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ok, need some ideas from the bit gurus!

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  • ok, need some ideas from the bit gurus!

    I just got in an older jumper who has an interesting mouth. He is an extremely quick fast, turner, with somewhat a soft mouth. I am currently riding him in a mullen happy mouth loose ring. I basically ride him with no contact but when riding tight turns or backing him off in a corner he will either sling his head in the air or jerk it down to his ankles. Tried a french link, hated it, too strong for the hackamore, teeth fine, hocks injected. This horse has won in Ocala and Vermont, but is not a horse you can set up for a jump or keep a rhythm with. He is not for the faint of heart. His flatwork and dressage work is fine with just the happymouth. I was given the idea by an eventing friend to use a western hackamore and his but together with a bradoon hanger and a bit converter. Anyone try this?
  • Original Poster

    Sorry about spelling and sentences! Trying to do this from blackberry!


    • #3
      You might try the Herm Sprenger Duo, which is like your happy mouth mullen but even softer.

      That said, perhaps the real angle with this horse is to use less hand in those tight turns. Western horses will rollback with almost no contact on the bridle. If you can learn to cue it off your seat and leg and maybe a neckrein, you wouldn't need to touch his face.
      If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats. - Lemony Snicket


      • Original Poster

        I hardly touch his mouth at all. Do neck rein and steer almost entirely with seat and leg. I could not be touching his mouth and he will put his head between his knees and I have to bump him up so he can see the jump.


        • #5
          This horse needs to be taken back entirely to flat work and re-started. Until you get him calmer and teach him to slow down all you are going to have is a train wreck. He needs to learn to respond to the seat to slow down. You may think you are "steering" with the seat, but when a horse is flat out blowing through the aids like this and basically is running away with you, you need to go back to square one.

          Bitting up never solves the problem. The horse is not relaxed. The horse is out of balance. When horses are "in balance" they do not rush.

          If you are "bumping him up" then you are in his mouth. Use your position to lift his shoulders/forehand, and use your position/seat to slow him down. You are going to have to sit into him - use more of a dressage seat/three point seat - than the two point for now.

          The horse is rooting the bit - inverting and then jerking his head/neck downward trying to relieve the pressure in his mouth. I know this because i have seen it many, many times in horses that have been incorrectly trained and/or ridden.

          For now, why not take this horse back to much work at the walk until you feel him begin to release his back, and go on the bit. Put him on light contact, first with seat and leg, and let him seek your hand on his own. I bet he has lost trust in the bit and in his rider's hand. This will take some time to get back. Do not even trot this horse until he will maintain relaxation through his back, continue to seek the bit on his own (can't stress that enough), and will remain mentally relax. When you can maintain a stress free, relaxed work set at the trot, then softly ask for canter. At anytime during all this, when it all goes to Hell in a hand-basket, go back to the lower slower gait and do not let him rush. It doesn't matter how long you have to do this... even if it takes you three months of gentle reworking it will be well worth it in the long run. You will stay safe and the horse can learn to enjoy his work again and become a solid citizen.

          Once horse is staying relaxed work on transitions within a gait, work on some basic lateral movements (shoulder fore and some gently - not too steep - shoulder in) as this will work toward correcting straightness issues. Right now your horse is not straight and this is also going to contribute to the rushing. When you get a horse organically, and fundamentally straight you can control his tempo with your seat and he will come onto the bit by himself. Work both sides, and expect one side to be stiffer than the other. Horse will also be more likely to give you "issues" on the stiffer side until you help him learn to loosen, ditch the tension, and use his body more effectively.

          Correct riding and training will solve your problems - bit will not. I would put him in a lozenge link snaffle - I especially like the Herm Sprengers. They are well worth the money you will spend for the bit, because they are so well made and well balanced. I also love the John Dewsbury bits but they are no longer being made. Nuschule bits I have also heard great things about. I like the lozenge link because it reduces any nutcracker action in the mouth, tends to work better for a horse with a lower palate or more sensitive mouth. Also, it will influence one side of the mouth at a time, where as the traditional snaffle will not. French links can back a horse off the bit. They are great bits, but you have to ride with a lot of finesse to get successful responses.

          For God's sake WHY in the world would you use a hackamore? I don't care if your "friend" is an event trainer - doesn't sound like anyone I would have confidence with riding any of my horses. That is just a stupid idea. Will people - including so called "professionals" ever learn that you can not strong arm a horse into doing what you want it to? Poor horses!!!! People who expect bit/gadgets to work are simply hand-riding pure and simple and tend to cause all kinds of troubles in horses.

          Sorry hcreek, you are off base on this one. This poor horse has no dressage, or "flatwork", basis even if he is rushing and blowing through rider's aid s like this.

          Probably the best thing you can do is to send him to a dressage trainer for rehab, and go along and learn yourself what you needs to do to help the horse regain confidence in the rider. This is not an "issue" you can get much help for from an internet chat forum.

          I wish you the best of luck.
          Last edited by Strictly Classical; Dec. 6, 2009, 05:17 PM.


          • Original Poster

            Thanks Melissa, but a dressage frame is not what is best for this horse. And the so called professionals you speak of have many national accreditations to their name. But I always look forward to you comments.


