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Bit for English horse/rider moving to western?

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  • Bit for English horse/rider moving to western?

    Looking for some input! My teenaged WB mare and I have been playing around with western and loving it - we're looking at doing some Mountain Trail/Working Eq type stuff eventually. Mare is schooled to 3rd level dressage, could pop around a 3'6" course etc, so fairly educated English. I had a lovely young trainer put some western basics on her and discovered that the horse LOVES it, and she's much happier working like this. She's always been tough in the contact/likes to pull on a snaffle, but very respectful of even some mild leverage with a mild mouthpiece (think bendy rubber pelham). She learned a basic neck reining in about 30 minutes (she already understood an indirect rein from our jumping days).

    Young trainer has sadly moved away but she gave us enough to play with for the time being. Challenge is because my mare is used to some feeling of her rider "at home" at the end of the reins, just riding on a long rein (even heavier split reins) in her usual loose ring snaffle doesn't give any kind of communication through the hand. I've ridden some western horses in leverage bits so I know that you can get that feel, and what it's supposed to feel like, but I have a sneaky feeling I'm not set up for success on the current set-up. Suggestions? Or am I just doing it wrong (entirely possible)?

    Most online resources I've found have been about training youngsters from scratch going from snaffle to leverage, not a horse that already has had a pretty significant education.
    "Adulthood? You're playing with ponies. That is, like, every 9 year old girl's dream. Adulthood?? You're rocking the HELL out of grade 6, girl."

  • #2
    I'm not sure I understand exactly what you want, so my answer may be irrelevant...

    Maybe take a look at one of the Myler snaffle bits with hooks. They will give you a different feel than a plain loose ring snaffle but aren't quite leverage bits. Plus, some come in a western style.
    "Facts are meaningless. You can use facts to prove anything
    that's even remotely true."

    Homer Simpson

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Ibex View Post
      Looking for some input!
      Suggestions? Or am I just doing it wrong (entirely possible)?

      Most online resources I've found have been about training youngsters from scratch going from snaffle to leverage, not a horse that already has had a pretty significant education.
      I too am a little confused on exactly what input you are looking for.

      Are you asking what bit you should use? If she seems to do better and "feel" the reins better in a curb bit (with leverage) then by all means, use that.

      Do you currently have any leverage bits?
      Personally, I would suggest to find something that has a similar mouthpiece to the snaffle she is used to. That often makes the transitions easier, along with shorter shanks.

      It is not enough to know how to ride; one must know how to fall.

      Comment


      • #4
        I have riden both English and Western and attend many expos and clinics. Every Western trainer I have listen to always rides with a snaffle for training. They never transition right away with a curb or leverage bit. I would suggest looking at some of their videos and books. All a leverage bit will do to a horse or mule in training is make them hard in the mouth. Work on softness and your hands if you really want to suceed.
        http://richardshrake.com/Choose-the-...71&s=557&id=18
        https://video.search.yahoo.com/yhs/s...95&action=view
        I like watching Josh Lyons also.
        https://video.search.yahoo.com/yhs/s...fb&action=view
        Last edited by mula; Jul. 10, 2019, 06:58 PM.

        Comment


        • #5
          What does your former trainer suggest?

          A trainer friend of mine recommended an Argentine snaffle (which is like a short-shank broken pelham) for a horse of mine that was a little oblivious to a plain snaffle. The little bit of leverage does indeed make it easier for the horse to feel small rein actions. Obviously you have to be subtle with your hands, but if you're good with your pelham this will be familiar to you.

          Good luck and have fun.

          Comment


          • #6
            Ditto the suggestion to look at Myler bits. I have 2 Myler bits--a Western D ring snaffle with hooks and the MB04 mouthpiece and a curb bit with the MB33 mouthpiece. I like both bits, but my horse actually goes better in the curb bit. The shanks on the curb bit swivel, and the mouthpiece is jointed in the middle so that each side moves independently, so you can ride two-handed if you want. I used to ride English many eons ago, and I still like to ride with two hands occasionally. The MB33 mouthpiece is very mild, with lots of tongue relief, but the shanks will give you some authority if you need it. I recently sent my horse to a trainer for a tune-up and he really liked my Myler curb bit.

            Comment


            • #7
              I would try a snaffle first, but maybe with different reins. You might be surprised at the difference. I feel like I have good feel using my mecate rope reins with slobber straps. You really should be able to do what you need to do in the snaffle first.

              I get that you like the feel and response in a leverage bit. When you do use one, some of the Mylers are nice (and some are truly awful). ​​​​​​Beware that a jointed mouthpiece on a leverage bit will tend to collapse, vs a more solid mouthpiece. Some horses may not like that. A leverage bit with a sweetwater mouth is a nice bit too. https://www.ebay.com/itm/Abetta-Swee...edirect=mobile

              Comment


              • #8
                Another vote for the Myler snaffle with hooks. If you use the hooks it gives a very slight leverage - probably just enough to be more of a signal than actual leverage. My Western turned English horse likes these.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Ibex View Post
                  Looking for some input! My teenaged WB mare and I have been playing around with western and loving it - we're looking at doing some Mountain Trail/Working Eq type stuff eventually. Mare is schooled to 3rd level dressage, could pop around a 3'6" course etc, so fairly educated English. I had a lovely young trainer put some western basics on her and discovered that the horse LOVES it, and she's much happier working like this. She's always been tough in the contact/likes to pull on a snaffle, but very respectful of even some mild leverage with a mild mouthpiece (think bendy rubber pelham). She learned a basic neck reining in about 30 minutes (she already understood an indirect rein from our jumping days).

