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Not to re-hash bit debates...

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  • Not to re-hash bit debates...

    Hey, everybody! I used to ride my old cow pony (Ace, naturally) Western, but then since my sister wanted to try English, I was somehow swept into Pony Club, too. I don't remember what kind of bit Ace used when we rode Western, but for Pony Club, we used a full-cheek snaffle. Acey boy was a racehorse, and I recall having to haul on him a few times when we went cross country jumping so we didn't end up in the next state!

    Since I've been out of the game so long, I was looking at an old thread along the lines of "Why do Western riders use shanked bits?" I have a couple of really innocent questions. First, for breaking/initiating horses, why is a loose ring snaffle preferable to an eggbutt, full-cheek, D-ring, etc.? Or is it? Now knowing about the 'nutcracker' action of a full-cheek snaffle, I regret the way I used to "have" to pull on poor Ace's face.

    Second...once you've gotten your horse to the point it is ready for a shanked bit, I understand very little contact is needed - mostly seat guided and a teensy bit of movement with the hand. What if you were sneaky and put a snaffle in the horse's mouth and rode with a really draped rein...would the horse notice? What is it about shanks that work so well on an accomplished mount?

    Clearly I need to do research, but a port relieves pressure on the tongue (right?). So, would a high port be gentler or vice versa? And I don't have the slightest clue about what a curb is or how it works (been a loooooooong time since my Pony Club years - forgive me!). I know towards the end with Ace, we put him in a Pelham and it sucked. Two reins? With a racehorse who has pogo sticks springs for legs? Try riding a 3'6" course with that much junk in your hands!

    Anyway, I often look back and feel sorry for trying to turn my cow horse into something he isn't, and I'd like for my next horse to have a much kinder, gentler-handed rider.

    Thanks!
  • Original Poster

    #2
    And yes, I know Google is my friend, but if someone could help break it down for me, that would be great!

    Comment


    • #3
      My opinion, in the western world, loose rings used to be cheap ones people that didn't know better used.
      To train or start colts, they are too "noisy", produce too many signals and not consistently.
      Compared with others, loose rings wiggle so much and on top of that many trainers add a loose leather curb strap, that also bops the horse mercilessly all along, so horses have to learn to work despite the aggravation.

      You can look at that in all kinds of videos.
      Why do people today, when we know better, still use them, other than the rare horse that may prefer them?
      Tradition and habit, is what they have used and are used to it.

      You won't generally, or didn't used to, see loose ring bits in English riding barns or race tracks but on the rare horse.

      Yes, once your horse is well trained so it "neck reins", that is not really reining from the rein on the neck so much as from your body signals and a light guidance with your hand on drapey reins, you can have any bit, snaffle or curb on the other end and be fine.

      To train where you have to help the horse, or take hold here and there, unless just a very light touch, you really need to have a snaffle.
      In western riding, curbs were not meant for picking the reins and guiding the horse with steady contact, but to bump the horse off contact and only be a guide to reinforce your body language.

      Now, there are all kinds of bits any more, so all that is a mere generalization.
      All bets are off in some disciplines, what they demand and the bits used there, like for barrel racing or reining.

      One of the best ways to see how any one bit may work is to grab it with your hand, the other hand holding the bridle by the middle of the cheek pieces above it and have someone from behind use the reins while you see how the bit is moving in your hand and what you understand is trying to say and where it is just a puzzle, you do this and that until you get the right response.

      Then think about how horses have to work when they depend on bits for guidance.

      When you try that with any curb, you quickly will realize that using reins independent of each other, as with a snaffle, makes curbs do all kinds of odd twists and turns, why we don't really want to try to use those with steady contact, other than for support and light guidance.

      Now, that is just my opinion and there are many, many opinions out there when it comes to bits, as many or more than bits.

