Old-School Horse Training: The Snaffle Horse
There are many different variations of Vaquero horsemanship when it comes to using a snaffle. In the Old California style, the snaffle is rarely used. But in the Great Basin Buckaroo way, the snaffle is an essential tool. Many trainers believe a snaffle should be used for at least the first year. There really isn't a "right" time frame of using a snaffle when it comes to starting your bridle horse. Or any horse for that manner. If you want to strictly stick to tradition, don't use a snaffle. With my experiences, I find the best time frame for using a snaffle is between 25-45 rides. Depending on the horse.
Before I even get on the colt, I want them to soften up and bend to pressure on both sides on the ground, know how to carry the bit(not biting at it), free lunge both directions bitted up, walk, trot, lope, and be very responsive to ground driving. I usually don't do a whole lot of under saddle ground work when I'm starting colts. I do get them used to being cinched up, but not introducing them to weight yet. I really want them to focus on softening up and responding. The first ride I tend to take it very slow. I don't go over a trot in the first ride. I walk them, very quietly back and forth across the arena, work on turning both ways and stoping with the smallest amount of pressure on their face as possible. I really don't start working on collection until about the 15th ride. After quite a few quiet rides in the arena, and they are nice and soft and responsive, I take them outside. I get them working on cattle, checking fences, doctoring, draging calf sleds etc. I find work is a lot more important within the first twenty rides then fine tuning. In about the last 10-15 rides, I bring the horse back in the arena. I do a lot of penned cow work, I work them on the fence to get them rolling around themselves nicely. I work on collection in all gaits. Below I've attached some pictures of me riding an snaffle horse in her 10th ride. You can see how level her headset his, and how quiet she is. This is what I like to see in a well started snaffle horse.
~Started young horses in Bosca te Ador, unto the two rein the old Spanish spade, brought them along with two hands that were gentle. Some fine reining horses as ever were made~