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Bit Keepers for Western Bridle?

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  • Bit Keepers for Western Bridle?

    Ok (flame suit on) - I ride western and after reading some threads on here where people were adamant about bit keepers I thought I'd tentatively ask a question about them. =)

    After trying a lot of bits, I find my mare does best in a "Herm Sprenger Dynamic RS Full Cheek Snaffle Bit" - I've been riding her in this with a western headstall no problem, but had no idea what bit keepers were until just a few days ago. Is it possible to attach these to a western headstall? Would appreciate any advice?

  • #2
    I don't quite understand the totally adamant YOU MUST HAVE BIT KEEPERS ON FULL CHEEKS! opinion. Why are they so important?

    I know some folks say it's so the bit lies correctly in the mouth, but if the horse is going perfectly in the fullcheek without the keepers.. what's the difference?

    Also, what would folks suggest about these two?:

    http://www.horsetackinternational.co...953-fuller.jpg
    http://www.saddleshop.com/largeimg/05-1528.jpg

    A Fulmer and I'm not sure what the second one is called, it's kind of like a half cheek but it's got the "arms" on both top and bottom. I don't think keepers would work on either of those, and I don't think either are designed any different than a fullcheek.. so why are these okay to be used sans keepers?
    Tell a Gelding. Ask a Stallion. Discuss it with a Mare... Pray if it's a Pony!

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    • #3
      I have been using full cheek snaffles on my western horses for about 6 years now. I have never heard of a bit keeper until recently either.

      I have never had a problem and as the horses I use them on are greenies I can appreciate the cheek pieces in my training.

      So what's the story?

      Comment


      • #4
        They stabilize the bit, and they also greatly reduce the chance that a horse will hook the bit on something and hurt himself. Think of the long necked pretzel horse who twists 'round to scratch at his itchy side while you are mounted and sitting still. He hooks the top of the full cheek through your english stirrup. He can't get it loose and in a flash he's flipped over on top of you. her name escapes me but a prominent jumper rider was either killed or paralyzed several yrs ago in this exact wreck. He was over and on top of her in a heartbeat. Don't ride with english stirrups? Ok, there's breascollar rings and keepers, misc other things to hang a horse's face on.

        If you took a thin strip of latigo, like you tie water-tie reins with, or leather shoe lace, you could fashion a little 'noose' to capture that top 'prong', then determine a way to run it through the bridle's loop that the bit hangs off of... there are so many ways a western bridle might attach to a bit there's no lone answer, but you could make it work, sure. Consider it cheap insurance.

        Comment


        • #5
          There's also a story about someone's horse rubbing on them while wearing a full cheek snaffle, and sticking the cheek up the person's nose and ripping their nostril open. And the inevitable story about the horse tossing its head and catching a woman's bra ...

          Anyhow, if its the help with turning that you like about the full cheek, the same effect can be had by using the ubiquitous hunter D-ring bit (large D-ring is the trick). If you have a fussy horse and keeping the bit still in its mouth is an issue, then get yourself an english headstall, take off the caveson (for western use) and use bit keepers. There's also a theory that using a bit keeper provides some small amount of poll pressure through the headstall, but my guess is that comes from someone who never took high school physics and I never gave it much credence.

          Some western headstalls could probably carry a bit keeper; it all depends on exactly how the headstall attaches to the bit. The keepers do keep the bit in a consistent position, and this is an issue for some horses. If it's just the help turning a greenie that you want, then use a full cheek and take your chances with the scenarios given (the bit-on-the-stirrup one is very real and a serious risk). Or teach your horse from the ground to give consistently to the rein and use a plain egg-butt or loose ring.

          While we're on the topic of disciplinary peculiarities, it puzzles me that some western types have this thing about full-cheek snaffles, but yet when they use a plain egg-butt, they insist that it have a curb strap, to prevent pulling the bit through the horse's mouth in a crunch situation. I just shrug and do a when-in-Rome with these folks, but it always has puzzled me. It seems a D-ring would solve both problems, but then, a D-ring w/ slobber straps & mecate is a real pain in the patootie. Honestly, I suspect that the average english headstall, because the throat latch is part of the crown piece, is actually more stable on the horse's head and, given that some kind of caveson or noseband is usually used, the bit-through-the-mouth scenario is much less likely. On western headstalls, the throat latch is often separate, connected only by the brow band, and no noseband is used, so the bit-through-the-mouth thing is somewhat more possible. Crunch situations happen, but the real solution is to get the horse giving to the bit reliably. Or, at least, that's what I think, FWIW (which ain't much--but it might be an intersting discussion)
          "One person's cowboy is another person's blooming idiot" -- katarine

          Spay and neuter. Please.

