I have a 4 yr old green broke paint gelding. He is vveerrrryyy laid back and just nearly lazy. He has learned verbal ques extreamly well (whoa, back, step up, come on (to change gaits), turn around (for at gates which is what would be a turn on the forehand but he doesn't know the physical que only the verbal)...etc)
When I fist started riding him, I put him in a d-ring snaffle. He immediately started to blow past the stop but was direct reining beautifully. I switched him to a quick stop, but it was too vague for direct reining and he hasn't learned neck reining yet. Over the last almost a year, I have been riding him with a Stop and Flex exactly like this picture:
With the swivel shanks, we have made (slight) progress on learning to neck rein but he is CONSTANTLY pulling against a direct rein. I believe it is still too vague of a pressure for him to understand what I'm asking for.
I was told to go back to a twisted wire hackamore combo bit (like the Martha Josey million dollar bit) and to "saw it back and forward to keep him from blowing threw the stop", but that just seems too "cowboy" for all the work I have already put into this gelding. But I find that I'm almost at the "whatever it takes" point.
I have been looking for another solution and other than just buying everything and trying it all, I figure I'll ask for some more help.
So far this is what I'm thinking about. He does respond VERY well to the rope nose (found that out after a head throwing stage), so I figure I'll stick with the one thing I know works. And in combo bits, this is what I'm thinking:
Ring Combination Rope Nose Hackamore 1/4" Sweet Iron Bradoon Snaffle also available with the twisted dog bone snaffle.
I have heard this is NOT to be used for direct reining, so maybe this would be a step up after he learns it correctly???
Short Shank Rope Nose Combination Hackamore 3/8" 3-Piece Twisted Wire with Dog Bone Snaffle Better for direct rein or neck rein? Does anyone know what the effect of the curve shank on the side of the horses jaw? This looks like direct reining could be painful to the horses face.
Brown Futurity 3/8" Twisted Dog Bone Snaffle I'm thinking this looks like my best bet as long as the long shanks will provide proper direction for direct reining and not be too vague for teaching neck reining. And I'm hoping the rope noseband will keep him from trying to blow threw the stop just like it keeps him from throwing his head up. He has a lot of respect for the rope noseband.
ANY advice right now will be GREATLY appreciated!! Sorry this got so wordy! Thank you!
Firstly, what are your goals with the horse? Are you planning on showing in something, or just riding for pleasure out on the trails?
Secondly, neck reining can be taight in any bit - It has nothing to do with the actual bit. As the name suggests, the turn comes from the weight of the rein on the neck - The bit itself should nevercome into the equation. I personally can neck rein all of my horses in snaffles and do so regularly.
Thirdly - If he is working a lot better with pressure on the nose, have you thought about trying him bitless?
I'll give you more ideas once I get a better feel for what your goals are :]
Next, go back to the d-ring or try a full cheek with a copper mouth. Work him in a small arena or large round pen. Get him flexing to both sides in the bit at the stop and walk. Work on walk/halt transitions, lots and lots of them. Use your seat and legs to tell him to bend, slow down, and stop, along with your reins. Once he'll stop for you with only light bit pressure, work on walk/trot transitions and bending/flexing at the trot. Rinse and repeat.
For neck reining, use rein AND leg cues. To turn left, press your right calf on the horse along with right rein on the neck and a direct rein cue with the left rein. Work serpentines up and down your arena at the walk alternating cues. Do figure eights and other "fun" patterns too. Keep working at the walk until you no longer have to use your direct rein cue, just the neck rein and leg, then move on to trot.
When riding, don't forget to LOOK where you want to go (not down at the horse), keep your weight centered in the saddle, and don't lean in the saddle or drop your shoulder. Lift your inside rein UP if the horse doesn't respond to a light cue. This will pull the bit in to the corners of his mouth, making the signal more clear.
Often times we think the horse isn't getting something, but really, we're giving mixed signals. If you neck rein to the left, but drop your left (inside) shoulder, then you're pushing your horse to the right. If you're looking down, your weight can shift in the saddle, causing confusion. If you think you're doing it right, have someone video two or three riding sessions on your horse. Have the person video taping get you from the side, coming toward the camera, and going away. Look at your shoulder position, hips, how you hold the reins, where your eyes are looking, and what your legs are doing. You might see some things that you weren't aware of.