      Comment

      • Original Poster

        #4
        So, Bluey...(first off, awesome explanation!), would it be safe to say that a well-trained horse with a shank/curb bit is more comfortable in the mouth than a horse that has constant contact with the bit (e.g. dressage)? NOT looking for an us vs. them debate, since I've been on both sides, and I guess we won't really know until we can thoroughly decode horse language, and I suppose every horse is different....<end rambling>

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Ace View Post
          So, Bluey...(first off, awesome explanation!), would it be safe to say that a well-trained horse with a shank/curb bit is more comfortable in the mouth than a horse that has constant contact with the bit (e.g. dressage)? NOT looking for an us vs. them debate, since I've been on both sides, and I guess we won't really know until we can thoroughly decode horse language, and I suppose every horse is different....<end rambling>
          I can say from experience that SOME horses are always more comfortable with light contact. I had a TB that I trail rode in an english pelham with 2 reins on very light contact - as in my hands were essentially at the buckle on the english reins and he steered from my seat and legs. I tried him in a western bit with a mouth similar to his pelham, but on a looser rein he was not as comfident and willing on the trail, he would wander side to side more and be a little spookier.

          I wouldn't want to trail ride any horse that needed a firm contact all the time, and IME they generally don't, but the level of contact they go best will vary considerably depending on the horse, training, and rider.


          Christa

          Comment

          • Original Poster

            #6
            That makes sense, Christa - thanks!

            Now, I don't know if it's true or not, but I've heard that taking up the reins and applying *more* pressure to a racehorse's mouth makes the horse run faster. If this is true, my poor, beloved Ace was a really confused boy. It did seem that holding on tight didn't help - if he wanted to gallop across the field, away we went! He was a great babysitter, though, and brave as the day is long. Even if he couldn't physically jump high enough to get over an obstacle, well, gosh darn it, we would barrel right through it!

            I wish I had him back as a five year old. He was totally trained (barrels, cows), but I kind of took him in a direction that didn't necessarily fit for him (though he was a spectacular mover and jumper). *sigh*

            Comment


            • #7
              I started and rode my current horse in a loose-ring, then eggbutt, snaffle for a long time. He was one of those who got insecure if he didn't feel my hands. I found that when I trail-rode, though, it was kind of a pain to always have contact. When he met with some cactus, I discovered that a snaffle did not mean much to him in the "whoa" department. I moved to a short-shanked bit with a 3-piece broken bit, since he's very, very sensitive. Now, I can ride him on totally loose reins with no problem. I would have done that a lot sooner had I realized he could handle it!

              Comment

              • Original Poster

                #8
                JumpQH, does you boy like the 3-piece because it's less pressure on the bars, plus easier on the tongue--unlike the full cheek snaffle I used to use on my guy (with nutcracker action - only one joint)?

                Comment


                • #9
                  Here are some amateur observations from working with my critters when they were green beans. You can use a snaffle on an advanced western horse, but you should not use a spade bit on a greenie. I'm going to ignore brakes and discuss it terms of steering.

                  A snaffle works in part by putting pressure against the side of the horse's mouth. When you pull on a rein, the ring on the opposite side of the mouth moves up against the horse's lips. That's not comfortable for horsie. The horse reacts to you pulling on the rein by turning his head to lessen the pressure. Voila. Since the body usually follows the head, you now have steering. Pull the head left, horsie goes left. Pull the head right, horsie goes right.

                  Now, what happens when horsie figures out he doesn't actually have turn his head to relieve the pressure? He can simply open his mouth and let the bit slide sideways. Well, this equine eureka moment is not good for the rider. Your reins don't work nearly a well for steering when they're both on the same side of the horse's face.

                  So, you can modify your tack a little to keep the bit from sliding sideways out of the horse's mouth. One approach is to use a full cheek snaffle or a hunter dee ring. Horsie will have to open his mouth REALLY wide to let either one slide sideways. (And my knuckleheads have occasionally managed to do it, usually while simultaneously yawning and scratching an itchy face against a knee.) You can also run a strap under the horse's chin connecting the two rings.

                  Eventually, you and horsie will progress from direct reining to seat aids and neck reining for steering. At this point you can now use the bit for a different kind of communication. This stage is when and why people switch to a shanked spade bit. The bit is now a tool to encourage proper head carriage and collection, the same way an upper level dressage rider uses a double curb bit. The bit, assuming the rider has good hands and the bit fits properly, will ride balanced in the horse's mouth when the horse is balanced. It will swing into a less comfortable position if the horse is unbalanced. Since a greenie is still figuring out the whole balance thing, you really don't want to progress to a spade too early. You will have an unhappy and confused horse. The advanced horse, however, won't suffer from a snaffle if that's what you want to use.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    My boy goes in a low port grazing bit with 3-4 inch shanks.