          Comment


          • #6
            Monster, it's funny you should say that. I'd been riding my TWH in a western browband headstall and eggbutt snaffle for a while, plus a cavesson that went on his head first, followed by the bridle. When he got to nodding his head, the cheek straps would slap him LOL- and yes, the bit was pretty snug...when I switched to a full cheek on a wintec english bridle, complete with keepers and integrated throatlatch and cavesson...problem solved. No more slappy cheeks

            Comment

            • Original Poster

              #7
              It's not that she doesn't give to the bit, she's actually an excellent horse, but we've tried a variety of different style bits and this one she seems just more comfortable in, less likely to play with it, etc. I'd go get the D-Ring version of the same bit, but this one was around $175 so I think my pocketbook would prefer I stay with what we have.

              I like the idea of fashioning little loops from latigo, might be able to figure something like that out. We DO have an English Bridle for her, so may try that as well...

              Lots of good information there monstrpony, and some good points to ponder too. =) Thanks!

              Comment


              • #8
                Another thought--the rings on a full-cheek are smaller; I think this, as well, helps the bit stay in a more consistend position, especially compared to a loose ring, where the horse can easily raise and lower the mouthpiece. So it doesn't surprise me that a horse will be less playful with a full cheek bit. Another option here is a Baucher bit, which would stand the average cowboy on his ear, but it is designed to hang the bit very quietly in the horses mouth.

                That said, I went back and saw that you (the OP) were talking about a Sprenger Dynamic--those are *really* nice bits, I can understand why your horse likes it, but the also do cost a bomb. I'd just stick with your full cheek and just keep the risk issues mentioned above in mind (or switch to the english headstall and keepers).

                I also think some horses have rubber lips. No matter how high you think you've adjusted the bit, if it has a larger ring, it will suddenly be loose enough for the floppy cheek effect that katarine describes (esp with a gaited horse that has a notable head-bob when moving correctly).

                A lot of the cowboy types (my own mentor among them) believe that one good, plain snaffle is all you should ever need. I politely disagree with that; I believe there are difference in mouth conformation, temperament (wanting to fiddle w/ the bit), possibly prior bad experiences that can be helped by trying a variety of snaffle bits. I happen to like JP Korsteel bits because of the curve to the mouthpiece (something your particular Sprenger bit has, as well). I've owned a couple of horses with very "full" mouths--fleshy tongues, low palates, heavy jowl muscles--who seem to prefer a bit that lays across the tongue with less "nutcracker" effect. After a good experience with a JP single-jointed eggbutt, I ordered a double-jointed one with an "oval" mouth (the center link is an oval shape). I was disappointed in the bit when it arrived (these bits have the advantage, being plain stainless steel, of being relatively inexpensive; great for my bit fetish) because the oval link was a lot larger than I'd expected and I thought it would not suit my full-mouthed horse. So, it sat in my tack room for a coon's age until one day I needed an extra bridle for some reason, grabbed it and put it on my horse.

                Well. He *loves* it. Tried it on my other horse, HE *loves* it. I think the larger oval in the center gives them something to hold with their tongue, while the curved branches of the bit lay softly across the mouth without too much nutcracker on the bars. Both horses have a history of being very fussy with their mouths (in different ways), and both had been ridden with "unfair" hands in their earlier lives, and will tend to go behind the bit. They quietly accept this bit and are more readily willing to go forward into soft contact.

                Anyhow, that particular one was a surprise to me, but further convinced me that small differences in bit shape, heft, thickness, even metal, can make a difference to individual horses. Again, JMHO.
                "One person's cowboy is another person's blooming idiot" -- katarine

                Spay and neuter. Please.

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