Stay with snaffle or move on? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 10 Old 03-29-2012, 06:23 AM Thread Starter
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Stay with snaffle or move on?

I have read that many of you love snaffle bits. I have a haflinger that I bought a few months ago that I ride in a snaffle but he has some bad habits to break. So, do I keep him in a snaffle and work through the problems, or go to a different bit until the habit is controlled and then move back to a snaffle?

The problem is that he stretches out his neck and pulls on the bit when I work with him. Usually when he's been worked for a while and I think he's trying to relieve some of his neck muscles from the workout. I am not sure where he picked it up from but it irritates the heck out of me. My trainer and my friend who works him during the week think he needs a different bit and suggestioned the old faithful tom thumb. I would really like to see him stay in a snaffle.

Any suggestions would be great. Thanks so much.


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post #2 of 10 Old 03-29-2012, 09:06 AM
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My opinion is that you work him through his issues in the snaffle not move back to it. He is not ready for another bit if he is not working well in this one. Go back to basics and start over.
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post #3 of 10 Old 03-29-2012, 02:24 PM
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I am not anti- tom thumb. I am one of the few people on here that doesn't think it is evil. And I don't see any harm in trying it since your trainer thinks it might be good to try and he/she knows the horse better than we do.

However, in this case if the horse is not happy in a snaffle he will probably not be happy in the tom thumb because they have the same mouthpiece.

If you have other bits to try, I would try something either with a 3 piece mouthpiece OR a more solid mouthpiece. If your horse can take a curb bit (which a tom thumb is), I would try just a very simple plain grazing bit with a solid ported mouth.

Or go the opposite direction and get something with a 3 piece dogbone or lozenge mouthpiece. If someone has these bits you can try, I would try them all to see what he fusses with less.

It could be that the nut-cracker action of both the snaffle and tom thumb won't work well with him so I would try a different mouthpiece personally.

But there is no harm (that I have ever found anyway) in trying different bits. I do it all the time. Just for fun.

So don't be afraid to try something with a different mouthpiece. I have never found it to do any harm and you just might find a bit your horse is at perfect peace with.

PS. The neck stretching/pulling thing to me says he's not happy in the bit and he is trying to shake off your contact. So either you have too much contact without relief all the time or he hates the feet of the bit. Or it's become a bad habit because he knows if he pulls he will get relief. Either way I would try to find something he doesn't hate the feel of. And try giving him more loose rein and just work in contact here and there, not the entire time you ride him. Get him giving to contact in small amounts of time and then build on it, with loose rein as a reward in between times if you can.

He sounds like a horse that is defensive about his mouth from his past riders.
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post #4 of 10 Old 03-29-2012, 03:00 PM
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Some horses do need a occasional tune-up ride with a stronger bit every so often. But the goal should be to be able to ride them in as softer a bit as possible. That said, if you find that your horse is fighting a milder bit but goes lighter and happier in a bit that is "stronger," sometimes you actually are able to have a softer ride in the "harsher" bit - IF (and this is a big if) you have soft hands and know how to use the bit properly.

A two-piece snaffle isn't for everyone. I'd start playing around. But before I went to a stronger bit or a bit with a curb, like a Tom Thumb, I'd try a three piece bit. He really may be rejecting the nut cracker action of the two-piece.

I had my horse in a Sweet Iron Western D snaffle, which he went well in most of the time, but could never find a dressage legal snaffle he liked - even a Hunter D (go figure). So, after some experimenting, I switched him to a Loose Ring KK (three piece mouth piece with no leverage) and he seems to go well in it. Once or twice a week, or when he is feeling extra rocket like - I will also ride him in my Watson 3-ring, which reminds him to respect the bit and my aids and stay light and not lean on my hands. It allows me to be lighter and softer, which makes him lighter and softer and that carries over into our rides in the KK as well.
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post #5 of 10 Old 03-29-2012, 03:09 PM
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You're right, he's stretching his neck. Also his whole top line. Give him breaks. for every 5 min. let him relax for 2 at the walk. Unless you are riding almost daily it will take him longer to reshape the muscles he needs for collected work.
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post #6 of 10 Old 03-31-2012, 04:35 AM
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I have been at several barns that swear by horse massage/chiropractors. They get their necks out of whack, eating from a hay rack, playing the field, especially swatting flies. I thought it was a waste of money until I saw the results, and often you can get a good person to adjust for $40, but that changes by region. I don't see where changing the bit would help, since it sounds like a physical issue instead of a behavioral one, or perhaps the behavior is irritation from pain. Heck, it could be something as dumb as a worn our saddle pad making topline sore.
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post #7 of 10 Old 03-31-2012, 01:29 PM
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Trailhorserider and Saddlebag have both gave some very good reasons for why he would be stretching out his neck and trying to take away the contact. They were the first things that came to my mind as I was reading your post.

I would stay with a snaffle bit. You didn't say if it was a single joint or a double joint like a french link. A lot of horses prefer a double joint like a french link. It doesn't have a nutcracker type feel to it like a single joint does. But I really don't think it is the bit that is the issue.

Go back to basics with him and remember it is hard work for a horse to hold themselves together between leg and hand for the whole entire ride especially if they are not yet conditioned to do so. I would try giving him more breaks. Let him stretch down long and low often, but try and do it when it is your idea, try not to go so long between breaks that he chooses when to try and give himself one by pulling down and snatching the contact away. To let him stretch down long and low just keep riding him forwards in the walk/trot/canter into the contact but relax your contact a little by being very soft with your hands and let him seek the contact forward and down, he should stretch down into the very soft light elastic feeling contact, follow his stretch. You should also bring him down to a walk and give him a completely loose rein for a couple of minutes every once in a while during your ride when it is your idea, remember to try and do it before he chooses one for himself.

If he tries to stretch down and take away your contact before it is your idea, first thing to do is get him moving forwards and don't let him snatch, but remember to also stay soft and elastic but resist him from pulling down. He may also be trying to tell you that your contact is too strong and heavy feeling.
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post #8 of 10 Old 04-01-2012, 05:11 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for all the great advice. He is currrently in a single joint snaffle bit and he pulls on the bit when we are working on having him curve his head to the inside when trotting a circle. We also figured that him stretching out his neck had something to do with some pleasure class where they ride on a loose rein and extend the neck instead of collecting himself. I have very soft hands and don't pull on the reins and bit much at all and when he pulls his neck out, I massage the reins to pull him back in. We are going to spend more time doing some groundwork with the snaffle bit and see if we can correct some of the behavior.


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post #9 of 10 Old 04-01-2012, 05:24 PM
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Sounds like you already had everything figured out! You are on the right track then, you should notice it improve if you stay consistent with it.
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post #10 of 10 Old 04-01-2012, 06:32 PM
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I prefer using a snaffle for fixing problems, not the other way around. Bit's aren't the solution to problems, you are.

"all I ever dreamt about was makin' it; they ain't giving it, I'm taking it"
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