Horses holding bits

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Horses holding bits

This is a discussion on Horses holding bits within the Horse Talk forums, part of the Keeping and Caring for Horses category
  • Bits for horses that hold
  • Horse holding spade bit

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    06-13-2013, 10:23 PM
Horses holding bits

Can someone explain to me why a horse will hold a bit?

I've seen a couple times on this forum where someone will suggest that they encourage a horse to hold the bit themselves instead of allowing the bridle the full responsibility of bit placement.

What does it mean when the horse voluntarily holds the bit( for horse and rider). Why is this encouraged? What benefits does it have?

Please and thank you :)
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    06-13-2013, 10:27 PM
Green Broke
Subbing >.>
I'm curious as to the why(s) as well.
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    06-13-2013, 10:35 PM
If they mouth it, but not in a nervous chewing way, create saliva and hold it on their own they are readily accepting the bit and ready to work.

This is also part of the reason why a lot of tongue relief is not desirable in this situation. The straight bar that you see in spades and half breeds distributes the weight of the bit over a larger area and allows the horse to hold the bit on his own with the tongue without causing strain or a headache over a length of time.
The horse picking up the bit with is tongue and holding it also allows for signals rather than waiting for curb and bar pressure from a bit that is just hanging in the mouth.

One of the tell-tale signs a horse likes a(spade) bit is the fact that you can put it in the mouth without a headstall to hold it in and he will hold it on his own.
    06-13-2013, 11:17 PM
Good info!

Can a horse hold a thinner bit or are those typically too difficult or harder to hold up themselves?
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    06-13-2013, 11:55 PM
Originally Posted by Copperhead    
Good info!

Can a horse hold a thinner bit or are those typically too difficult or harder to hold up themselves?
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Depends on the weight and style.

By the way Copperhead, great questions :)
    06-14-2013, 12:01 AM
In western pleasure, we use the term "packing the bit", where the horse is responsible for holding the bit and being sensitive to pressure.

When the bridle holds the bit up too high, it puts a little bit of constant pressure on their mouth. And it's hard to make a horse sensitive to tiny increments of pressure when their bit is constantly causing a little bit of pressure. Plus, by allowing the bridle to hold the bit for them, the horse has no responsibility to listen to the bit. Usually you will see horses "chewing", messing with their tongues, evading the bit, and just not soft to it.

When a horse is responsible for holding his own bit, a lot of the "mouthy" problems go away. The horse can now directly feel smaller amounts of pressure, and trusts that he can be responsible for the bit without pain. I have never needed the use of a noseband this way.

If by a thinner bit you mean a thin twisted wire, yes, that bit is generally designed to get a horse off of the bit. If you want your horse to pack a bit, you usually would pick one that does not discourage contact. An average snaffle with sweet iron is easy to hold, and the nutcracker effect can be avoided if you work the sides of the mouth, not a direct pull. Then they go onto things like curb bits. I like a good heavy bit and heavy reins.
    06-14-2013, 12:10 AM
What I meant by a thinner bit was a snaffle or a French link style bit as aposed to the spade bits that were mentioned above.

I was wondering since the spade bit was explained to give the horse a broader area to hold without much strain, so I was wondering if a thinner bit could be held just as easily as a thicker bit could.

How exactly would you get a horse ready to hold his own bit? What kind of training would the horse have had?
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    06-14-2013, 12:17 AM
Oh yes, a horse can pack a snaffle around easily.

Usually by dropping the bit in their mouth, I don't follow the 2-wrinkle rule. They are kind of forced to hold it that way. And then with the snaffle, working the sides of the bit by flexing and bending either side. When they are flexible in it, then I push them into the bridle, but I give a lot of drape. Pick up, push, and release/drape. They become sensitive to that drape, especially if you are working their bodies at the same time. A lot of lateral and working the hindquarters. Usually the bit problem takes care of itself. I think a lot of people micro-manage their horses mouth, and the horse just comes off of it and says "Fine, you take care of it!" I'm too focused on what my horse's feet are doing, and it's my horse's responsibility to manage his bit. If a horse gets too tense in the jaw/poll from holding it, a light flex from side to side helps loosen the tension.
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    06-14-2013, 12:28 AM
I'm finding everything pretty interesting.

I had lowered the bit in my horses mouth and found in her second ride with the lowered bit that she was holding it on her own. I've never asked her to do that and never really had much knowledge on the subject so I was searching for more info on it.

She rides western but I have utilized dressage in her training. I've been really happy with her progress but she threw a curve ball at me when she started carrying her own bit.

I had bought a French link with a copper roller and wanted to use it on her, but she carried the other bit today (haven't tried to French link on her yet). I was interested in the details and theory behind a horse who would carry a bit and why.

Very interesting.
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    06-14-2013, 01:06 AM
Green Broke
I second what Oh Vair Oh said about dropping the bit. No wrinkles for me either. In fact I like to see just a tad bit of space between the bit and the corner of their mouth. I've had horses for a lot of years and I've only ever had one that would not pick up her bit and carry it. Didn't matter if you snugged it up a little either, she just would not work off of a bit period. She'd do anything you asked of her though in a hack, halter or even a length of twine draped around her neck.

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