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Bit advice??

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  • Bit advice??

    Hi all -
    This is my first season hunting and I am finding (not surprisingly!) that I need to "bit up" for foxhunting! I have only ever ridden my mare in a smooth snaffle mouthpiece (either single joint or French link) and have added a curb and some form of leverage action (currently riding in a Pelham) for foxhunting. However I still don't have *quite* the level of brakes I would like. 90% of the time she is VERY sensitive - simply tightening my hands will bring her head down and check her, so it's not that she doesn't know what bit pressure means, she just gets a bit "hard of hearing" out hunting. She is naturally high headed. Can anyone suggest another bit? I'm particularly curious if a solid mouthpiece (like a mullen) would make it harder for her to pull through the bit. I am of course working with her on this when not hunting, but I seem to only have this problem when I'm out hunting!
    ETA: 100% clean bill of health from the vet and just had her teeth done! Vet said there's no physical reason to go with one bit over another, she has a very average mouth.

  • #2
    You could try a Waterford mouthpiece. If used correctly, it doesn't give them anything to brace against. You could try a plain Waterford (with a dee, egg butt, or loose ring cheek piece) or go with a running gag or 3 ring gag for a bit more leverage.

    Another thought is is to use a running martingale with the bit you already use. It may be just what you need when your horse gets a bit above when adding a correction.

    Comment


    • #3
      Jimmy Wofford's advice, "Horses pull and misbehave in three general ways: They lower their heads and pull down, they lock their jaws and pull straight ahead or they invert their necks and run away shaped like a banana. We need three different types of bits for these three different horses. When your horse lowers and lengthens his neck, he needs some type of gag bit to elevate and shorten his neck. If your horse doesn't lower or raise his head, but "leans on the bridle," then I suggest something thinner with a corrugated or double-jointed surface. Horses of this type usually react well to a thin Doctor Bristol, a slow twist or a cherry roller.

      A horse who hollows his back and runs off with his neck inverted needs a bit with some form of curb chain. This restores his flexion and realigns his forehand in front of his hindquarters again. Many horses of this type react well to a rubber pelham with an adapter or a kimberwicke."

      My own horse would sometimes pull more straight ahead, sometimes more down.

      Our order of escalation was 1) double joined loose ring for dressage 2) mullen mouth for SJ and XC 3) Ported myler for hunting. She originally used the myler for all jumping, but graduated to only needing it to check quickly out hunting.

      Comment


      • #4
        I use a waterford with my horse and love it. Its soft when I need it to be so I can have nice contact that he responds well to but gives me breaks when he tries to bolt. Its that perfect combination of being strong when I need it but not too strong when I don't.
        Hudson Valley's Premier Tack Shop www.argentoeq.com/

        Life is happening for us not to us

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        • Original Poster

          #5
          Thank you!
          I've seen a Waterford on a horse who pulled down and it was amazing (draft cross, built downhill). My mare is definitely of the type to invert and a Waterford didn't seem to do much (she is very uphill). I will try a mullen mouth Kimberwicke and see what I've got! I'll try the running martingale as well. Standing martingales scare me outside of the ring.

          Comment


          • #6
            Other than changing bits, have you considered adding brakes? What I mean is that you do a training exercise that will give you more whoa --it goes like this --along a fence or in an arena along a wall, in your snaffle bit, at a walk on the buckle, give a verbal cue, "easy, or "steady". If there is no change in pace (and there won't be at first) slide your wall-side hand half way down the rein and turn the horse into the wall maintaining the walk. Do it again, and again. Verbal cue, [wait for horse to slow] slide hand, turn to wall, walk other way. Horse should soon figure out that if he/she slows (and horse will as he/she anticipates a turn into the wall), you won't make him turn. "Right response = less work." Once your horse is slowing consistently when you say your word and start to slide your hand, move into the trot and do the same thing. You can do it at a canter if your footing is good, but I generally don't --instead --add another horse! Have the horse walk past you, ask your horse to slow, then reverse if he does not. Repeat until he's responding. Next logical step is to add more horses going past yours at speed and see if your horse will slow on your word --continue the practice until he does. Eventually, he'll respond on the hunt field. And does it work? I ride both my hunters (one is in first flight,the other working his way up through hill toppers) in snaffle bits. Because of previous shoulder surgery, I cannot stop using pressure on the bit, so my horses slow on a word or shift in seat. Anyway, that's what worked for me.

