I have a 5 year old quarter horse (Leo) who I posted a photo of last week. He is such a sweetheart and so far I have only ridden him in a snaffle, a french link and little S hack. He is great in his French link, turns well seems to like the bit, his transitions are just find for the most part but when he gets jazzed up he has basically no "woah" from the canter (this horse understands the aids for stopping and when he is focused I can stop him with just my body). In his hack he is also great, he necks reins without me even having to touch his nose and he stops beautifully from a canter, gallop - whatever. I obviously ride with much less contact in the hack as it is a little harsher than the french link snaffle. He doesn't have as much turn in the hack though and seems to get a little confused if I ask for a small canter circle in it and really losses his balance through his outside shoulder.
Anyway, a friend suggested a combo hack/bit which at first seemed like a good idea, the nose band could help with his stop and the bit would communicate turns...but everything I've read indicates that these are pretty harsh tools....I do not want this horse to become heavy on the bit or loose his sensitivity and plan to just continue with the French link and hope to transfer weight/leg cues from the bit to the hack but I was wondering if anyone has any thoughts on short-shank combo bits with nose-bands? I am from the dressage world and didn't even know such a thing existed!
(Here's a link to what I have seen others riding in)
They can be very harsh bits. I'm not sure if you should use a harsher bit. It might be okay, as he is used to nose pressure in the hack but a combo bit is basically adding two different bits which would make the combo bit twice as harsh as what you have normally used on him.
I would stick to what you are using and just working through any problems you may be having.
Only time in the saddle will train your horse, no bit will ever do any kind of training.
There's something you have to remember about barrel horses, and that is there is nothing you can do to keep them from knowing their job and at least getting a little excited to do it. My mare is as gentle, kid safe as they come yet when she goes to run she knows her job and needs someone experienced to hold her back and then get her stopped.
If you want to do other things with this horse, you need to get her in different bits. Have a bit (Like the combo bit) specifically for when you run her. Don't put it on any other time, except for when you first try it on her. School her in the french link snaffle. If you are going to show in anything else, have a different bit for each event. Dressage, use the french link. Anything else. Make her know the difference. A lot of people do this, myself included. My mare will be hotter in her game time bit then she is in the bit I use for reining and equitation. She still responds, but it's different.
Combo bits in themselves are great bits. The one you posted is commonly used and a nice bit. The mouthpiece is soft, horses salivate well with them. The shank is a gag so it will apply a little poll pressure and softer lip pressure before it "grabs" per se, so the horse will learn to respond to the lightest pressure provided you ride soft. The noseband is only going to engage after that initial soft pressure is gone.
If you ride with soft hands, only pick up when you need to, this bit will be an excellent tool for you. With your dressage background, it's important to remember not to hold contact in this bit. Let them relax. Look up a couple videos of barrel racers schooling their horses (Sherry Cervi has some on youtube) and check out how they ask for a response from that horse. Loose, as soft as possible, no contact.
I would not recommend jumping into a combination bit straight from a snaffle. Maybe try a gag and move on from there. Personally I would try ha harsher mouth piece like a slow twist mouth piece and see if you can get him softer in the bridle.
See if you can get him to start stoping from your seat, maybe you are squeezing him while you are asking him to stop? See if you can get someone to video tape you and see if you are giving Conflicting signals. I had this same issue tell I had my husband record me on my phone. Good Luck
Bre reminded me of something I was going to say and forgot.
If he has never been in a shank bit before, maybe try these bits instead of the one you posted:
This first one is called a Sweet Six bit. You can buy the Sweet Six (Made by Sharon Camarillo) in a variety of mouthpieces (You can also find it in an off brand which is fine too). This picture is my favorite mouthpiece, also the same as the one you posted.
It's a soft bit, a little gag action, that is a good transition from the snaffle. The best part too is that there is a noseband you can buy to clip on or off of this bit as well. So if you buy it, try it without it first, and then if you feel like you may need the combo then put the noseband on. If you google "Sweet Six Bit" you will find a million results.
This next one is another favorite of mine, called an O-ring or just a Ring combo bit. I use it a lot to tune up my mare when she starts to tell me "f--- you" on the pattern.
I have the twisted mouthpiece with the dogbone, but you can find it in a couple different mouthpieces too.
The thing about this bit is that it's a great transition bit, super soft, but there is a lot of gag to it so there won't be as much "snatch" to it. Most of the "snatch" is going to come from the noseband, but the actual mouth pressure is very minimal.
Oh, another thing I didn't remember til now, you can also attach a noseband to a loose ring snaffle if you think that would be enough.
Thanks for all the advice! Really good points. I actually just picked up a loose ring snaffle that has a thinner mouth piece than the egg butt I rode him in at first. He seems to ride in it very similar to the French link but I'm thinking ill take Sorrelhorse's advice and run him in the snaffle and ride dressage in the French link, I know they are similar but hopefully it will help him know what we are doing for the day. I hopped on him bareback today and cantered some slow circles around the barrels and he really listened well. Someone mentioned getting my aids correct and I think that's a big part, he tends to fall on the bit when I ask for a halt so I've been "pushing" him up with my legs. Took a lesson with a dressage trainer (first in three years!) and she really helped me get his butt under him in his translations and suggested a tap with the whip when he falls foreword. He's so smart that the next day by the end of the ride he was a totally different horse in his down transitions!
I'm thinking stick with the snaffel until he really knows his job around the barrels and move up to the sweet six (thanks sorrel horse, that looks like a great translation bit!)
You guys are absolutely right that no bit will fix a problem! And I think working our way up to bits used for fine tuning is really smart. I have so so much to learn about western bits! I'm going to a little gymkana this weekend and ill try and get a video so you all can rip a part my riding ;) Posted via Mobile Device
Definitely the signals you give him play a big part. Bumping him up and asking him to round, putting his hind end under him will help with your stops. Also backing after a stop or asking for the shoulders to move (A haunch turn) immediately after a halt will get him lighter on the forehand and not so ready to fall. Plus whatever worked for you last time, I'm sure he'll get it!
The thing with running barrels too is that it's a fast paced sport and the signals may or may not be different than in dressage. It uses a lot of different muscles and requires different rider positioning. It's definitely hard to switch back and forth between the two.
I'm glad you found the advice helpful, keep us posted on how things go. We like pictures and videos around here too!