            • #7
              What about a gag?


              • #8
                Jenn - I'm sure you always look forward to my comments! LOL! It matters not to me how many national accreditations this person has - they are not correct. However, that is my opinion I guess. I am not saying a "dressage" frame is what is best. A CORRECT working frame is what is best - and is what I describe. Correct movement is not discipline specific - it is simply what is best for the horse. I have been taught that by several international level dressage riders who have ridden several disciplines in their career. Also, quite a few years of riding this way and training on my own have confirmed this as well. So, I know very well of what I speak.

                Stay safe - wish you the best with this guy.


                • #9
                  Going in the opposite direction-- toward unorthodox and gimmicky!

                  First, do you think you can teach this old dog new tricks or are you just trying to manage the set style he has?

                  If you want to make this a training thing, why not put on a very loose chambon and work over poles? Think of the anti-grazing device for a bad pony. Then invite him to get rank and do whatever training you need to in order to have him think, not grab quickly, when you do pick up your reins.

                  I second what the pro-western poltroon said-- teach him to listen to your body to such a point that you can touch his face more lightly and more quickly than he can set up to root. Make sense?

                  Lemme think some more about actual hardware solutions.
                  The armchair saddler
                  Politically Pro-Cat


                  • Original Poster

                    I guess you would just have to meet him to see what I am talking about. Who said anything about riding a jumper in 2pt?Its so hard to explain these things on the computer. Betsy Worthington helped train him and she knows him best so I will just ask her. He has a very interesting personality and can easily loose his composure. He has to have total trust in his rider and I feel that I am giving him that, but I do need to be able to turn his face to a jump haha! He actually does fairly well in the hackamore, since he cannot tolerate anything touching his mouth. If he were younger I am sure much could be done with flatwork, but he is definately set in his ways and successful with them

                    Sidenote: I saw your post about Chex and I hope he is doing well. When I worked at the opthamology department at the Vet. school we saw several horses like him. Good to hear you are giving him plenty of TLC.

                    You should come by the barn and ride sometime, I have a rescued thoroughbred that could use some dressage work. Maybe something fun or different for you to ride.
                    Last edited by hcreek; Dec. 6, 2009, 08:07 PM.


                    • Original Poster

                      mvp: thanks for input.

                      I don't think this is a retrainable horse. Which is not what I am going for anyway. I just want him to be happy with his job. He is perfectly fine on the flat, with all gaits and lateral movements. I am only referring to jumping, he can not be rated to a jump. He likes a big release and no hands. I can basically steer him with my leg pressure, and step deep for a downward transition. But, if I do move both hands to the side to aid in the direction,he tosses his head, and occassionally wants to ride on the forehand with his head down( not rollkur). Once I bump his head up he sets his eyes on the jump and were are good. This boy does not miss the jump or have rails. I just don't want to have to bump his head up all the time during a jump off.


                      • #12
                        Much can be done to improve the flatwork - no matter the age! Most horses, no matter the issues, can be retrainable! Don't give up hope!! Just takes lots and lots of patience, and in the real hard core cases much compassion. Seriously. I still stand by the theory that you take the horse back to the baby basics and instill rhythm and relaxation. That is not just a 'dressage" thing, but is what every horse needs. I am willing to wager that this horse needs to be brought back into balance, and worked into a correct working "frame". I do hate to use the word "frame" though. Its such an oxymoron. As riders, we should not put any horse into a "frame" but rather we should help them seek the correct self carriage on their own. Anytime horses rush, it is because they are tense, and out of balance. The most successful jumpers tend to have trainers who have put great dressage basics on them! The dressage work gives them horse manuverability and body control as well as mentally relaxing them. By using some of these techniques, you will be able to teach him how to rate a jump - and likely take a jump beautifully!!

                        I fail to see how the hackamore would work since it puts pressure on the poll and the sensitive cartilage of the nasal passages. I am just not a fan at all of such devices. It goes against what I have been taught and what I have personally found to be successful.

                        As a side note - Chexs is quite well, and has done remarkably well considering we have battled the uveitis for 6 - 7 years now. We have the support of a super vet, Dr. Travis Blackwelder, and have close working relationships with vets at both V. Tech and NC State that has been developed over the years. As a matter of fact, this horse has become a case study of sorts, as we have tried some different treatment approaches that has definitely prolonged his sighted years.

                        Thanks for the offer of coming by the barn. With the long school days, and then with coming home to my own barn chores and riding and training my own, time is at a premium! I'm hoping that some time will open up soon - if it does I'll let you know. Would you be willing to send him out for some work? It would be more convenient if I could have it at my own place...just a thought.


                        • #13
                          So you need something that quickly puts his head back in one place-- just so the SOB can, you know, *see* the cotton pickin' jump, and he'll go either way up or way down?

                          I think most jumper peeps would include a running martingale here. I'm sure you've thought of that. It is the best piece of equipment we have for putting the head and eyes some place. I think you'll have a hard time getting that done with a bit.

