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First Curb Bit

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  • First Curb Bit

    I have a 6 year old gelding that I show in ranch/stock horse events. In the associations that I compete in, horses can show in snaffle bits at any age. My horse is still in a snaffle. Trainers are telling me that I need to move to a curb soon. What types of curb bits are recommended to start a horse? I will also ask one of my trainers but I will not see him again for a few weeks to start looking.

  • #2
    If your horse is working off other aids than reins consistently, then is time to go to a curb for riding, still keep using the snaffle to keep training, for now at least.

    A horse now "in the bridle" should be able to start carrying a regular grazing bit with a port and keep performing off the same drapey rein you are using now and where your hand barely moves to indicate a request, the rest of the aids specifying what that may be.

    If you are still needing to take a hold and help your horse much of the time, you need to start working on minimizing that.

    Some like to go then to a correctional type bit, so if they need to take a hold to help a horse the signal of the bit may be more clear.
    Regular curbs are not meant to be used with separate rein signals.

    This is one time when transitioning bits where you would do better working with a trainer watching you and helping you along as he will see your actions on the reins and the horse's response.


    • Original Poster

      Thank you for the input. It has been years since I transitioned one to a curb so trainer guidance is a must. The trainer knows that I take a while to make a decision so he is just encouraging me now but I expect in the spring he will want me to go for a lesson and try a curb.


      • #4
        I generally start in a little correction with swept back shanks and a leather chin strap. I find the correction doesn't scare them if I do have to take 2 hands.
        with that in mind, it will be important to determine whether your horse responds better to palette or tongue pressure. Normally a horse that wants to hide behind the bridle is better with tongue pressure and the heavy ones ride better with palette pressure.
        eventually I do like to get to a bridle with a solid mouth piece for showing...i find it tightens up steering and cues but I often opt for loose shanks on a fixed mouth unlike a grazing bridle.
        overall it's what you like the feel of your horse in. Bits are for hands and not horses. Give your horse a week or so to get used to any new bit before you decide it doesn't work. They need an adjustment period. Especially going from snaffle bit to a bridle


        • #5
          Transitioning into a curb from a snaffle can be a bit intimidating. I know I'm guilty of hanging onto the snaffle a little too long but like bluey mentioned, you can go back and forth from the snaffle to curb.
          For some reason a lot of people think bitting up is evil and theres some kind of invisible wall that prevents you to go back to the snaffle if need be. You dont have to be perfect in the snaffle to progress either. I find it easier to teach, and the horse seems to understand, certain things in a curb. The action of the bit I've chosen helps teach something and I can still go back to the snaffle with it. Ive also done it quite a bit with the hackamore(true hackamore not mechanical).
          You can also choose your bit depending on what you're doing that day. For example, if I'm just going to lope circles I might use the curb bit I just introduced to him but if I'm going to be sorting cows and things might be fast and I may need to help him, I probably go back to the snaffle so I dont scare him in the new bit I'm trying him in.(Side note, I like to teach a horse to take a pull but theres a time and place to teach it.)
          I always use a leather curb strap! A chain is used for a quick schooling session when needed then back to the leather. I think chain chin straps get overused like twisted wire bits.

          Moving on... styles of curbs may be dependent on what you're looking to achieve and what your horse prefers.
          I have about 4 different mouthpieces and some variations of those 4 styles.
          A short shanked "snaffle" with a dog bone and lifesavers made by a bit maker in NE. Horses who dont mind a lot of bit movement like this one.
          A correction and a Billy Allen, most go well in these.
          And a Jon Isreal short shank mullen, this bit gives a horse confidence in a shanked bit or will fix one who sticks his tongue over the bit.
          Those are my main 4 go-tos to try. It takes a while for a horse to understand the difference in the pressure and tell you whether he "likes" it.
          I find it to be a personal preference along with the horse. Much like choosing underwear.


          • #6
            Bopper - in ranch, the judges do not want to see a drape and you will be penalized for it. From the AQHA rule book - " The horse can be ridden with light contact or on a relatively loose rein without requiring undue restraint, but not shown on a full drape of reins. The overall manners and responsiveness of the ranch riding horse to make timely transitions in a smooth and correct manner, as well as the quality of the movement are of primary considerations. The ideal ranch riding horse should have a natural head carriage at each gait. "
            I see light contact in ranch riding, and a bit of a looser rein in ranch pleasure, and the obvious posing when asked to extend. The judges seem to really want a forward horse with prompt soft transitions and do not seem to mind contact.
            "When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in a confederacy against him."