Advice on switching from snaffle to curb bit?

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Advice on switching from snaffle to curb bit?

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  • If you can't ride in a snaffle bit
  • Switching from snaffle bit to curb bit

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    06-19-2013, 09:35 AM
Advice on switching from snaffle to curb bit?

My horse does very well in a regular D-ring eggbutt sweet iron snaffle. However, I've heard talk that snaffles can be harsh on the horse and an ineffective means of communication, less so than, say, a curb bit. Does anyone have any recommendations for what curb/gag/elevator bits I should try out first? Also, if what the purpose of a curb strap/chain is and if you believe we'll require one?

If it matters, a few more details:
We ride western style.
He's been trained and ridden in both snaffle and curb, not elevator or gags, but not ridden in curb for the past year or so.
We haven't had any problems from this particular snaffle bit, no pinchings or cheek-catching.
We neck-rein.

Or should we even switch at all?
Thanks for the advice! And sorry if my english is a bit off, I'm not a native speaker!
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    06-19-2013, 09:57 AM
Don't fix what isn't broken. I have 3 horses. Two use snaffles. The third uses a curb. The horses using snaffles are confident and relaxed in them, so why would I switch? The one using a curb would sometimes fight a snaffle - and there was nothing subtle about it. After about 3 rides (and with some ground training), she relaxed in a curb.

I would always start with a snaffle. If the horse is fine in one, I'd leave them in it. If there were problems, I might try an elevator or curb bit to see how the horse responded.

There is nothing harsh or ineffective about the communication with a snaffle. For many horses, they are great.
    06-19-2013, 11:05 AM
Green Broke
I've only moved a couple horses to a curb (but I love riding the ones that respond to a curb well) and what I did was make sure they knew the basics of neck reining before moving up to a short-shanked curb with loose cheeks so I could still reinforce with some direct rein if need be.
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    06-19-2013, 11:46 AM
Green Broke
When the horse was moving balanced.. responding well to leg cues and to hands.. when the horse would neck rein decently.. I would move up to a curb bit.

However, I used a curb with relatively long shanks and a mouth that was the same shape as the horse's mouth with a low sweeping port that followed the shape of the horse's tongue. My curb also had a good curb strap placement slightly above the bit.

The harshness of a curb bit is largely based on shape of mouth piece combined with length of shank combined with the placement of the curb strap combined with the curb strap adjustment. A short shanked bit with a tight curb chain is more severe than a long shanked bit with a looser curb chain.. and the placement of the chain (higher or lower) can change the severity.

The second requirement to getting a horse in a curb is the rider. You need to have quite hands, a light touch and an independent seat. The curb bit allows very subtle signals to the horse on a relatively loose rein combined with seat and leg signals. This means you can't sit on the horse like a sack of potatoes.. you need to have your weight in your heels and be light in the saddle so you can communicate to your horse and you can stay in balance to help him balance and respond to your slight signals both through your hands and your legs and seat.

I loved a horse that was on a curb bit. It mean he had reached a level of training that was a joy to ride to. It meant we could go out on the trail, in the ring or on cows and all I needed to do was think about what we needed to do next and we did it.
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