            Comment

            • Original Poster

              #7
              Originally posted by Foxglove View Post
              Other than changing bits, have you considered adding brakes? What I mean is that you do a training exercise that will give you more whoa --it goes like this --along a fence or in an arena along a wall, in your snaffle bit, at a walk on the buckle, give a verbal cue, "easy, or "steady". If there is no change in pace (and there won't be at first) slide your wall-side hand half way down the rein and turn the horse into the wall maintaining the walk. Do it again, and again. Verbal cue, [wait for horse to slow] slide hand, turn to wall, walk other way. Horse should soon figure out that if he/she slows (and horse will as he/she anticipates a turn into the wall), you won't make him turn. "Right response = less work." Once your horse is slowing consistently when you say your word and start to slide your hand, move into the trot and do the same thing. You can do it at a canter if your footing is good, but I generally don't --instead --add another horse! Have the horse walk past you, ask your horse to slow, then reverse if he does not. Repeat until he's responding. Next logical step is to add more horses going past yours at speed and see if your horse will slow on your word --continue the practice until he does. Eventually, he'll respond on the hunt field. And does it work? I ride both my hunters (one is in first flight,the other working his way up through hill toppers) in snaffle bits. Because of previous shoulder surgery, I cannot stop using pressure on the bit, so my horses slow on a word or shift in seat. Anyway, that's what worked for me.
              Yes, we're working on things like this as well! It's frustrating because she obviously knows her cues - a verbal "wait" before a fence with no leg/seat/hand cues will get her to add a stride in the ring - but she gets stubborn out in the field. She's also a major work-a-holic so I have to get creative with exercises like what you've described. "Less work" is not a reward for her, I have to find a kind of work she doesn't like! When I ride out with friends that have horses that will permit this (which isn't as often as I'd like) I will turn her right around and gallop her away from the group if she starts pulling, which helps. Hopefully this summer I can get a group with green hunters together to work on stuff like this!

              Comment


              • #8
                And another thing to think about, saddle fit. Be sure that your saddle fits very well for hunting. What will work or be well tolerated in a ring or for a 45 minute hack might not be as tolerated for a long days hunting over varied terrain and ever changing footing.

                And another thing to think about, sometimes more isn't always better. As in more (in the extreme) bit. It can make some horses even worse trying to evade the bit, or bring out more dangerous behaviors. I have found with mine, the saddle fit was first. Getting them happy with their body. Next was finding a mouth piece they would make contact with, but respond to. I could then find one with different cheek pieces to address the evasion.

                Comment


                • #9
                  You just have to try different bits. None of my current horses like solid mouth bits. The more wiggly and loose the mouthpiece and sides are the happier they are. One mare hunts in a 2 ring Gag but she is very soft mouthed. I just had to bit up my other mare in her second season. A jointed mouth pelham was too much. A solid mouth, low port Kimberwick was too much but the jointed mouth Kimberwick is just right.

                  On the other hand my 12.2 donkey goes in the most solid, non mobile bit driving bit available. Anything less and she ignores it. Just her personality.

                  Comment

                  • Original Poster

                    #10
                    Update - I put my old D ring French link back on her just for fun and she was much more accepting of contact in that bit than she is in my regular snaffles. Of course, I was also rather lacking in brakes in that bit, but it's a start! I came across the Stubben EZ control bits (advertised as French link --> mullen mouth with rein pressure) - anyone have any experience with these? With a 3 ring EZ control I'd have 4 bits in one depending on how she's feeling/acting, which would be nice.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I've had good luck with a broken Pelham with copper roller for high headed horses. The roller gives them something to play with that increases salivation and the curb shank gives you leverage if you need it. Double reins. Keeps them flexed and you can use the curb if you need it. Also, more hunting and wet blankets will get the horse to conserve energy.

                      Comment

                      • Original Poster

                        #12
                        Thanks! I have never tried a roller bit on her. We'll see what she thinks of that. She is very "busy" all the time so that might work. We had a tough hunt (straight up a mountain!) last weekend, plus a 2 mile hack each way to get there, and she was pacing in the stall while I was trying to cool her out. She doesn't know the meaning of "quit"!