                  Young trainer has sadly moved away but she gave us enough to play with for the time being. Challenge is because my mare is used to some feeling of her rider "at home" at the end of the reins, just riding on a long rein (even heavier split reins) in her usual loose ring snaffle doesn't give any kind of communication through the hand. I've ridden some western horses in leverage bits so I know that you can get that feel, and what it's supposed to feel like, but I have a sneaky feeling I'm not set up for success on the current set-up. Suggestions? Or am I just doing it wrong (entirely possible)?

                  Most online resources I've found have been about training youngsters from scratch going from snaffle to leverage, not a horse that already has had a pretty significant education.
                  You do need to go back to the beginning with your horse in a snaffle and get her off your hands, since that is correct and she will need to carry herself without you helping her if you are riding Western. It's a training issue, not a bitting issue. If you cannot get her light as a butterfly with two hands and a snaffle, she is not ready for one hand and a leverage bit. You sound perfectly capable of doing this.

                  You can use two hands once you move to a Western bit. I'd go with a Level 2/3 Myler bit - it will feel familiar to her, the shanks are pretty short, and you will be able to communicate consistently with her in this bit with two hands. Work on really slowing your hands down - the shanks "speed" things up in your horse's mouth, and you want to give her plenty of time to react to a very slight change. It's the hardest thing I had to learn, and I still have to think about it. Then move into a simple correction bit, Bob Avila's is a good one. Contrary to what many non-Western people think, most correction bits are very mild. By now, your horse is soft in the face and working well off your seat and leg, and not leaning on your hands at all. This bit has longer shanks so all the work you did on slowing your hands down is really going to pay off. Since you have her working off your seat and legs well, once you go one handed, your hand should mostly stay in a 6 inch square box right in front of your saddle horn. That is plenty of movement and pressure. Enjoy!!

                  Adding that a subscription to Warwick Schiller's website for a few months will give you some good exercises to help get your horse off your hands.
                  "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."

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    That is what all the profesional trainers I have listened to say, especially the Western ones. It is a training issue, not a bit problem. I agree.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I'm going to disagree with using a correction bit. They are not mild and there are plenty of milder and better leverage bit options available when you get to that point. I will agree on looking into Warwick Schiller.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I like a Junior Cow Horse bit for most of mine. They are ride both English and Western and that bit seems to make them happy. Multiple horses and breeds, including gaited ones.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by cloudy18 View Post
                          I'm going to disagree with using a correction bit. They are not mild and there are plenty of milder and better leverage bit options available when you get to that point. I will agree on looking into Warwick Schiller.
                          Straight from the horse's mouth. But maybe you know something Bob Avila doesn't.

                          "The correction bit is one of the most universal bits and is also very mild. The four moving parts allow the horse to respond to subtle rein pressure which greatly reduces heavy rein handling. A rider can choose to affect only one side with the correction bit. This bit can be used in any western discipline throughout a horse's career."

                          https://www.statelinetack.com/item/b...bit/SLT700158/
                          "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."

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Palm Beach View Post

                            Straight from the horse's mouth. But maybe you know something Bob Avila doesn't.

                            "The correction bit is one of the most universal bits and is also very mild. The four moving parts allow the horse to respond to subtle rein pressure which greatly reduces heavy rein handling. A rider can choose to affect only one side with the correction bit. This bit can be used in any western discipline throughout a horse's career."

                            https://www.statelinetack.com/item/b...bit/SLT700158/
                            The caveat there, you need riders with decent knowledge of concepts to use ALL aids and that has hands on the reins with more than basic skills and not everyone is there.

                            Any we put on horse's heads ends up being some kind of compromise between what the horse already knows to respond to and what it can figure of what the riders are asking.

                            I will say, always start with looking for more education, a trainer for the rider and/or the horse, then have them teach you to work with what is being learned.
                            That is how most of us know what is right without needing to try to reinvent wheels and coming up with so many shapes but round.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Bluey View Post

                              The caveat there, you need riders with decent knowledge of concepts to use ALL aids and that has hands on the reins with more than basic skills and not everyone is there.
                              That is true of ANY bit. If you go back and read my original post, it outlines the progression of training and bit changes, AND my position is that the OP has training issues, not bitting issues.
                              "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."

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by Luseride View Post
                                I like a Junior Cow Horse bit for most of mine. They are ride both English and Western and that bit seems to make them happy. Multiple horses and breeds, including gaited ones.
                                The Jr. Cowhorse is one of my favorite bits for my horses for barrel racing, but if the OP has any plans to show, of course the Jr. Cowhorse is not a legal show bit due to the gag action.
                                It is not enough to know how to ride; one must know how to fall.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Here are my thoughts on trying to do both at the same time.

