"Graduating" From Snaffle to Leverage Bits - The Horse Forum

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post #1 of 12 Old 10-08-2011, 05:14 PM Thread Starter
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Question "Graduating" From Snaffle to Leverage Bits

While my boy will probably be in a snaffle for awhile, I was wondering at what point in a horse's training is he ready for a leverage bit or a curb? All of my old trainer's horses had bits of different levels and could work in just about anything, but my 6 year old gelding has never been ridden in anything but a snaffle.

Obviously he has to know all of the basics well, which we're working on, but I really have no idea what's appropriate and when. I do know that it's sort of a case by case basis, but are there really any rules?

I'm training my boy in reining, btw, but for now I'm just conditioning him. Any advice is appreciated!
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post #2 of 12 Old 10-08-2011, 06:15 PM
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If he doesn't need more in his mouth, why put more there? But, when you get to the point where the snaffle just isn't doing what you want, or you want to start showing, I would start looking at a 3 piece shanked snaffle, and stay away from anything ported, if you're reining.

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post #3 of 12 Old 10-08-2011, 06:26 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by QHriderKE View Post
If he doesn't need more in his mouth, why put more there? But, when you get to the point where the snaffle just isn't doing what you want, or you want to start showing, I would start looking at a 3 piece shanked snaffle, and stay away from anything ported, if you're reining.
I was thinking for showing, if I ever do that. Thanks for the response, that helps! :)
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post #4 of 12 Old 10-08-2011, 07:15 PM
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I actually prefer bits with a mild port, it gives the horse some tongue clearance and helps minimize the urge to gape his mouth (which is fairly common with bits that press onto his tongue). If the horse has been taught to carry the bit himself, then it isn't that big of a deal if there is no port because there is hardly ever any actual pressure on his mouth, but for horses who just pack the bit and don't really try to feel it, they'll often gape when you pick up pressure. Depending on the horse's preference, a port can make the difference between a horse that looks willing and happy


And one that looks like you're yanking his face off, even if you aren't


I am a fan of the Sweetwater type ports because there is enough arch there for good tongue relief, but they generally aren't big enough to interfere with the palate unless the horse has a very low palate.

BTW, this is a sweetwater port


While that is the bit that I've used for years on my horses after they graduate up from a snaffle, I recently got one of these ( AT Low Port Loose Cheek Low Port Western Bit 5in - Horse.com ) and I am really liking it. It offers a lot more feel and mobility than the solid port without collapsing on the horse's face the way a broken bit will whenever you pick up the reins. I also refuse to use anything with stationary shanks. Swivel shanks are a must on all my curbs.

Anyway, as far as when to bump them up. I expect them to be soft, supple, and responsive. They should have a pretty dang good idea about neck reining and responding consistently to light cues on their neck. It doesn't have to be perfect because, let's face it, even older broke horses will need a bit of one-rein correction occasionally (that's where the swivel shanks really come into play). As you said, a great deal of it also depends on the individual horse. Of the horses I've worked with, it's ranged from around 10 rides to around 60 rides before they are in a curb bit. It depends on their mentality, how eager they are, how willing to learn, and how they feel in my hands. There has been more than one occasion when I put them in a curb and immediately though "Eh, this just doesn't feel right", so back to a snaffle they go for a while longer.
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post #5 of 12 Old 10-08-2011, 08:46 PM Thread Starter
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Awesome sm! Thanks for the pictures and explanations. :) My trainer used to ride a lot of her horses in bits like that. Rarely was a solid port used apart from showing, and even then not often.
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post #6 of 12 Old 10-08-2011, 08:56 PM
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Originally Posted by smrobs View Post
I actually prefer bits with a mild port, it gives the horse some tongue clearance and helps minimize the urge to gape his mouth (which is fairly common with bits that press onto his tongue). If the horse has been taught to carry the bit himself, then it isn't that big of a deal if there is no port because there is hardly ever any actual pressure on his mouth, but for horses who just pack the bit and don't really try to feel it, they'll often gape when you pick up pressure. Depending on the horse's preference, a port can make the difference between a horse that looks willing and happy


And one that looks like you're yanking his face off, even if you aren't


.
One wonders why this horse has its mouth open like that. To me bad training, too much rein or wrong bit.