If your horse really doesn't like a jointed snaffle, try a three-piece bit, like a french link full cheek or one with a copper roller center piece. Many horses like three piece bits better.
I do a lot as far as riding goes, play days, trail rides, ride on the side of highway, parades, pulling a sled/boat (ok so it was an old water trough through the pond and the creek ha!) but all in all, we just play! My main goal is just more correct direction for safety on the trails. Some of the weekend or week long rides we go on get pretty sticky and I really need him to pay attention to the direction I am giving him. Being young, I can still feel him getting wound up when he feels over-stimulated, so I can't just "give him his head" to get out of the situation yet. And occasionally I have to hi-tail it accoss a road or such when I'm on a road ride. He will pull against my direct rein and doesn't want to pick up the pace (which is why I'm calling him lazy). He finally does it, but it's not without a fight and I'm afraid one of these days we could get hurt.
As far as the flexing and bending he does those perfectly (at a stand still or walk) no matter what he is in. We have started on the neck reining at a walk and trot, and he will do a great serpentine at both as long as I am paying close attention to the other kinesthetics above mentioned. At a slow lope... he is clueless... he gets all worked up and stops and sulls. I tried to work him on a fence and once around barrels (which you would think would be pretty obvious) but as soon as I gave him a leg que with rein, direct or neck, he would just stop! I'm sure my ques are confusing him as well, which is why I'm looking for a bit that will even out the pressure that is applied overall.
Also, if it is helpful to get a picture of my riding, I ride strickly western, in a roping saddle with long split leather reins. He learned to drop his head in nearly a western pleasure style as soon as I started using those reins.
Videoing is a wonderful idea. I am going to have to get with a friend for sure for that. I never would of thought of that. Thank you!
The Stop and Flex is a hackamore, as well as the Quick Stop and Stop and Turn.... all of these use the bar pressure under the jaw. I have to be VERY light handed with these hackamores which is why I figured he was trying to pull against the direct rein now. Also, all of these distribute the pressure evenly over the bottom jaw. Even with a simple mechanical hackamore (I didn't have one with rope nose), he has NO brakes without a verbal que, which makes it hard for anyone else to ride him. I would like for him to, eventually, be a horse that anyone can ride. He has the dispostion for it, just doesn't know all the right things yet.
From what i've read, I would really stay away from any twisted wire mouthpieces and shanked bits.
If you do need to really haul his head in any given direction to ensure he moves for hsi own safety, I would definitely stick with a snaffle, as the direct contact is going to be much clearer and more effective in showing him what you want. Direct reining in shanks is not supposed to happen - It can be done, but generally only on horses who understand direct reining in a snaffle first and don't fight it.
To help with your direct reining issues, I would suggest either D ring cheeks, a Tom Thumb snaffle, or a Full Cheek/Fulmer snaffle. All of these bits really enforce a direct rein - the opposite side of the cheek almost 'pushes' the face around as well as the pulling action from the rein. Examples:
Tom Thumb Snaffle (Might not be available in the US):
I think a fulmer would be a very good choice for your boy. They are designed to be used with keepers from the top bar across to the cheekpiece which have the added advantage of keeping the bit very still in the mouth which your boy might like.
As for the actual mouthpiece, try a double jointed bit with a lozenge or french link in the middle (NOT a Dr. Bristol - Different angle than a french link). The head tossing may have been a sign of dislike of the single jointed 'nutcracker' action.
Now, if he starts blowing through your requests to stop, you need to do one or both of two things.
First, look at yourself. When asking for a stop you should ask firstly with your breath (Exhaling), weight (Sinking into the saddle), Legs (Sinking your weight down into your heels) - If he ignores this, then you take up the reins. The most important part of a stop is AFTER the horse has stopped - The millisecond he stops, you need to release everything - reins, breath, weight. Horses learn from the release, not the pressure itself. I think if you really focus on releasing after every stop, he will improve. He is still a baby - We have to exagerate things for them to understand :]
Secondly - An emergency stop. Personally, I don't use and don't like the one rein stop so I will leave that to other people to explain. I use more of a 'pulley rein' method. The idea is to have one rein very short and anchor that hand, either on the neck or just by weight, and use the other rein up high and very strongly to come to a sharp stop.