                    He needs very slight guidance from the bit. And he's easy to stop, hence the low port. I have to be careful with the half halts; just a little too much is a whole halt for him.

                    I also chose a bit that has the angle of the mouth/port aligned with his lips. That is, instead of perpendicular to the ground, it leans back on a line from the corner of his mouth to his eye. It lays flat on his tongue. Morgans tend to have a low palette which make them more sensitive to the curb because just a bit of rein and the curb is against the roof of their mouth. If I needed more stopping power, I would choose a higher port or longer shanks...or both.

                    His cue to jog is a slight lift of the reins and a tiny bit of leg. Lifting the reins tells him to lift his withers and come under himself...iow, jog.
                    Ride like you mean it.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Regarding what carp said: I always use a cavasseon with a snaffle bit to keep their mouth closed.
                      Ride like you mean it.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Ace View Post
                        Hey, everybody! I used to ride my old cow pony (Ace, naturally) Western, but then since my sister wanted to try English, I was somehow swept into Pony Club, too. I don't remember what kind of bit Ace used when we rode Western, but for Pony Club, we used a full-cheek snaffle. Acey boy was a racehorse, and I recall having to haul on him a few times when we went cross country jumping so we didn't end up in the next state!

                        Since I've been out of the game so long, I was looking at an old thread along the lines of "Why do Western riders use shanked bits?" I have a couple of really innocent questions. First, for breaking/initiating horses, why is a loose ring snaffle preferable to an eggbutt, full-cheek, D-ring, etc.? Or is it? Now knowing about the 'nutcracker' action of a full-cheek snaffle, I regret the way I used to "have" to pull on poor Ace's face.

                        Second...once you've gotten your horse to the point it is ready for a shanked bit, I understand very little contact is needed - mostly seat guided and a teensy bit of movement with the hand. What if you were sneaky and put a snaffle in the horse's mouth and rode with a really draped rein...would the horse notice? What is it about shanks that work so well on an accomplished mount?

                        Clearly I need to do research, but a port relieves pressure on the tongue (right?). So, would a high port be gentler or vice versa? And I don't have the slightest clue about what a curb is or how it works (been a loooooooong time since my Pony Club years - forgive me!). I know towards the end with Ace, we put him in a Pelham and it sucked. Two reins? With a racehorse who has pogo sticks springs for legs? Try riding a 3'6" course with that much junk in your hands!

                        Anyway, I often look back and feel sorry for trying to turn my cow horse into something he isn't, and I'd like for my next horse to have a much kinder, gentler-handed rider.

                        Thanks!
                        its not the bit in question really it how you are with your hands as bits are only as strong as the hands that use them

                        Comment

                        • Original Poster

                          #13
                          Originally posted by goeslikestink View Post
                          its not the bit in question really it how you are with your hands as bits are only as strong as the hands that use them
                          Absolutely!

                          I was watching some YouTube clips yesterday of barrel racing (I'm sure it was not the finest since they were showing horses mostly having meltdowns during the run). I couldn't get a good look at what kind of bits those women were using on their horses, but there was a heckuva lot of hauling on the horses' mouths. Poor things usually dumped their rider...not so sure that it was because of equine insubordination, either.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            A well trained barrel horse should be able to run in a snaffle with no yarning on behalf of the rider. IMO, the harsh bits and yarning mean the rider needs to take that horse back to the basics. ETA: and the rider needs to go back to the basics as well!

                            (I'm a barrel racer/gamer myself)
                            "If you think nobody cares about you, try missing a couple payments..."

                            Comment

                            • Original Poster

                              #15
                              There was one girl who just kept yanking on the poor horse's face. He was kind of doing tiny little rears and she was quickly yanking on the reins all while kicking him. Poor kid.

                              I was also terrified watching barrel racing accidents - quite a few scary falls and no helmets! Clearly, I am no tough cowgirl!

                              Comment

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