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Bicycle Chain Bits

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  • Bicycle Chain Bits

    So I am looking for some information and advice regarding the bike chain bit. I have a student who has a 6yo OTTB. He has been in training with me for a little over two years now and is currently doing the 3' childrens hunters. When the horse first came to us, it was very green with very little flatwork training, tended to pull a LOT, and was quite a spook. We started him out in a waterford, in which he went very well until recently. He has come leaps and bounds from where he was when we got him, however over the winter he started to regress a bit. He was getting very pully and occasionally just getting heavy on his forehand. His flatwork routine was ramped up significantly, but sometimes this would just fire him up even more and make him fight harder. We had plenty of days where all we did was walk-trot work.

    Eventually, I made the decision to try some other bits, thinking we just needed a switch to go with the new routine. He has what I would consider to be a nice soft mouth in general, but likes to root on you, especially after jumps. Most bits in my own barn were not helping, including a single joint snaffle, slow twist, and corkscrew (all much too harsh), a rubber snaffle (too fat and I think he doesn't like the single jointed bits much), and a single joint happy mouth 3 ring. One bit I have owned for eons, a strange double jointed bit with a pretty large port housing a few copper rollers underneath it (http://www.horsetackinternational.co...cheek-bit.html), is the only one he seemed to like. However, on his strong days, he can still make my arms sore as heck. I then raided my friend's amazing bit wall. I tried a sweet mouth low port (hated it), a happy mouth 2 ring with a nugget on wire (*HE* loved it and I think the mouthpiece would be nice for basic flatwork, but he leaned like hell on it over jumps), and lastly, a bicycle chain. I'd never used one of them and do think it looks like a midevil torture device, but I was willing to give it a shot as I do not believe it is the evil bit many people think it is when they see it.

    Well, lo and behold, the dang horse loves it. And so do I! He flats in it beautifully, with no trouble accepting the bit, and does not get back behind it. Over jumps, I find I get the exact contact I want and can whoa to a jump without him raising his head, with that little extra pop I need on the halfhalts when he gets strong going into a corner. It is helping his young owner ride him more effectively also.

    So here is where I have some questions... I personally don't find the bit to be very "harsh" in form or function... while it LOOKS ugly as sin, I would think there is very little tongue pressure (something this horse seems to dislike greatly) or palette pressure and works mostly off the lips and bars. I'm assuming the not-rounded edges are what gives it the whoa when I need it, and yet they are not sharp. Does anyone know more technical information on how and why it works? Also, while scoping prices at Blue Rock last week, I saw Kocher's had one there, but it was smaller than the one I have borrowed. I'd say there's was 1/2" high versus my friend's which is about 3/4" high. Normally I attribute thinner to stronger, however I was wondering if the thinner one might be more comfortable in his mouth without changing the general use of the bit? In addition, does anyone have any suggestions for other bits that may be worth a shot before I have my customers shell out $200 for this bike chain bit?
    ...for there are wings on these hooves, the speed and power of foam-capped waves...
    *~v~*~v~*~v~*~v~*~v~*~v~*~v~*
    Proud member of the artists clique

  • #2
    If you feel you have done your part on flat training, cavaletti, and gymnastic exercises and really and truly have this horse as balanced as you can get him, I'd play with the bit more...

    Did you try any sort of elevator bit? I'm thinking of something like this:
    http://www.theoriginalhorsetackcompa...ductCode=11136

    You can get different mouthpieces, but it would give you some pole pressure and a little bit of a gag action when you would use the curb rein (on the lower ring) but when he was being nice and polite you can rely more on the snaffle rein for a softer feel when all was well.

    Two others I would try for the heck of it-- one would be a mullen mouth. Yes, sounds strange to put a heavy on the forehand horse into a straight bar to lean on and haul, but some horses really like it, are comfortable with it, and therefore won't pull with it.

    Second-- one of the ball bits. Not a waterford, but one like:
    http://www.victorycanter.com/product...roductid=21537

    I might also look to a Mikmar.

    A bike chain is also called a mule bit. I think there is a reason for that and I don't know that I would use one, and I would not let a child use one on a horse.

    But make sure you've exhausted all hind end strengthening exercises first.

    Comment


    • #3
      I come from a barrel racing background and have seen these bits and even used them and while I agree that they look terrible, my horse, who is sensitive and responsive (ridden in a french link loose ring), did not react badly at all to it. In fact, he seemed quite happy in it. Even when he was hyped up he wasn't resisting or acting uncomfortable like he does if he is unhappy with a bit.

      I had to use one at a barrel race when my hackamore broke and my horse was quiet and soft in it. It was a friend of mine's and a gag-type headstall so that design may have contributed one way or another. I only used it once but wouldn't hesitate to try it again, although I don't know what for, lol.

