Beyond the snaffle bit..how and why! - The Horse Forum
 
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post #1 of 8 Old 09-13-2009, 10:34 PM Thread Starter
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Beyond the snaffle bit..how and why!

The snaffle bit is by far one of the finest pieces of training equipment that has ever been invented.

It comes in a variety of sizes and styles to meet MANY training needs.
The snaffle bit is a TWO handed bit and there may come a time when a person would like to go beyond this level for several reasons.
One is that a person may want to show in certain classes that REQUIRE different equipment or a person may want to ride one handed for such events as roping or they may just want to ride a horse that neck reins for most maneuvers.
This is not to say that a horse can not be neck reined in a snaffle as the initial training can be started with this bit.

Some of the idea of bit progression is rooted in tradition and some is out of need.
The Western tradition and particularly the tradition of the Spanish Vaquero traces it's heritage back to the Spanish riding schools that taught the young cavalry officers the the art of riding one handed with their war horses.

So the idea is very old and as the new world was settled the need changed as the Vaquero threw his la riata to control the wild steer that had escaped from the herd.

Some of the idea is also the total comfort of the horse and this is hard to believe as we all go the shows and see people pull,yank,jerk,and pop horses with the evil device called the "Leverage bit".

The Spanish set the goal of the "Finished " bridle horse at 8 years and the test was to run the horse through a complex pattern (Dressage) with small threads connected between the reins and the bit and if the thread broke,then the horse was not ready and fail the test and it reflected badly on the trainer/rider also.
The finished bit hung on the mouth of the horse so as not to interfere with the horse and to provide comfort.
The balance of the bit was so that when the horses head was vertical that the bit would just float on their mouth as they waited for the slightest signal from the rider.
The reins that went with this bit were also balanced and connected with short chains so that the very valuable braided "Romel" was not damaged as the horse drank water.
The chains also were part of the signal that the horse received and it was an early warning device that the reins were being shortened.

MUCH of this process is not followed today as people are in a rush to get to where they are going with their horse and the horse suffers the consequences.

Please give your reasons why YOU do or do not want to progress past the snaffle bit and let the discussion begin.
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post #2 of 8 Old 09-13-2009, 10:53 PM
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As a dressage rider, I would like to progress to working my horse in a double bridle once ready. SImply because the double is there to give more precise control in order to execute the higher collected movements more efficiently.
However, I am most certainly NOT one of those people who think you need a double to make your horse look 'professional' and 'trained'. I don't believe in putting a horse into any bit harsher than a mild single jointed snaffle until they are totally and absolutely comfortable and producing 'true' work in the snaffle. If a horse cannot be ridden lightly and on the bit in a snaffle, why move to a harsher bit, it is not the horses problem it's the riders for not working the horse correctly enough for it to be happy in a snaffle (with the exception of the x-country horse!! ).

I refuse to work a horse in anything other than a snaffle until as I said above, it is happily working into the bridle. I also don't agree with people that think a snaffle means a horse is not trained to an advanced level. This is crazy thought, many a Grand Prix dressage horse is ridden in a snaffle at home. My coaches FEI horse is one of these, he is worked in a snaffle 90% of the time except for when there is a competition coming up and he will be put in a double again 2 rides prior.
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post #3 of 8 Old 09-13-2009, 11:02 PM
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I progress past the snaffle to a ported grazing type bit with short swivel shanks. Just because it is more precise when neck reining during what I do on my horses (cow work, roping, etc). I will not go any farther than that as far as harshness goes, I just don't think there is any need in my discipline. I will often ride in nothing more than a rope halter and lead rope and sometimes, if I start having a problem with one of my finished horses or I just want to give them a changeup to keep them on their toes, I will put them BACK into the snaffle for a while just to soften them up (that is what I am doing with Dobe right now because I started to make him hard in the curb).

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post #4 of 8 Old 09-13-2009, 11:03 PM
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I choose not to progress past a snaffle.

So far, I haven't found anything I want to do that can't be done in a snaffle. Even 'western' disciplines that are traditionally ridden in a curb. I may not be able to compete, but I can sure stop, spin, rollback, work a cow etc. as well as most that use a curb bit for the same purpose. All my horses neck rein and are able to eb ridden one handed in a snaffle.

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post #5 of 8 Old 09-13-2009, 11:04 PM
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Well, if I weren't planning on showing any of horses in the future, I probably wouldn't advance beyond the snaffle. Reason? Why? It does the job just fine.

Regardless of what most people may think (and you are more than welcome to your own opinion but I still say they are wrong) a bit with a huge hook and massive shanks is NOT going to give you anymore control.
If you can't control your horse with a snaffle, you are not going to control him with a shank.

I don't have problem with shank bits. I have a problem with people who have no idea how to USE a shank bit. NOTHING drives me more INSANE than when I see a kid's horse with a six year old child yanking on their horse's mouth with a shank bit.
Parents, what're you thinking?! *Smacks forehead* Anyways, I disgress...

Although there are some pretty insane shank bits out there where I really have to wonder what sort of ****** invented that and thought it would be even remotely effective, bits are the merely the tools, we the handler.

If you have never used a shank bit before, get someone to show you HOW too. They don't work anything like a snaffle. That's why horses in the western movies all have their heads flying up in the air. Another pet peeve. :p

ANYHOW, where was I?!
Oh, right.
I don't have a problem with any bits, so long as they are used properly. Lots of shows, especially reining, do a bit check to ensure that they bit they are using is legal, which is cool.

I don't think there is a need to move to a shank bit and I think it's sort of weird that you're required to show in a shank, but hey, what can you do? You work up the training required to ride your horse effectively in a shank, there's no worries.

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post #6 of 8 Old 09-14-2009, 07:48 AM
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I prefer to ride my horses in a snaffle. As has been said, it does the job. I do switch to a leverage bit if I show Western, simply because all of my horses are or were over 5 years old, but even then I did almost all of my daily riding and training in a simple snaffle bit. Now I show predominately English, hunt seat, and I'm beginning to dabble in some very basic dressage with my greenie. The copper mouth eggbutt is my best friend. I may someday progress to a double bridle, but I highly doubt that either my current mount or myself will ever be ready for that step, ha ha.

Wonderful description of the origins and correct use of the leverage bit system, Marecare! I wish more people understood that these tools do have a purpose beyond sheer control or inflicting pain, and (by and large... there are some heinous looking things out there, in both the snaffle and curb departments. Broken screw-bit mouthpieces, anyone?) were not created by hillbillies with zero horsemanship skill.

A stubborn horse walks behind you, an impatient one in front of you, but a noble companion walks beside you ~ Unknown
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post #7 of 8 Old 09-14-2009, 01:46 PM
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I have one horse that I have progressed to the point that I ride him in what is called a half-breed spade. It is amazing how soft and collected he seems in it. If I lift a rein an inch he's listening for what I want be it a stop or change of direction or a change of gate. I guess for me it's an issue of how precise do I want to be in my riding? I would like to move any one foot at any time with just a shift of my wieght or hand. I'm not there yet but I'm getting closer. If I were to take the test with the thread tied between my reins and the bit I would probably fail today but there is always tommorow and there is always the next horse.
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post #8 of 8 Old 09-14-2009, 05:47 PM
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^ That is fair enough, but I have acheived a similar lightness in my stock horse in just a snaffle. A tweak of a rein and a shift in my seat can cue a rollback, a lift of my hand and a block in my seat cue's a dead stop, a block in my seat and a block in my reins cue's a rein back... I can do all on the buckle of my reins.

That being said, I wouldn't say no to trying him in a curb, just because I have never used one, and am curious as to the feel.

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