This is why not everyone should train thier own horse. You need to find someone with alot of training experience to help you. Your cousin or the nieghbor down the street that took lessons 5 years ago is not going to cut it. Don't use any of the bits you posted. They are all either gimmicks or tools to be used by knowledgeable hands. A horses stop doesn't come from the mouth, it comes from the mind. If you can't stop a horse in a snaffle it won't stop in anything else for long either. I would venture to guess that you are hanging on your horses mouth and that is why he is ignoring your cues to stop unless you are using a bit that inflicts alot of pressure on his jaw.
A bit will not solve the problems you are having. This is a training issue.
I have managed to handle several "unbroken" horses before and never had any problems. I try not to use a bit at all after the horses understand direct reining. Which in this case, is exactly what I did with my gelding since he did not like the bit. Stopping is not actually my problem when I'm riding. He does wonderfully for me with everything except reining (which is really what I'm asking for help on here.) He only doesn't stop for other people, so I guess my answer to that problem is to stop letting inexperienced riders on him while he's still a baby/learning. He and I have all the physical ques worked out. I guess the answer to most of his training problem is that I need to finish training him instead of mixing up his signals with different riders. I have never had this problem of pulling away from the direct rein, but I have never let anyone else ride a horse that I was working with before. I took for granted that his laid back personality would make him acceptable for others to handle as long as it is just for down the road and back. But I see now that I am confusing him.
The only reason I chose those combo bits to look at is because that was what was suggested by a friend of mine that barrel races and the tack shop owner I attend church with who also does a lot of cutting, roping, ranch work. My horse has a VERY light mouth, which is why I ride with heavy reins in only a hackamore. I can feel the weight of my reins at every moment and it is a constant reminder of how light handed I need to be (which I am). But now I just sound like I'm defending myself, and that is unnecessary. Granted, I know I am not an expert in the field yet, but everyone has to start somewhere, which is why I AM asking for help. Thank you for your concern for my horse, I was shying away from all of those bits anyways, which is why I came on here for advice. Everyone has their own techniques and input, and it can all be helpful in some way.
Wildspot, Thank you so very much for the pictures and advice! That will be a great place to start. I do know more about the mechanics than (as I re-read my posts) it really sounds like. But I also believe if you don't re-learn the basics from time to time, you tend to forget the simple steps (like proper breathing as you mentioned) at the times when it's most important. It's nice to know there are still people in the world ready to help and offer advice rather than just criticize and assume the worst. One step closer in the right direction! Thank you again!
The horse just needs more consistent work in the arena and some help from a trainer wouldn't hurt. I would use a copper mouth full cheek bit or a three piece full cheek bit. Work on your own riding skills on a trained horse at the canter/lope, so you can be more effective.
Also, I would work this horse on the lunge with side reins (or tie your split reins to the cinch rins). Start loose, so he gets used to the pressure, then slowly tighten them up until you have nice even contact. Work him at the trot and some canter (not too much). This will help him develop the proper muscles for balancing himself, which will make it easier for him to pay attention to you.
Also, he's only 4. He's young and this kind of behavior is to be expected. Stick with a simple snaffle and keep working him. It took my mare two full YEARS to figure out her balance and be able to go relaxed at the canter. Young horses don't always have the physical or mental capacity to be "broke" until later in life. Heck, my husband's Arab x TB gelding is just NOW getting "broke" at 11 years old! Lol My mare, an Appy who's mostly QH by breeding, wasn't "broke" until 6 years old, closer to 7.
Also, keep in mind that all of his growth plates are NOT closed yet. His hocks should be closing just this year, sometime between 4 and 5 years old. The growth plates in the big bones at the base of his neck won't close until closer to 6yrs old. Don't push him too hard. You don't want to end up with him developing arthritis or other joint issues too young. A creaky and stiff 12 yr old horse is NOT normal. Heck, a creaky and stiff 16 yr old horse should not be normal... Brought up and ridden properly, a horse should be sound enough for trails and flat work well in to their mid to late 20s, without the use of injections or potent supplements (beyond preventatives).