11-13-2010, 12:17 AM
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Aside from the natural progression you'd see on a Western horse going from a snaffle to a curb for finesse on a loose rein, for the most part, harsh bits are a replacement for most training - I think. I am ashamed to admit I have resorted to them before, and I am FULLY capable of admitting I used them because I didn't know what else to do - I didn't have the experience to fix the problem, to find a better way to control the horse.
It's a controversial topic. I encountered a bit of a dilemma a few weeks ago at a demo - a local barrel racer, my personal hero. This woman rides beautifully - her stallion is local barrel racing champion and virtually unbeatable. He is calm and collected, and never spastic. He runs with a quiet, smooth and fluid grace and his owner/rider is a picture of ideal horsemanship as she sits quietly in the saddle, not kicking and not flapping. I watched her school him for half an hour before the demo, putting him through reining moves including spins, flying changes and sliding stops. She trotted and loped the pattern several times, all with him being quiet - he is a TRAINED horse first and a barrel horse second and is as quiet as they come.
My dilemma? After the run, she fielded questions and upon closer inspection, it was noted that she was running him in a curb/gag combination bike chain like bit. I was horrified - and she seemed rightly embarrassed. Someone pointed it out, and bashfully she admitted she was having some problems with his whoa and normally he runs in a standard curb but she'd resorted to this the last couple weeks with the intention of going back to his curb when she sorted the problem.
I didn't get further detail, but it's REALLY made me want to call her and grill her - a bit invasive though right? I wish I knew the reasoning, because I firmly believe that EVERY horse should go in a standard snaffle, and her horse of ALL horses is the horse who should be able to. So is there a time and a place for a vicious bit? At no point was she hauling on him, at no point did she have a contact, at no point was he hollow and fighting her - so is it a harsh bit, or is it only harsh if she was reefing on his face?
ROFL, sorry for the novel but I think it's a touchy subject! I know a lot of people who use "harsh" bits, and yet their horses are perfectly trained so why do they NEED that bit, why do they USE that bit if they don't need it's harshness? It's complicated, I hope someone else can shed some insight!