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Bit vs noseband vs martingale (cross-post to Eventing)

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  • Bit vs noseband vs martingale (cross-post to Eventing)

    Okay this is long. If you scroll to the bottom, I asked my 4 questions and you can just skip the history/treatise below )

    Here's the scenario:

    Horse is 18, retired eventer (learned from his old vet that he used to have an FEI passport, so I think he at least went up to Prelim). We mostly flat these days, and I'm riding in what I think of as a "classical seat" (grew up in the hunters). I hesitate to call it "dressage" since we don't even have letters in the ring, but I suppose that's basically what it is. He also loves to jump and hack our (as do I), which is why I'm posting this question to the foxhunting board.

    He came to us as a summer camp drop-out (he HATED being a camp horse). Initially rode him in a snaffle, as he got fit, we moved him up to a single-jointed Uxeter Kimberwicke, he went pretty well in it, but I got to thinking about it, and it seemed like kind of a cop-out, and if I needed a curb chain, I should just put him in a Pelham (handling 2 reins is not a problem for me). Not to mention, I've decided I agree with the idea that putting a joint in the mouthpiece of a curb bit defeats the purpose (since when pressure is applied to the reins, the mouthpiece breaks, instead of rotating to engage the curb). At the same time as I was thinking of switching his bit, school got crazy, and I was riding him much less, not jumping at all, and then winter hit, so we were hacking out either. I had a corkscrew D-ring, put him in that, and it was adequate for flatting in the indoor. Now that it's summer again, I've been riding more, and hacking out more. After the last trail ride with some friends, we all agreed it's time for something more!

    Badger just doesn't know he's 18 or retired. He respects a pulley rein, but obviously I'd rather not have to resort to that every time I want to stop cantering (or, what Badger calls cantering, which is what I call galloping). The other thing about him is that regardless of where we're riding (in the ring or out), once I've even trotted him, and especially after we've cantered, he is loathe to slow down! If I want to cool him down after a good work-out in the ring, I have to get off and hand walk him, because he just doesn't want to walk. He'd rather trot. (This is something we've been working on.)

    (Wow, this is getting long-winded!)

    I've read lots of the bits and noseband and martingale posts, and I think I've come up with some options, but I'd sure love to hear some opinions, too.

    I was initially thinking just going back to something stronger in his mouth, so my bit ideas were a Dr. Bristol or a polo pelham (http://www.statelinetack.com/item/ko...bit/SLT900241/). I like the wide port on the polo pelham. For the Dr. Bristol, I wasn't sure what sort of rings, but was leaning toward a full-cheek with keepers, thinking that would keep the bit oriented properly in his mouth. There's also a Waterford in the barn that I could try out.

    After reading some more threads, I started thinking more about putting him in a figure-8 or dropped noseband, but probably still with the Dr. B or Waterford rather than a single-jointed snaffle. With a figure-8 or a drop, I'd need an eggbutt or a D rather than a full-cheek. Pros/cons? I'm partial to the D, with my hunter up-bringing, but frankly I prefer the old-style barrel D-rings to the huge round hunter D-ring, but hard to find them anymore. Maybe use a Dr. B and plain cavesson for the ring, and switch to figure-8 for hacking out?

    Finally, I've never used a running martingale, but it's recommended frequently on these boards as an alternative to bitting up. Pros/cons? One huge con for me is that it's just more strap goods to clean and store, not to mention kind of a pain to take off and on.

    Okay, let's re-cap:

    1. Dr. Bristol vs polo pelham vs Waterford?
    2. Full-cheek vs eggbutt vs dee?
    3. figure-8 vs drop?
    4. running martingale?

  • #2
    just my 2 cents!

    Ummmmm....I think you should do a search on this forum of bits and of martingales. You'll find some nice advice we've already given.
    Martingales are not used in lieu of bits. Seems like totally different subjects to me....just sayin'.
    Most horses get stronger jumping & hacking out I'd guess so just tighten your noseband or try a drop of some sort with your same regular bit. It's hard to venture an opinion without "being there" and "seeing" it.
    Like for the corner- use a full cheek if he's not respecting and turning well but if he doesn't need it -go with what works!


    • #3
      I use a Waterford for my pony and have found it works well to add a little more braking & pay-attention power. I haven't juggled two sets of reins in 25 years, so I haven't tried a pelham, myself.

