I have about 3-5 yrs equine experience total. I don't have the experience necessary to fall back on to correct certain problems. I have a 5 yr old that I started myself using mostly BUck Brannaman methods. SHe does most things I ask, but for about a year she doesn't seem to have progressed any. SHe's neck reining, backing, stoping, roll backs, collected in a walk and trot, all fairly well. She is not a dead head at all, and by giving her chances to make the right decision I think I've allowed her to become lazy to my signals. I think she should be reacting quicker to my request because I know for a fact she knows what I want. I've been told that I should have had her out of a snaffle a long time ago.
Originally I thought snaffle, bosal, straight up. Now I realize that I may never be able to obtain the experience necessary to achieve that.
What would you recommend as the next bit to progress.
It's pretty much a given that on a Western horse using no contact, you WILL reach a point where a snaffle just won't cut it anymore - you cannot give your commands quickly and precisely enough for your horse to react in your expected time frame. At this point, I consider the snaffle as actually being the more "abusive" bit because you have to get heavier handed.
I would definitely be graduating to a nice low port curb at this point. See how she handles the quicker cues and the lighter precision of a shanked bit. I would avoid a tom thumb or jointed curb completely, as she's already reached the point where she knows these commands more or less without even needing an actual bit. You just want the ability to be able to shift your hand instead of move your hand to get quicker responses from her.
The following is a nice bit to graduate to - see how she likes it, and you can play with your mouthpiece size, port size and shank size as you start to get a feel for what she's responding to best:
It is never necessary for a horse to be moved out of the snaffle. There are many horses and riders in the western world who are content to go in the snaffle forever. You do lack some of the finesse that you can get in a curb type bit but that isn't always a bad thing.
That being said, so long as she is consistent and soft in the snaffle and is light to your cues, there is absolutely no reason why you can't move her up to the next step. What are your ultimate goals with her? Do you want to eventually end up in the spade bit? I will say that riding successfully in a spade bit is not for someone with limited experience. That has the potential to be an incredibly dangerous bit unless the horse is completely and properly prepared to wear it and the rider knows exactly how to properly handle it. That is why it often takes years to get to the spade. You can always just go ahead and give the bosal a try and see if anything changes. One thing about keeping a horse from becoming lazy to your cues is not allowing them to ignore them. You ask her for something, if she is a little sluggish then you tell her, if she still sulls up and isn't reacting as fast as you want, then you demand that she do it and she must do it now. Sometimes that does mean getting into their face or their sides. It's all about knowing when to be very soft and when to give a good solid pop. I personally will take a horse out of the snaffle as soon as they are soft and responsive and begin to get the idea behind neck reining. However, I take them directly from the snaffle to the bridle.
If she isn't reacting quickly enough on cues that she for certain knows, then you need to remind her that you pick the speed. Sometimes, you can't stay nice to a young horse or they will walk all over you.
The bit that MM posted is a good one but I personally prefer a swivel shanked bit on a green horse, even if they do neck rein (cause sometimes you need a one rein stop and that is very difficult with fixed shanks). If you ultimately don't want the spade but do want something with more finesse than a snaffle, this is the bit that I put all my youngsters in after the snaffle and the one that I ride all my finished horses in.
I wasnt able to ride until the end of April this spring so she was more than fresh. She was doing everything I asked and had an unbelievable roll back (for me anyway), I mean I barely moved the rein and she would react right now. Same deal last year. So after a few rides and she calms down, were in slow motion and I know I gave her way too many chances then took hold of her too hard with the snaffle.
I get real bored riding a plug and the ultimate goal is definitely a spade bit. I think I have pretty good hands.
She's pretty good but I would like the ability to ORS, especially when she's fresh. I still think of her as a baby. That's probably my problem.
What would going to the bosal actually do? I realize timing is everything with a bosal but does that translate to reacting quicker? I've been told going to the bosal is like starting all over.
Unfortunately, it is also all too common for a horse to sull up when they are bored. If you repeat something so many times and always do the same patterns and moves, every time you ride, they get bored and will sometimes begin to resent everything you ask them and will get sluggish. She might just need a break and a change of pace. Do something that you haven't been doing with her, take her on a trail ride, just ride for the enjoyment without drilling all those manouvers into her head all the time.
Sometimes, going from bitted to bitless can feel like starting all over. You have to re-teach how to give to pressure because the pressure is in all new places. I don't understand all the intricate things of making a bridle horse like all the vaquero types. I do know that it takes a very experienced person to handle a bosal properly because it is very easy for the horse to become hard to it. Here is a link to a website that I have browsed and found some very interesting information on about the hackamore and making a bridle horse. The Hackamore