Originally Posted by Storybook Farm View Post
OK, so... I have a RMH mare 6 yo finished horse. She came to me in March and we've been out on trails, mostly, since my outdoor arena is taking forEVer to build (but I'm thankful that I'm getting one, of course). I have been doing a LOT of reading about gaiting since she's my first gaited horse (but I do have a saddleseat background). When I got her, her former owner/trainer said she'd been going in a long-swivel-shank curb bit with a medium port. I got one. I am a light touch on the reigns, and used to full bridles from earlier training, but on trails (which here in WV are very much up and down hills) both in collecting her, especially in half halting down hills, and generally speaking, I *feel* like it's a harsh bit for restraint. She doesn't exactly FIGHT the bit, but she will chew on it when at a standstill, and whenever I take off the bridle, there is much open-mouthed yawning. (Actually, she's a mare being marish to some degree, 'cause she also pointedly ROLLS asap after being unsaddled, feet checked, sponged down, and released from halter. Today, after doing it, she gave a half-rear just to say, "I am ticked off at you for riding me on a day when FLIES--hello, FLIES?--were bothering me!!!
Ahem. But I digress.
She's got a soft mouth and a wonderful disposition, and listens pretty well, had good head carriage, etc. I just want to relax her more, and have a way to check her without needing the leverage of a curb bit. I bought a Kimberwick, and I plan to try that on our next outing (tomorrow) but it's still a curb with a curb chain; it just has less leverage, so I'm hoping it's not as severe.
I did the bit survey... many ride in hackamores of various kinds. I'm not sure I'm up for bitless yet. I did get a chance to watch the Myler videos and they made sense to me. What about one of their gentlest (three jointed, maybe?) snaffles?
If you're comfortable in a full double bridle and you're getting good performance from the horse, why not? The Army used a full double bridle on all Cavalry (and lots of Artillery) horses as a matter of routine. The officers and troopers were well trained in their use. The horses were broke to them in the Remount Depot. It worked.
Gaited horses have a tendency to "worry" their bits. This is a Good Thing as a rule, as it keeps the saliva flowing and the mouth moist and soft. Now if the "chewing" is because the bit is causing pain then you have a different problem. Identify it and fix it. But if the bit is properly sized and adjusted then a "chewing" is likely not something to worry about.
The noted, post untacking behaviors that you point out are incredibly normal. Stallions, geldings, and mares all do the same things. Xenophon, who wrote "On Horsemanship" 2300 years ago, recommended that a sand pit always be provided and that the horse be encouraged to roll after being untacked and groomed up.
Are you sure the bit is causing a failure to relax? How about other things (saddle fit, pad type, stirrup adjustment, rider's seat, rider's hands, rider's legs, etc.)?
IMO bitless devices have a tiny, niche place in horsemanship. In some traditions they are for starting youngsters. If a horse has mouth pathology that precludes a bit they can be valuable. They can be a bridge to help solve problems. But as a rule they are crude beyond measure when assessed as communication devices
. They are the equivalent of a "tin can telephone." If that's what someone wants to use then God Bless 'Em. There are folks out there who do demos sans bit (and saddle). Consider the number of YEARS of training that they have and that they put on their demo horses. Is that realistic for the average pleasure rider?
Bits were invented about 4,000 years ago. They have been used over all that time because they work, well. There is no evidence that when properly selected and used they cause harm. Pick the one that works best for you!!! :)