Should I try a shanked bit? - long -
 
 

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Should I try a shanked bit? - long -

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        04-06-2013, 05:54 PM
      #1
    Trained
    Should I try a shanked bit? - long -

    I ride very casual western. By that I mean, non-technical, self-taught from books, videos, other horsepeople, this forum, experience and common sense. I am not trying to finish my horse into a perfect performance animal, nor train myself to be that kind of rider either. I just want us both to be relaxed and having fun, safely. I think I have a decent level of riding ability for non-showing purposes. I ride on trails and side roads. I've been riding this mare for about 6 years now I think. She's an OTSB and came to me harness broke only. I was the first person that actually rode her, so what she knows she learned from me. The good and the bad. Honestly though, the only bad is that she doesn't have the finish for collection, gait transitions and those show-level instant response. That's because I don't know enough how to teach the first two and could care less about the last one. When I ride with other people, she is always one of the best mannered and most reliable horses on the trail and at the camp. So, I've done something right with her anyway.

    She responds as well as I need her to, but I'm wondering if I can improve on her neck reining with another bit. She came to me with a driving bit (from the track), I switched her to a hollow snaffle D-ring, then went to a French-link D-ring. Last summer I decided I wanted to get a bit more response from her, so I tried going back to the others. Of those three, she likes the French-link the best, but I actually seem to get a better neck rein response from the driving bit. Why that is, I don't know.

    I ride with a loose rein already, but I do need to direct rein from time to time due to scary things (moose, other horses misbehaving, rattling trailers...) She never runs off on me; if she gets a little energetic I can snug up the reins and she settles back down. I use leg cues and weight shifting/settling to guide in turns and gaits. When she wants to go the way I'm asking, a leg cue is all she needs, but of course doesn't always respond just to that. When she doesn't care or doesn't know where we are sometimes I add a neck rein to it. When she's bound and determined to go another way, I still have to direct rein. And that's exactly the order I use when asking her to go somewhere: leg, neck rein, direct rein.

    Today we were out for almost 2 hours. I used direct rein probably a couple of times when she didn't listen to the first two cues. Other than that I didn't direct rein at all except when she spooked at something. When we walked by a new horse in a field beside the road, I had snug contact on the reins because my mare was antsy. This is only her third time out in the last week and before that I hadn't had her out for several weeks. So, I think she's pretty solid.

    So, if I switched to a shanked bit, would that help send her the neck rein message or would I just be upping the power without any more communication getting to her? I read part of the stickie that SMROBS made a couple of years ago about western bits, as well as some other posts. I think I would go with a dogbone style with loose shanks that are curved back. Does that sound right? Oh, I also let her graze on the trail with her bit.

    Lastly, if I did switch to a shanked bit and something happened where I had to use a pulley rein or a ORS, are those movements going to be magnified as well, depending on the length of the shank? I need to be well aware of how much impact I would be having on her in an already stressed situation.

    Thanks for reading! And thanks in advance for any input.
         
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        04-06-2013, 07:18 PM
      #2
    Started
    If it ain't broke, don't fix it!

    But, if you want a touch more control, a bit to experiment with would be something like any of these bits:









         
        04-06-2013, 07:27 PM
      #3
    Weanling
    You'd be better off teaching her to move off of leg pressure better than changing the bit. But if you feel like you need more control, I'd suggest trying a kimberwick on the softest setting (rein through the large D ring part) and seeing how she responds to that before putting on a big shanked bit that could make her dull from possible misuse.
         
        04-06-2013, 07:29 PM
      #4
    Teen Forum Moderator
    I have that second one without joints and really like it for our neckreiners that don't need to be extremely refined. Its shank is very short so if you need to direct rein or one-rein stop, it won't increase the force by more than 1 or 2 x
         
        04-06-2013, 07:49 PM
      #5
    Showing
    Surprisingly enough, some horses do learn the finishing work on neck reining better in a mild curb bit than they do in a snaffle.

    Because I'm not a huge fan of broken mouth curbs, especially if you ever have to direct rein, I'd suggest one with a myler/billy allen type mouth instead of the dogbone type.