      Just thought I'd mention it. Not many people will have used one, I'm sure.

      Comment

      • Original Poster

        #4
        The horse does a lot of flatwork and we will continue to bring him along with more. He is naturally balanced side to side, with a nice frame, good flexibility, big stride, and natural forwardness. He can be a bit of a klutz and will get heavy if you let him. You hit the nail on the head as we're focusing on hind end strengthening and collection at the canter at the moment. He has a weak spot in his right haunch and we have had the chiro out for him (something I hope the owners keep up with as I've seen a great improvement since!). I tried both a 2 ring and 3 ring elevator as well as a gag, which I liked the lift, but the mouthpieces weren't enough (happy mouth) or were too much (single joint snaffle), plus they would not be legal to show in and I'd like to find one bit for both home and show. The last bit you posted (http://www.victorycanter.com/product...roductid=21537) is actually the one I have been thinking about trying. He seems to like copper and no nutcracker action, so I'd been eying that one. I've been asking around, however, I don't know anyone with one that I can borrow and I do hate sending customers out to buy expensive bits that we don't know will work. :: My concern is that it may ride like the waterford and have him leaning again. Being a bit pully is one thing, but he just lays on the waterford now, like it's a game. I hadn't thought about a mullen, to be honest. They're not "my" thing, but maybe it's time I let that go and give it a shot. Mikmar... hmmm... again, something to be considered that I have no experience with? Do they have a trial program like Myler did?
        ...for there are wings on these hooves, the speed and power of foam-capped waves...
        *~v~*~v~*~v~*~v~*~v~*~v~*~v~*
        Proud member of the artists clique

        Comment

        • Original Poster

          #5
          Originally posted by acoustic View Post
          Even when he was hyped up he wasn't resisting or acting uncomfortable like he does if he is unhappy with a bit.
          I laughed when I read this, because I know you understand. In trying all these different bits on this horse, there were times a bit wouldn't last more than 15 minutes (rubber snaffle)! I'd hop off like, "screw that", and go switch to a new one! He lets you know when he doesn't like something in his mouth. lol
          ...for there are wings on these hooves, the speed and power of foam-capped waves...
          *~v~*~v~*~v~*~v~*~v~*~v~*~v~*
          Proud member of the artists clique

          Comment


          • #6
            Somehow I read children's jumper. Ha. Yeah, obviously the elevator would not work for the show ring.

            Check your PMs. I have a ball bit you could try out.

            Comment


            • #7
              If it works well then use it. My horse goes well in a single twist wire or a ported myler, and the mikmar may be something to try- i really like the combo bit to school in.

              Comment


              • #8
                What about a pelham? I've successfully used that for leany horses when the snaffle didn't cut it. If I found that I needed it to have more of an elevator type action, I hooked the curb chain very loose. You can get it with a bit of a port so as to allow room for the tongue. One horse which I had that was very bad about yanking reins out of the hands of kids I put a pelham with a correction mouth on--only needed to ride in it a couple of times, horse got the point, and is staying nice in a plain mullen mouth pelham. Alternatively, its kind of old fashioned, but legal according to the rules, is a full (hunting) bridle. But I'd try the pelham first.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Another bit that really well for pullers, especially OTTB pullers IME, is the Myler forward tilt (with or without hooks). Myler also has a trial program, so you can test out the bit before shelling out the money.

                  http://www.vtosaddlery.com/Merchant2...t_Code=MFTPBDH

                  http://www.adamshorsesupply.com/browse.cfm/4,7939.html


                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by GreystoneKC View Post
                    We started him out in a waterford, in which he went very well until recently.
                    Because of this statement, I think this horse needs to have the problems addressed, not a stronger bit. If you use the stronger bit that works today, chances are it is not going to work in the future, and you're going to be bit hunting again.

                    I would think there is very little tongue pressure (something this horse seems to dislike greatly) or palette pressure and works mostly off the lips and bars.
                    My horse does not like tongue pressure, and the Sprenger KK Schooling bit, which he likes a lot! Bit of Britain has a rental program to try the bit without buying.

                    After a comfortable bit is found for the horse, try a nice smack on the flank with a big, loud "NO" when he pulls/roots the bit -- head pops up nicely (don't pull on him, let him go forward). After a few times, the voice is enough.
                    It is a fine line between "hobby" and "mental illness."

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Use what works for you both. Anything that allows him to be comfortable and you to be soft? You go with.

                      I sometimes get tired of adding novices should not...don't try this at home etc. Once a rider hits a certain level of competency and the horse is properly schooled? Whatever works best. They will not all go well in the more "acceptable to one and all" equipment.

                      There is NOTHING wrong with a bicycle chain bit in educated hands on a horse that likes that kind of flexible mouth and stays light in it.