                          Going off the Jimmy Williams deep end, what if you tried a hackamore with two reins? One goes from the nose piece, through a long running martingale to your hand and the other (held like the curb rein on a pelham) attaches to the shanked ring on the hackamore?

                          I'd definitely try a hackamore first and give it some time. It may be that no bit at all curbs his knee-jerk reaction to get instantly defensive and he starts "thinking" before he flings his head. That sounds like habit layered over an initial combination of fear and gameness. No, I'm not saying this horse can be fixed by going back to basics. His nice flatwork in a happymouth means he knows there are different rules and expectations for different situations. You probably do have to address the over fences habit over fences, especially if your assignment is to just get him sorta rideable.

                          Or how about nixing the whole "flex at the poll" element of the hackamore and try a rope nose band a la polo? Borrow a stout one from a polo guy and slip some rings on the crown piece and attach reins to those. This will give you steering and only some "bite" when he really gets his head outside of a normal range. A running martingale here might give you what you need when he flings his head up, and light but still hands carried a bit high might provide the quick correction you need when he flings it down.
                          Last edited by mvp; Dec. 7, 2009, 10:25 AM.
                          The armchair saddler
                          Politically Pro-Cat


                          • Original Poster

                            Thanks MVP! I agree, with his flatwork being great, this is a separate jumping issue. I have ridden him in the running. The high head is really not much of an issue, its the low jerk. Somewhat like a pony! He is a smart, sensitive guy, but there is definitely a switch that flips for jumping. Also beinn that he is shorter, he needs his head up when jumping 3' +! I also thought about the hackamore with the side pull rings?


                            • Original Poster

                              Thanks for all the PM's! They were great! Moving on with a great plan


                              • #16
                                I have a couple of thoughts in mind...but have a few ?'s first...

                                What about the French mouth did he not like...what did he do? Which "French" mouth did you use?

                                Does he prefer the plastic/rubber bits to metal bits? Have you tried copper, german silver, or sweet iron?

                                Someone mentioned the Sprenger Duo, that is a great bit, I believe they also make it in a 2-ring model. But not so sure if that type of bit action would turn him off and drop him behind the bit, it does for some.

                                I think Myler makes a D-ring modified mullen with rollers on it. The rollers would make it hard for him to grab and root.

                                A large loose ring cherry roller bit would also keep him from grabbing the bit, though, if he doesn't like joint action in the bit, it may exaserbate the head slinging issue.

                                A Waterford bit also has the "no grab" effect, and has many joints in it so it might conform to his mouth in a way that he likes better than either the French link or a reg snaffle.

                                My own personal favorite go-to bit is the Herm Sprenger KK D or the same bit in a 2-ring if I need a little leverage...this doesn't compare to other "French" link bits in my opinion, the action is much different.

                                I also agree that this is a jumping issue...perhaps set up his problem trap, one that you know gives the reaction you are describing. When you are just about to go into a tight turn or back him off of a corner, take him off his gaurd to disengage the response, circle first to the direction you are currently going, then the other. When he is quiet(er) you can do one of several things, my first would be to halt and make him take one step left, one step right, one step back, and then into a trot or canter to continue through his exercise. If he is the type that would get more frazzled (ie: up and down) rather than settle, set up the response, ride through it as you normally would. Take note exactly where you feel him begin his reaction. Next time through, just as you are about to reach that spot...disengange...stop, walk away, go do flat work on the opposite side of the arena. Come back do the exact thing over and over again. Note, that you will disengage him "before" you even get a reaction, you are trying to set up a different pattern. When you can get to the point where he is nonchallant about getting to that particular set up on course, you can ride it abit further, his reaction point may still be at the same spot, it may move another couple strides further...in th elatter case you know you are making good progress. In that case, ride him to his reaction point and then disengage. I don't know if this makes sense, it is much harder to describe in type than by example.


                                • #17
                                  Forgot to add, not to expect much improvement the first day you try this. It may take a while, you are dealing with an ingrained behaviour. This may not work at all for him, but what this excersize attempts to do is to disengage his normal reaction...you know him best...whatever it is that interrupts his "auto-react" switch, that is what you arelooking for. Change his pattern then connect the dots. hope that helps!

                                  Also...I read your description again...I am guessing one or several of his previous riders may have bitted him up heavily, and would harshly pull him up to try to bring focus back to the rider when he would get quick in turns...that's why he slings his head when you back him off in a corner (which they likely used to help stop him abruptly). So...don't recreate his past by doing the very thing that caused the reaction you are dealing with now.
                                  Last edited by CrossWinds81; Dec. 7, 2009, 01:31 PM. Reason: additional thoughts


                                  • Original Poster

                                    Exactly!! Thanks for posting crosswinds! Its nice to get feedback from other riders who jump! I love the idea of the kk ultra 2 ring. Yes, I think he hated the metal of the french link eggbut.
                                    Last edited by hcreek; Dec. 7, 2009, 04:10 PM.


                                    • #19
                                      Kind of off the wall, but have you had his hocks checked, since he is either tossing his head or rooting down on tight turns?

                                      I might also try the HMMM but with a D ring instead of a loose ring. Less chance of pinching and less movement in his mouth.