    The type of bit that I move all my horses up to from a snaffle is like this
    Http://www.amazon.com/Abetta-Half-Breed-Sweetwater-Bit/dp/B002HJCZKA/ref=wl_it_dp_o_pC_nS_nC?ie=UTF8&colid=OX4DECX9Z5R0&coliid=I2RD238SU5D3CT
    Mostly, I like that style because it has the extra snaffle rings in case the horse has difficulty with the curb pressure combined with the totally unfamiliar mouth. Once they are used to curb pressure though, I'll often switch them around from that one to one like this
    Http://www.amazon.com/Francois-Gauthier-Antique-Hinged-Futurity/dp/B003ABB6TA/ref=wl_it_dp_o_pC_nS_nC_pads?ie=UTF8&colid=OX4DECX9Z5R0&coliid=I24WKBG58Z94UPjust to keep them used to having other bits in their mouth and to give them a bit of a different feel.

    Both of those are just about as mild a curb bit as a person can find and they are good quality for the price too. Because the mouths are solid, they won't collapse on a horse's face when you pick up one rein in an emergency like a broken mouth curb will.
    Wallaby and COWCHICK77 like this.
         
        04-06-2013, 08:09 PM
      #6
    Trained
    Here is what I've been trying with Mia. We went off property & around the block today with it for the first time. Each shank can move about 45 deg independently, and then the other shank will move with it. Each shank can swivel out independently. The middle doesn't bend, so there is no nutcracker action.



    I did some ground leading with her first, but I guess I never pulled back enough to engage the curb strap. The first time I did that, on her back, she flung her head up in surprise...so we did some more ground work so she could get used to the progression: bit, then poll pressure, then curb strap engaging.

    Based on 8-9 rides, I'd say she probably does a little better with neck reining using this than with a snaffle, but I don't think the difference is huge. On the plus side, she seems to instinctively take pressure on the poll to mean "Bring your head down and slow", so she seems to respond to bits that apply poll pressure faster and more willingly than with a simple snaffle.

    It is still easy to direct rein with this. On our first ride off-property today, we reached a spot in the neighborhood where the wind was blowing, dogs on three sides were barking, a guy was using power tools on his car, and another guy was spraying his yard. That was too much for Mia. She stopped and gave a little prance, and I pulled her head about 90 deg left by bringing the left rein out and slightly back. She gave me her "I'm scared" look, so I told my daughter on Trooper to take the lead. Mia then stood still while I scratched her neck. As Trooper passed her, she sighed and walked on.

    I'm pretty sure the direct rein pulling didn't hurt her, because she relaxed right away and acted at ease for the remaining 10 minutes of riding, including a short canter. She also acted like a big affectionate baby after the ride, so I know she wasn't offended by anything. She is enough of a princess to act offended if she thinks I did something unfair during a ride...

    I haven't tried a pulley stop with this bit, and I'm not sure I would. I'm guessing here, but it seems to me that would apply way too much pressure. It seems like a bit to use by applying steadily increasing pressure over a couple of seconds, so the horse can choose to respond. If your horse didn't stop with one hand using this bit, you probably have problems!

    Right now, I'm thinking this may be the bit that Mia & I need to work well together. Of course, it will take a lot more rides to be sure. It is based on less than a dozen rides on one horse, so take it with a big steaming cup of FWIW!
         
        04-06-2013, 08:38 PM
      #7
    Trained
    I agree that shanked bit may translate better when it comes to neck reining. It sounds like you are on the right path by using your seat and legs first, apply the neck rein then back it up with the plow rein when the response is not correct. It doesn't sound like you are needing to gain more control, you are advancing with his training.

    Just remember if you need to "get ahold" in a shanked bit the pull is different than what you would do with a snaffle. I have no idea what a pulley stop is, but if you need to pick up the inside rein to get some attention that may have wandered, do just that pick it up, rather than pull out to the side. Pulling out to the side like you can with a snaffle sends a rather conflicting signal because the purchase/bridle ring creates pressure on the side of the face. I think a prerequisite to moving to the shanked bit is how close your hands can remain when cueing.
    Everyone posted some great examples of bits to try, I would start with a short shank and leather curb strap. You may have to experiment with mouthpieces according to his preference and mouth conformation. When introducing the bit for the first time I would do it from the ground first, check him back and to each side gently before climbing on in the case he reacts unexpectedly by the difference in pressure.
         
        04-06-2013, 09:04 PM
      #8
    Trained
    Thanks for all the responses!

    QHRider -- thanks for the pics. It's a great help just to see what's out there.