                      I would suggest switching your bits around regularly...I bet he has learned to evade the other one. Keep rotating them to keep him guessing.

                      Long as you have a conventional sidepiece? Whose to know what is in their mouths...and many might be surprised what is in the mouths of show Hunters. They don't all go in rubber snaffles.
                      When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                      The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Have you considered a tack noseband? This part: "likes to root on you, especially after jumps" makes me think it's less mouth and more leverage he's using against you.

                        Intrigued by your results with this bit, I've always been of the medieval torture device camp, but that comes from zero personal experience

                        Similarly, I've found they eventually all lay into the Waterfords . . . as if the thing were made of nice, comfy marshmallows that entice the mouth into a dull sleep.
                        EHJ | FB | #140 | watch | #insta

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by dags View Post

                          Intrigued by your results with this bit, I've always been of the medieval torture device camp, but that comes from zero personal experience
                          Ehhh...dags, they aren't so bad these days-they don't even come off bicycles anymore. No hinges to pinch and no links filed to sharp points like in the bad old days where these things probably got their reputation.

                          They are also called "mule bits". Can imagine the original teamsters dealing with stubborn mules and the "tricks" they came up with to get the job done 150 years back or so. No need for such things anymore so they are pretty tame compared to yesteryear.
                          When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                          The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Once a rider hits a certain level of competency and the horse is properly schooled? Whatever works best. They will not all go well in the more "acceptable to one and all" equipment.

                            There is NOTHING wrong with a bicycle chain bit in educated hands on a horse that likes that kind of flexible mouth and stays light in it.
                            I agree with this! A bit is only as harsh as the hands using it, however, the OP said
                            It is helping his young owner ride him more effectively also.
                            And that is the scary part...
                            It is a fine line between "hobby" and "mental illness."

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by findeight View Post
                              Ehhh...dags, they aren't so bad these days-they don't even come off bicycles anymore. No hinges to pinch and no links filed to sharp points like in the bad old days where these things probably got their reputation.
                              Part of me knows this . . . I swear! Doubt they'd be in those fancy-schmancy mobile tack stores if it were truly PETA worthy. I still look at them and flinch though

                              An origin in a mules mouth makes a bit of sense, for sure.
                              EHJ | FB | #140 | watch | #insta

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                There are plenty of young riders who ride well enough to use a stronger bit. The childrens hunters are very competitive now and you better ride well if you want a ribbon.
                                I'd say if the horse goes best in a bike chain then so be it.
                                Eight Fences Farm. Mansfield, MA

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by dags View Post
                                  Have you considered a tack noseband? This part: "likes to root on you, especially after jumps" makes me think it's less mouth and more leverage he's using against you.

                                  Intrigued by your results with this bit, I've always been of the medieval torture device camp, but that comes from zero personal experience

                                  Similarly, I've found they eventually all lay into the Waterfords . . . as if the thing were made of nice, comfy marshmallows that entice the mouth into a dull sleep.
                                  I have had a couple where a chain noseband made all the difference. Just knowing it was there made them back off. The tacks can be pretty sharp but I never thought the chain one was really that awful. Might be worth a try.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by Tollriffic View Post
                                    I have had a couple where a chain noseband made all the difference. Just knowing it was there made them back off. The tacks can be pretty sharp but I never thought the chain one was really that awful. Might be worth a try.
                                    Yeah, me too. One of which was absolutely uncontainable on the way to the fence. Evasion had nothing to do with his mouth but everything to do with opening wide and throwing all his strength into laying on the noseband. (It's amazing how intricate these beasts are at a microscopic level.) Anyway, pretty sure he went in a plain snaffle - one day the tack noseband was accidentally left off . . . I nearly died.

                                    He hated jumping and was eventually sold off to dressage land.

                                    They have the chain bands plus the tacks in different stages of effectiveness - believe you can find some that are more rounded and dull, plus fewer tacks used.
                                    EHJ | FB | #140 | watch | #insta

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      My current horse hates tongue pressure and while he has a soft mouth, he is LONG and I am small.

                                      When he was green, he would sometimes try to root a bit, and he also wanted to get behind my leg. It was a pretty delicate balance to find something that didn't offend his mouth but gave me enough leverage to shorten him and get him to lift his back and use his hind end.

                                      I finally found a pretty unusual semi-mullen mouth Dee ring with a copper balls that worked like magic. The bit is fairly flexible (about as much give as what you'd get from that wire center happy mouth revolver mouthpiece.) There is a bit of bend where the mouthpieces attach to the dee rings. The balls themselves rotate but although there is give between them, they are not "free" like a waterford.

                                      It's not a custom bit but I have never seen another one like it.
                                      Attached Files
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                                      -PaulaEdwina

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                                      • #20
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