Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: Mississippi Gulf Coast
Great thread! And, let me tell you why...
My husband & I are what I would call "adult beginners" and recently acquired our first horses. Levi, a 9 yo draft cross w/ a H/J background came w/ specific bit recommendations for a french link dee ring snaffle, so that is what we use on him. It works fine -- except that he did not appreciate it when I somehow managed to screw up installing the bit into the bridle -- luckily my mantra is to assume that if the horse is having a problem, I am probably screwing something up ;)
The second horse is a 17 yo TWH mare, Cotton, who kind of happened upon us in a rescue type situation. Unsure of what bit to use and assuming that she needed a "western" type of bit, we listened to the advice of the "expert" at the local feed tack store. I explained that although I rode western (well, mostly bareback) as a kid, my husband and I took lessons as adults with instructors who were also competitive dressage riders, but that we were still beginners. She told us that she had just the perfect bit for us -- her FAVORITE bit -- a bit that worked on most any horse -- a Tom Thumb. Unfortunately, I didn't research the Tom Thumb bit or find this forum until after we tried the bit, and we are **** lucky that it didn't end in tragedy. Although I explained briefly to my husband that this was a LEVERAGED bit and that he needed to have very light hands, he chose to ride as he had learned from his lessons w/ way too much contact for that bit which resulted in a frustrated rider and horse. Everything his hot and mean Swedish instructor taught him is drilled into his brain, yet he never listens to me!!!
Thank goodness Cotton is an older and very sweet horse, and thank goodness I was there to "fire" my husband and get him off the horse. I was able to ride her just fine in that bit, because I rode Western as a kid and spent my adult English lessons being fussed at for not using enough contact. Eventually, I heard back from the woman Cotton came from, who recommended a short shank walking horse bit or a wonder bit. I ordered a French Link Wonder Bit, but then tried her in the French Link Dee Ring, and she was fine. I had just put the Wonder Bit into her bridle before I read this, and it will now come out, and the regular dee ring french link will go in. This mare does NOT neck rein, so I cannot, based on my limited knowledge, understand why she needs anything besides a mild snaffle -- especially given that we are still "beginners" and she is not going to run off with anyone.
I am trying to learn more about how she was trained to respond to what cues / aids as she was actually trained and competed in that "Big Lick" TWH stuff and was even the reserve champion for the state of KY in 1995 -- in the under 3 class. Now, let me be clear, I find the Big Lick padded shoes, soring, and long shanked bits to be appalling -- and that whole plantation class to be freakish. But, I would like to UNDERSTAND how she was trained, so that we can provide the clearest and mildest cues.
Unfortunately, we are in a rural area in Southern Mississippi and my only option for working with a professional trainer &/or riding instructor is to trailer the horses, which is what I will be doing once we find and purchase a horse trailer and I learn to pull it. So, right now, we are just riding around in our back pasture (about 8 acres). After the "bit expert" experience, I am dreading trying to find another expert to teach us :( I am so grateful that this forum exists and that so many real experts are willing to share thoughtful advice.