    PonyPile -- it's not about control. I do feel I have enough control, I just was wondering if the shanked bit would give more communication to my horse and thereby increase the reliability of her neck-reining response.

    Endiku -- I agree. I liked that one right off as well except for the joint. This would be new to me as well as her, so I don't want to go all Rambo on her! :)

    Smrobs -- I knew I could count on you too! That's kind of what I was thinking - that her neck reining would get more "finished" with a different bit. I'm not looking for perfection, not even all that unhappy with what we've got going on now. Just wondering if we can do anymore... I hadn't thought about a transition bit with the rings at the bit... not sure I would do that for a couple of reasons. 1. I don't think my mare would care what I do to her. She's awfully quiet 2. I wouldn't ride right away with a new bit anyway -- I'd let her get used to it during grooming and leading first, then grazing (yes, I will let her graze with a bit) and then riding if all goes well. 3. I'd like her to recognize to expect something different as soon as she feels a new bit. I can still keep the French link for when/if my son rides and she'll know that there are different sorts of things going to go on.

    BSMS - thanks for the situation example. That would potentially be exactly something that I could come across and my reaction would be the same as yours. I also like that you mentioned she took well to the poll contact. That would be a plus for me also. Usually my mare does keep her head down, but when excited... well, you know how they can be. :) So, when you direct reined, she didn't throw her head up? How does the direct reining interact with the curb and the poll?

    I forgot to mention that I do have a curb strap on her now, but since it's only a French link, the curb never engages. It's more there to ensure that the bit isn't pulled too far or shifted too much if something wild did happen. So she is used to something being under her chin, just not it ever doing anything. :)

    Oh, and is there any purpose to the roller in many of these bits that I see? Does it help or hinder in any way? Is it something I would need to consider when riding with a bit with a roller (or not)?
         
        04-06-2013, 09:11 PM
      #9
    Started
    Copper rollers taste good to most horses, and the encourage the horse to hold the bit on their own because most horses like to play with the rollers.

    A dogbone mouthpiece or a bit with more than one break eliminates the "nutcracker" effect with normal single jointed snaffles.

    I also prefer curb bits that are designed so that each side of the bit moves independently so you could direct rein if you had to.
    Cherie likes this.
         
        04-06-2013, 09:12 PM
      #10
    Trained
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by COWCHICK77    
    I agree that shanked bit may translate better when it comes to neck reining. It sounds like you are on the right path by using your seat and legs first, apply the neck rein then back it up with the plow rein when the response is not correct. It doesn't sound like you are needing to gain more control, you are advancing with his training.
    .
    Yes, that's it exactly. Thanks.

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by COWCHICK77    
    Just remember if you need to "get ahold" in a shanked bit the pull is different than what you would do with a snaffle. I have no idea what a pulley stop is, but if you need to pick up the inside rein to get some attention that may have wandered, do just that pick it up, rather than pull out to the side. Pulling out to the side like you can with a snaffle sends a rather conflicting signal because the purchase/bridle ring creates pressure on the side of the face. I think a prerequisite to moving to the shanked bit is how close your hands can remain when cueing.
    Does that apply even with a bit that has shanks that swing? I think I will have to do some experimenting in the yard with that technique so I know what I'm doing. Its so hard when there isn't anyone here to demonstrate properly.

    BTW, a pulley rein (I've never actually used it except in practice) is done by having both reins drawn up to full contact, then brace one hand just above the whithers and with the other hand, pull up and back. This twists the head around so the horse needs to stop. It's very effective. I think that if a horse needs a pulley rein, it probably shouldn't yet be in a shanked bit by the sounds of it.

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by COWCHICK77    
    Everyone posted some great examples of bits to try, I would start with a short shank and leather curb strap. You may have to experiment with mouthpieces according to his preference and mouth conformation. When introducing the bit for the first time I would do it from the ground first, check him back and to each side gently before climbing on in the case he reacts unexpectedly by the difference in pressure.
    Yup, I don't think I'd go with a chain curb ever anyway and I already have a leather one. Experimenting with mouthpieces is a problem because the only way for me to do that is to go and buy every single one I want to try So, if I'm going to make this move I'd like to hopefully get it right the first time... is that ever possible??? LOL.

    Oh and if I do this, I will definitely be posting picture of the fit before I do anything since I really am completely new to this.
         

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