Bit Applications? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 22 Old 02-16-2014, 04:40 PM Thread Starter
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Bit Applications?

new to Horse training. I have two older horses I am working with . I started off with the two bits I had . Tom Thumb style. I have since learned that they are kind of harsh and send mixed messages ! I have switched to D- snaffles. I started over , with lots of ground work , and both are doing well getting used to the snaffle . The mare has times when she is a bit riled up, especially when wanting to get back , on a ride away from her pasture pal. I have not experienced any bolting issues, but I have herd it is always a possibility. I have worked hard with the horses stopping , and backing with the snaffle. Just wondering if and when , I should add a low or mid ported curb bit to their training? I have herd talk about keeping horses in Snaffles indefinitely, and have herd talk of finishing training off in curb bits?
I am a pleasure rider , and light trail rider.
Are snaffles only for direct reining? Are slack rein riding , neck reining , easier to train with curb bits?
how do you know your stopping training is secure for trail riding, with a snaffle, if your horse has never totally bolted or had a bad spook. Don't want to find out the hard way. Or for piece of mind , should you work with a curb bit on trail riding? I have worked with desensitizing , with various noises , dogs . They seem sound , and much happier out of the Tomb Thumbs .
Sorry for all the questions ?
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post #2 of 22 Old 02-16-2014, 07:52 PM
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Everything that the horse needs to know, they should already know before you even think about transitioning to the curb. They should neck rein well, give to the bit easily in every direction, carry themselves level and relaxed at all times, and be responsive to leg and seat cues for speed control and stopping.

If there is even one single problem with how they ride in the snaffle, then they aren't ready for the curb.
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post #3 of 22 Old 02-17-2014, 01:16 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks for your input. Doe
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post #4 of 22 Old 02-17-2014, 09:22 AM
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For peace of mind, work with them in a curb?? No. Just because it is a more indirect pressured bit does not make it safer for you to get control of the horse in the long run. Curb is the absolute last thing you introduce to the training, once they've completed everything that Smrobs wonderfully listed for you.

If you say they're happy and go well in the snaffles and you only use them for some light trail riding, I don't see why you'd even need to use a curb at all. Sure, train them to it so that they can go in them in a pinch, but snaffles are perfectly fine bits too.

We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience. -Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
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post #5 of 22 Old 02-17-2014, 09:36 AM
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thank you ninamebo that is my feeling also. I have a 6 yr old and she is in a snaffle and I never have planed on changing to a curb. But lately I have heard they are good to have while trail riding (more control) Gracie has bolted and there doesn't seem like much you can do if they are scared no matter what bit. If i can't get her into a one rein stop, i just ride out the bolt and she stops soon. (she has only does this 3 times) Would a curb really help in that situation??

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post #6 of 22 Old 02-17-2014, 10:35 AM
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Curb means restrain. A curb bit is called a curb because it is good at restraining a horse.

Many horses go fine in snaffles their entire lives. Some go fine bitless their entire lives. Our gelding trooper doesn't care what bit you put in his mouth as long as you try not to use it.

Mia was a very fearful horse. We did a lot of spins and bolts. She learned to fight a snaffle. If a horse figures out how to either stretch its head out so the snaffle pulls against its teeth, or how to grab the snaffle with its teeth, then the horse knows how to defeat a snaffle bit. Mia became good at the stretch her head thing. If she tried to bolt, I could whip her around in a 180 deg turn, and 4-5 of those turns in a row would get her to give up the idea of bolting - but there was nothing gentle about it, and the emotional trauma merely confirmed her in her fears.

It took one ride to introduce her to a curb bit, and about 3 rides in the arena for her to get comfortable with them. If a horse grabs the bit in her teeth, she will still have pressure on the poll and leverage on the chin. After a few practice rides, Mia understood a firm bump with the reins meant, "Stop, darn it, and I'm serious!" She gave up trying to fight the bit.

In the 15 months since, she has learned many of the scary things were not so scary after all. She is beginning to understand that if she holds her ground and checks in with her rider, the scary thing will go away - or her rider will direct her away from the scary thing. Learning that has transformed her. She is still alert, and sometimes prances some or gives an unexpected hop, but she hasn't offered to bolt in a year.

At the same time I changed her bit, I also started working on getting good stops from her, every time and every where. We started practicing stops all over the place. Once a horse forms a solid habit of obeying a cue, it will tend to obey that cue even when frightened. That 'unbreakable habit' is training, and training is ultimately what controls a horse.

This is my favorite video on training a horse to stop. Notice he uses a snaffle:

But yes, I found a curb bit to be a very useful training tool. I am now slowly transitioning her back to snaffles. My goal is to someday ride her regularly in the desert in a sidepull.