To the OP it often isn't so much when the horse is ready but when the RIDER is ready.
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post #7 of 12 Old 10-09-2011, 07:25 PM
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Honestly, I feel, if the horse is self carrying his headset, moves off leg and seat with proper impulsion, and the reins are just there for looks-They'll work fine in any bit.

Then, you can put him in a shank for show purposes. Most big organizations require shanks to horses over five. Which is a problem for me, since my 14yo isn't fully auto yet, and is often schooled in a snaffle still.

I once had the privilege to ride a super trained WP horse. You just cued the pace and where to go. He did the rest. He was all leg and seat. I had the reins, just because it's part of the standard tack. That's when I consider a horse rounded off. His 11 yo rider can ride him bridless, no fear. As long as the bit fits comfortable in his mouth, then all is well.
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post #8 of 12 Old 10-10-2011, 02:19 AM Thread Starter
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DejaVu, I'd love to get Sock to that point. Bareback bridleless riding has become one of my most coveted goals. Not necessarily with this horse, but it's definitely on my bucket list to get a horse trained that well. I wish there was a horse or two like that of any discipline in our barn that I could ride a few times. It would help me feel exactly what certain moves and motions feel like on a horse that is perfectly trained or close so I can compare that to my horse(s) and strive for it. :)
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post #9 of 12 Old 10-10-2011, 04:29 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spyder View Post
One wonders why this horse has its mouth open like that. To me bad training, too much rein or wrong bit.

To the OP it often isn't so much when the horse is ready but when the RIDER is ready.
Well said, the horse in that photo is opening its mouth in extreme discomfort as it tries to relieve unrelenting pressure on its mouth. Its an ugly picture of an animal in pain.

New research has found that the bit sits on top of the tongue, not on the bars, so port bits do not provide relief for the tongue, but simply concentrate the pressure onto the lateral edges of the tonuge. The only time the bit isn't sitting on the tongue is when the horse either retracts it or gets it over the bit. The tongue lies across the whole width of the bars (the ridges of the distal mandible).

Bits with ports can be more severe because they make contact with the roof of the mouth.

Leverage bits are a kind of first class lever, which means that the amount of work (force) achieved is disproportionally greater than the amount of effort applied. Its why horses feel lighter in curbs, because even a small amount of tension on the reins applies a lot of pressure on their mouths and they are thus very highly motivated to relieve themselves of the effects of that pressure. It's easier to cause pain and discomfort with a curb than a snaffle, but it feels like much less to the rider.
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post #10 of 12 Old 10-10-2011, 04:37 PM
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Originally Posted by 2BigReds View Post
DejaVu, I'd love to get Sock to that point. Bareback bridleless riding has become one of my most coveted goals. Not necessarily with this horse, but it's definitely on my bucket list to get a horse trained that well. I wish there was a horse or two like that of any discipline in our barn that I could ride a few times. It would help me feel exactly what certain moves and motions feel like on a horse that is perfectly trained or close so I can compare that to my horse(s) and strive for it. :)

I've gone brideless quite a few times on my gelding. It's one of the most liberating and connected feelings I've had, especially the first couple of times. As long as their trained to leg and seat then it's all good. We've walked, trotted, and cantered in the round pen, and walked, little trot, in the small arena. It's a good goal to set and awesome when you reach it. Bridleless is one of my trainers favorites, so we had a lot of experienced help getting there.

Another good reason for getting a younger horse after you've owned and actively ridden a more experienced horse. You can train, or have trained, the way you want, and if all leg and seat is it, then you can have a pretty awesome horse who has been trained in your image.
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