to bend laterally.

                                I'd start there at a walk and get her very loose. I might even do that at the trot, not worrying about the speed or feel of her jaw. When she can flex to the inside and outside without asking to use her whole body, or fear harsh hands and a halt, she'll begin to think differently.

                                Of course you ultimately want her to change her balance, rock back, go on the bit and straight. But you need to start somewhere very different if what you are doing right not isn't working and hasn't done so for awhile.

                                Just my "think outside the box" two cents.
                                The armchair saddler
                                Politically Pro-Cat


                                • Original Poster

                                  Thank you everyone for all of your quick replies.

                                  I definitely wanted to get some other opinions on the bit and my problems before jumping to anything. I didn't know if the mikmar was considered a cover up for problems and of course the website only says positive things to help advertise the product.

                                  What I should have mentioned in my original post is that pony can be supple and bend. However, she gets in a mood (usually when jumping) where all she wants to do is fight with me and brace against the bit (I used to fight back a whole lot, I'm getting better at not helping to escalate the problem). I've spent whole lessons doing one rein stops after jumps and we were lucky to get her to stop grabbing the bit and running for a few jumps at the end but we always started with the same fight each lesson.

                                  Ex-Trainer did 'training rides' on my pony for the year that I boarded with her. I would come to the training rides to watch for the first few months but once I started school again I was not able to as she did them while I was in school. I do not know if she trained her training methods after I stopped coming to watch but was told by others at the barn that my pony was always ridden in draw reins. I'm thinking that she was over-ridden with them (is that possible?) and became sour with the idea of being supple because she was forced into it for so long.

                                  In that case, would it be a better idea to put on an even less severe bit? I have had her in a happy mouth double jointed loose ring before I had switched to the happy mouth double jointed D-ring for shows. I would absolutely love to fix her problems through exercises rather then bitting up to cover up the problem. If anyone has suggestions on exercises that would help our problem, that would be great. I can also work with poles on the ground (she gets strong and runs after poles) so exercises to help her relax and stay supple after 'jumps' would also help.

                                  Once again, thank you everyone for the advice. I love being able to come here and get many different view on the topic rather than the one opinion of a trainer.


                                  • #18
                                    My guy also used to get very strong and locked after jumps. Although, he has gotten soooo much better. One very good exercise is "the circle of death," where you jump 4 jumps on a circle. You could do it with poles too. Until she settles down some, make the circle relatively small, mabye 20 meters. It is an exercise that teaches them to rock back on their haunches and slow down. Works wonders for my pony. Try lots of roll backs and challenging turns so that she does not have time to get fast after the jumps. This is what has worked with my guy.
                                    "To do something that you feel in your heart that's great, you need to make a lot of mistakes. Anything that is successful is a series of mistakes." -B.J. Armstrong


                                    • #19
                                      I rode a little arab mare who was only ridden in draw reins because she would get strong, spook, and bolt. Once you lost her concentration you could not get it back, so it would end in a fight. Pain issues were ruled out, saddle fit, health, ect everything was fine. I read about the Mikmar combination bit (this was years ago- before they became popular) and decided to give it a try. It worked wonders with the mare, she was supple, light, less tense, and didn't bolt. She took to the mouthpiece very well. I still use the bit on my current horse occasionally, with good results. It is a bit that is best with light hands, and is a bit that can help teach hands to be light- I know it helped me.