That is my experience with one horse, compared to hundreds for smrobs. Take it FWIW, as a single data point from a somewhat unusual horse. Maybe someone else could have done it all without a bit. I don't know. But I like a simple Billy Allen curb, or a Jr Cow Horse curb bit. Used with slack in the reins, and regular training, a Billy Allen like the one below is not any harsher than a snaffle. Used wrong, any bit is cruel. Used wrong, bitless is cruel.

Snaffles are a great design for working side-to-side movement. Curbs do well at curbing - restraining - forward motion. Either needs to be used with training, because a horse can eventually learn to run through any amount of pressure.

My favorite Billy Allen:

Mia in a Jr Cow Horse. Notice I have the option of clipping the reins to the mouthpiece and using this bit as a snaffle - and I do so sometimes:

If anyone is considering a curb bit, I suggest reading this thread carefully. There are a wide variety of curb bits, and some designs work better than others:

Bit Information (Curb and Western type bits and hackamores)

Also, this video shows a good option to have when riding with a snaffle:

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post #7 of 22 Old 02-17-2014, 01:17 PM
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^Is it just me or does that bit look a little low in Mia's mouth?

I agree with what as been said above; there are probably other steps to take prior to introducing a curb. (:
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post #8 of 22 Old 02-17-2014, 05:53 PM
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Zexious, that may be where she likes it. I've got one that likes the bit hanging way down in his mouth. If it's touching the corners of his lips, it's too tight and he's very obvious about his dislike. His teeth are good and he is that way in every single bit I use, regardless of curb or snaffle.
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post #9 of 22 Old 02-17-2014, 10:47 PM
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I have found that when a horse really bolts then it doesn't matter what you have in its mouth it won't stop - at times they will run away from the pain of a harsh bit rather than giving to the pressure of it
If a horse is just being 'strong' then you need to learn better ways to ride through that before resorting to different bits the more you pull on their mouths especially in a stronger bit the harder they get over time until eventually nothing works
When I've had horses that took a hold at times I found that a Cheltenham Gag with 2 reins was about the best - riding on the snaffle rein and only using the gag pressure when really needed
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post #10 of 22 Old 02-18-2014, 10:59 AM
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The advantage of a curb bit in getting a horse to stop has little to do with pain, IMHO. Mechanically, it differs significantly from a snaffle. As you start pulling back, the lever arms (sides) rotate around the bit in the mouth. This decreases the size of the circle made by the bit and the bridle going around the poll, applying pressure to the poll. Bit evasions like stretching the head out horizontally will not relieve the pressure on the poll, nor will grabbing the bit in the teeth.

As the shanks continue to rotate back, the curb strap engages the lower jaw. At this point, the circle of bridle and bit is now as small as it will get, and I suspect it changes from a class 1 lever to a class 2 lever. The lever action then acts to leverage the horse's head to a more vertical position. Since a horse's binocular vision is somewhat limited, as is the area in their eye capable of fine resolution, it means the area of best vision is brought closer to the horse's feet - and the horse has to decide to either slow, or run where it cannot see well.

It is true some horses will continue to run regardless. The first bolt I ever rode was visiting a ranch when I was around 20. I ended up with the horse's nose at my knee, and he didn't slow a bit! He only started to turn when I started kicking his right shoulder as hard as I could, and that was pretty hard since a barbed wire fence was coming up! So yes, a horse can bolt thru anything, as jaydee says. A curb bit, by itself, will not guarantee a horse will stop.

But mechanically, a curb bit does more to help a rider slow a horse in a straight line than a snaffle does.

I'm not sure why western curbs are viewed so warily. I know I am more than strong enough to savage a horse's mouth with a snaffle or damage their face with a bitless bridle. Since I ride a western curb with one hand instead of two, I automatically start with 50% less doubling the power via leveraged shanks would only get me back to what I have with two hands and a snaffle. And when ridden as below, a Billy Allen is nothing more than a mullen snaffle with a roller in the middle:

None of this means the OP needs to use a curb. If a horse does fine in a bitless bridle, why change? If a horse does well in a snaffle, why change? However, a low end horse like Mia can do fine in a western curb, provided she is given a lesson or two in how it feels and then is ridden with slack reins most of the time.

The X-rays below show what happens with a snaffle (including the supposedly extra gentle french links) when pressure is applied:

Ideally, the horse should be trained in such a way that pressure like that is never needed. But I object to the idea that curb bits are 'harsh' and snaffle bits are 'gentle'. It seems to me a Billy Allen bit, ridden with one hand and only used when giving a cue, is one of the mildest, least intrusive bits on the market. I've stopped using the bit below because it is 5.25" across and that is just too big for Mia's mouth, but it seems to me the basic design is an outstanding one to consider if you want to minimize pressure in the mouth:

BTW - I'm inconsistent on when I take pictures of Mia in a given bit. I may or may not have finished adjusting the bridle for any given picture. However, she seems to prefer a Billy Allen about one hole tighter than a bit with links...maybe something to do with how it feels on her tongue?

"Make the right thing easy and the wrong thing...well, ignore it mostly."
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