Bits are merely communication devices. There are many different kinds to choose from depending on where your horse is coming from, what his abilities are, etc. Bits are just helpers - helping you communicate what you want in a way that your horse can understand and then do it. That's why we use a snaffle first, which is very basic communication, then move on to the curb, which is more highly advanced pressure system.
It doesn't sound like it's a bit problem. It sounds like a communication problem. If he's behaving wonderfully during everything else and only does the head toss when you ask for a back or a whoa, then there's something wrong with the way you're asking.
He might not actually understand "whoa" or back. "Back" is actually pretty difficult to teach a "green bean". When you think about it, everything they do is forward motion. I would say to try a different method on your "whoa". Try teaching him to stop with your seat instead of your hands. When a green horse is moving along at his forward pace and then suddenly a bar in his mouth jumps up and bites him without warning, it's quite startling (and up goes the head). The "seat stop" uses your seat as the initial cue. It's really cool when they learn it because no matter what gait you're using, you can just sit heavy on your pockets and they just automatically stop in a step or 2. And since you're not in their mouth, there's no reason for the head up. It's easy to teach, too. He can learn it in a day.
With backing, I don't pull, either. I set my hand firmly in one spot, lock my wrist, and squeeze the horse up into the bit. He shifts his weight forward as if about to take a step, the bit doesn't move with him, and so he backs away from it when he walks into it. And whenever you ask for the back, even if he only does one step, that's great! He has to learn what you want, first. (and when you think about it, if "whoa" and "back" are basically the same cue, he's definitely going to have some trouble understanding which is which)
Here's a thought for you....When we watch a good rider ask for these cues and you see their hand move, we think that he's pulled back on the reins. What's REALLY happened is that he's actually stopped his hand from moving forward with the horse. His hand stops in the air, the horse and his body ride slightly past it, *bam* the horse stops. It LOOKS like he's pulled, when in fact he hasn't pulled at all! There's a HUGE difference in the way the horse responds. A sudden pull-back asks the horse to defy the laws of physics and forward motion - you end up with 1200 pounds of horse all up in the bit...they should come with airbags! LOL Whereas with the "hand stopping in the air" idea, the farther the pressure on his mouth is gradual...it happens very quickly, but it's still gradual application of pressure instead of sudden, and it does not require the rider's hands, the bit, or the horse to suddenly go in the opposite direction. The farther he goes past where the hand stopped, the more it squeezes his mouth. ;^)
Try it! It's cool!!
Last edited by Liberty Valance; 08-20-2009 at 12:37 PM.