                                  I think it also depends on what kind of Western riding you are planning to do.

                                  For instance, in "English riding," people can use very different bits between lower level dressage, upper level dressage, hunters, cross country, show jumping, and fox hunting. The horse moves differently, does a different job, and carries himself somewhat differently.

                                  Likewise in "Western riding" there are disciplines like western pleasure and ranch rail classes (one handed, shanked bit, draped rein), there are trails classes (and straight out trail riding), and there is reining, and there is working cows (two handed snaffle).

                                  However, for both dressage and Western a well trained horse is cued for most of the turns and downward transitions from rider body, seat, thigh. That actually translates very well between disciplines, if your dressage horse turns off your thigh pressure or your jumper turns in the direction you look in the arena, then the western neckrein is just confirmation of the cue, not the basic cue.

                                  My dilemma both as a kid and now as an adult, is how do you ride a horse both Western and English at the same time? I totally understand what the posters up thread mean about getting the Western horse totally soft and reactive to the snaffle, but if you train your horse to do this, you may lose the reach to contact and the steady acceptance of the snaffle that is so important in dressage. And if the OP has a 3rd level dressage horse, OP probably doesn't want to lose all of that training either.

                                  As a kid, I didn't have consistent dressage-quality contact with the snaffle, though I tried and I used a mechanical hackamore for Western, and got the pony light for sliding stops and rollbacks. But for our local playday schooling shows, rules required a bit, so I put on a shanked curb. Western pleasure was riding one-handed in a shanked bit on a draped rein. Big classes and we always lost out to the nice QH, but once, just once, we got 3rd in Western pleasure, so I figure now we must have been within the parameters .

                                  As an adult I've got a big stock horse mare whose basic training is in dressage, and who took forever to accept contact and not go above the snaffle. She is however much happier in a bitless bridle on a loose rein, so I have been using the old mechanical hackamore on her for trail riding (with a jump or dressage saddle). The problem is, there is no direct rein on that bit (she has a nice neck rein and turns off my thigh anyhow) so we can't practice lateral work very well.

                                  Last month I decided I really wanted to try maresy in cow penning because why not? So I went and watched, then brought my horse to watch, and have now ridden in two lesson sessions.

                                  I got to watch some pros warming up for the Calgary Stampede qualifiers, and I totally see what the poster above means by getting the horse super light off the snaffle. They were doing a kind of bump bump upwards two handed with high hands, and indeed the horses were also super responsive to leg and weight, so that I saw one rider practising patterns with the reins dropped on the horse's neck. They also need a snaffle to point the horse's head at the cow, and they ride two handed.

                                  I went in with the mechanical hackamore. Maresy didn't go beyond a trot the first night, the second session she really got her head into the game and started cantering, and that's where the mechanical hackamore doesn't quite allow for fast stops and turns.

                                  But I don't want to use a snaffle on her, I want to save that for dressage. Anyhow, the solution I am going to try next session is something my coach found for me, that she calls an "English hackamore." It's just a mechancial hackamore, but it has shorter shanks and doesn't have the stability chain on the shanks, and has a softer nosepiece, so it absolutely works as a direct rein and you can ride two handed. I tried it out yesterday and we can do lateral flexions and shoulder in with it.

                                  Yes, I think putting a small Western snaffle with a chin strap on maresy and doing bump bump would be more effective, and I also think she would appreciate the invitation to go above and behind the bit. But that would finish us forever for her dressage foundations. Also I think she might get a bit pissy about being bumped in the mouth at speed. And the cattle penning is something we are doing "off the side of our desk," so to speak, without much investment other than to have some fun.

                                  Anyhow, the bit you choose for Western riding is going to depend on what Western discipline you choose, and how much "performance" it involves. I think a 3rd level dressage horse could do a Western rail class in a shanked bit on a draped rein just fine, especially if the horse has had a double bridle on before. If you wanted to be really competitive, you'd need to get the horse to slow down a bit and do a stretchy trot.

                                  But I think if you want to do reining or cow work, you will need to train in a two handed bit with direct rein.



                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    I use a full cheek snaffle

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      My all time favorite bit that I have not had a horse dislike is a low port roller bar with a swept shank. It had an amazing feel and the reaction time from hand to mouth is decreased with the design of the shank making it less harsh. This is the bit I put my ex-eventer in to show in the horsemanship, my western pleasure show mare rode in it and my freebie just graduated to this bit and loved it.

                                      Myler makes this design but I bought mine from state line tack because it is far less expensive

                                      https://www.sstack.com/fes-bit-weste...CABEgI_uPD_BwE

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by beau159 View Post

                                        The Jr. Cowhorse is one of my favorite bits for my horses for barrel racing, but if the OP has any plans to show, of course the Jr. Cowhorse is not a legal show bit due to the gag action.
                                        The ones I use does not have a gag action and are legal. Of course that is the problem with bits, so many names and the names often refer to different bits.

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