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Something to think about is that they can be a bit frantic the first year or two and then settle very nicely. Hang in there! It does take a couple of years to make a good Hunter. Patience! Sounds like you are on the right track.

                          Comment

                          • Original Poster

                            #14
                            Quick update in case anyone else has a similar problem.... She definitely hates a single joint snaffle. I'm going to try her in a copper lozenge loop ring snaffle on a Micklem bridle (as she's also VERY itchy/fussy with her face) and see where we're at. If that doesn't give me enough brakes out cross country, I'll try a copper roller Pelham or Kimberwicke. I'd like to keep the mild mouthpiece so I don't have to constantly switch bits but if the leverage action doesn't help I'll go with a Dr. Bristol. I could open my own tack shop at this point!

                            The plus side of having a horse that fusses with her head - when she gets antsy at a long check she happily channels that to her head instead of her feet! She was having a grand time jingling her curb chain at the last hunt of the season.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Callie's Mom View Post
                              Update - I put my old D ring French link back on her just for fun and she was much more accepting of contact in that bit than she is in my regular snaffles. Of course, I was also rather lacking in brakes in that bit, but it's a start! I came across the Stubben EZ control bits (advertised as French link --> mullen mouth with rein pressure) - anyone have any experience with these? With a 3 ring EZ control I'd have 4 bits in one depending on how she's feeling/acting, which would be nice.
                              I really like the EZ Control bit but I found it ran a bit narrow and caused rubs. My freight train... I mean, TB thinks Mullen mouth Pelhams are the best brakes. It's actually a bit too much.
                              www.laurenfanningart.com
                              Doubled Expectations (Roxy, 2001 APHA)
                              Al Amir (Al, 2005 OTTB)
                              Ten Purposes (Rosie, 2009 OTTB)

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                If you aren't adverse to 2 reins I have used a Myler combo bit. The main bit part is one of their mullen mouth type mouth piece but the curb rein activates the hackmore part. They have a soft noseband and rawhide type noseband depending on how much braking you need. I have also used a 3 ring Happy Mouth mullen mouth elevator with 2 reins. With both of these if they are behaving the mouthpiece is pretty benign but you have the added brakes when you need them.

                                As Finnegan has gotten better about the whole hunting thing I switched to a Beval bit with a French link and a running martingale. Just a little leverage but generally a fairly soft bit. You can also put the reins in different spots on the bit to change how much leverage there is.
                                Oh, well, clearly you're not thoroughly indoctrinated to COTH yet, because finger pointing and drawing conclusions are the cornerstones of this great online community. (Tidy Rabbit)

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  I say this every time someone brings up a horse who doesn't like single joint snaffles, so forgive me if you've heard it before, please.

                                  My big mare has a very low palette and it took me many years and many bits to figure this out. Single joints will bang horses with this "feature" in the roof of the mouth and often cause the precisely opposite effect from the ask. When we started hunting, I bitted up and it drove her bonkers.

                                  I finally figured out the low palette thing and bought her a Myler "jointed mullen" and she became a different horse. That bit is wonderful for flat and jumping, but not quite enough for hunting, so I bought another one with the same mouthpiece but with hooks and slots.

                                  Adding the leverage made everyone happy.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    They make french link pelhams...

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Far from an avid hunter here, but my horse locks her jaw and “tunes out” any sort of broken snaffle (single jointed, double jointed, any sort of lozenge/connector/roller). She also hates thick mouthpieces and Mullens that lay on her tongue.

                                      But she’s like a new animal in a low port Mullen. Even though she has a low palette, she also has fleshy cheeks and a big tongue, and I think the port helps take the pressure off of them.

                                      A low port kimberwick has been a miracle for her in the field. Mine doesn’t even have the slots for the reins to increase leverage- just smooth D sides, a slot for the cheek pieces, and a curb chain. For whatever reason, she likes that more than any pelham or gag. But don’t dare try a snaffle-mouthed kimberwick!

                                      So if nothing else, play with the style of the mouthpiece, as you’ve been doing.
                                      Last edited by Texarkana; Apr. 21, 2018, 11:55 AM. Reason: Autocorrect makes me sound like English is my second language
                                      Don't fall for a girl who fell for a horse just to be number two in her world... ~EFO

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