      I've always understood a full cheek to add to your turning signals, not your stopping signals, but I may be wrong on that...I'm a long way from an expert

      I have no experience with drop or figure 8 nosebands, can't help there.

      Personally, I find the CotH search function to be terribly frustrating...you get a million threads or none. Here are a couple from Hunting:


      The Hunt forum is small enough that I find it easier to just "page" back through the history.


      • #4
        I'm not sure I'd agree that a jointed mouth + curb is pointless. After all, that's the basis of a LOT of western bits, and they're designed to put pressure on bars, jaw, and roof of the mouth. Hold one in your hand and pull the reins, and you'll find the shanks do rotate back and engage the curb chain (unless it's too loose).

        The pelham you posted is fairly mild. If he's not respecting the bits you mentioned, he's not going to respect the direct rein on that pelham. Which means a lot of use of the curb rein, which might not be what you want.

        What, exactly, does he *do* to make you think he needs a stronger bit? Not stop fast enough? Root or lean on the bit? Throw his nose in the air like a giraffe? Specifices are going to dictate bit/equipment.


        • #5
          Originally posted by Hinderella View Post
          I've always understood a full cheek to add to your turning signals, not your stopping signals, but I may be wrong on that...I'm a long way from an expert
          Which is interesting, because I've been taught that full-cheek inhibits turning. Something about it making the horse "straight" and keeping the shoulder vertical and square, so if you want to teach bendiness you should use something with less cheek.

          Maybe someone who knows more than either of us will weigh in?


          • #6
            he just needs more "stop"? do a pelham with the curb rein for those non-stopping moments. Or bubble bits are popular for more stop.
            if he isn't evading by popping his head up, a martingale won't help you. If he's not grabbing/leaning on the bit a waterford probably won't help.
            I have no idea how a different noseband would help with this kind of issue.


            • #7
              I've bookmarked this page that I found long ago, and often found it helpful in understanding bit actions:


              Better educated riders than I can probably pick apart this writer's descriptions, but they made sense to me.


              • #8
                Originally posted by Hinderella View Post
                I've bookmarked this page that I found long ago, and often found it helpful in understanding bit actions:


                Better educated riders than I can probably pick apart this writer's descriptions, but they made sense to me.
                Great article! Thank you for posting this. I've read so many horse books and articles that just gloss over bit operation. What a fantastic reference!
                Doubled Expectations (Roxy, 2001 APHA)
                Al Amir (Al, 2005 OTTB)
                Ten Purposes (Rosie, 2009 OTTB)


                • #9
                  Sometimes its training, a different bit won't necessarily help.

                  Walk, Halt, back. Do this at the same intervals at the the same spots in the ring. Huge reward for halting from SLIGHT pressure.

                  Walk, a few strides of trot, Walk, halt, Back. Do this at the same intervals at the the same spots in the ring. Huge reward for halting/ or downward transition from SLIGHT pressure.

                  Walk, Trot, a few strides of Canter, Trot, Walk, Halt, Back. Do this at the same intervals at the the same spots in the ring. Huge reward for halting from SLIGHT pressure.

                  When you can do this and mix it up and he still gets the right answers, do the same thing in an imaginary ring outside.

                  When you can do the above outside, add another horse.

                  Do not move up in distraction or speed until he is great at the previous step. If he screws up at a faster pace, slow down until he is listening again.

                  I find voice commands are helpful. For downward transitions at the half halt I say "and _____(whatever gait I want)".

                  Another important thing to teach him is how to walk on a loose rein. Walk, halt and have him stand with minimal contact on the reins. If he steps forward, have him back several steps, or do a turn on the forehand/haunches, or side pass then halt again and repeat until he will stand on the buckle for 10 seconds or longer.

                  Then move up to walk, then trot, then walk and drop the reins. If he moves up to trot, make a tight circle until he walks, drop the reins and repeat until he walks quietly. Do the same thing at a canter.

                  Make sure you are using a quiet demeanor during this process. He needs to learn how to relax, chill, and even take a nap while you are mounted.


                  • Original Poster

                    Thanks for the thoughts, everyone!

                    I probably will have a lot of time on my hands to work on manners and flatwork, seeing as the old geezer put his leg through the fence and has a lovely gash on the outside of his cannon bone now. Silly boy. He's been pushy on the ground, too, so I actually started clicker-training this week! (Already had a clicker for my dog, and there was an article in Equus about clicker training horses.) The first thing I'm going to work on is STAND. I should be able to translate that to under saddle pretty easily, too.