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Bit Applications?

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    02-18-2014, 12:36 PM
Super Moderator
You are only looking at the mechanics of one particular type of curb bit - some of them can leverage down and put direct pressure on the bars and the tongue if used with too much force which is why that type is best left to the trained horse/experienced rider
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    02-18-2014, 01:28 PM
All curb bits are not created equal, and neither are all snaffles. The western riding world, unfortunately, has more than its fair share of hideous designs. Some from Statelinetack are shown below:

The bit below is one of their best selling bits...and I doubt there are all than many riders qualified to train and ride with a spade bit. Those that are qualified normally don't buy cheap bits, either:

So yes, there are some pretty ugly western bits, including some pretty ugly looking snaffles. Many western curbs probably shouldn't even be used by experts, and very few riders or horses have the training to use some of the high-end curbs.

But there are some very good western curbs - easy to use, easy to train, and apparently easy for some horses to respond well in. Mia is a low-end horse and I'm a low-end if it is possible for us, it is possible for others. The key is to care about your horse and watch how your horse responds and to adjust accordingly. That is true English or western, bits or bitless.

I just think that even riders like myself can consider using some of the bits smrobs recommends in her curb bit thread as options. The Internet almost frightened me away from ever trying a curb bit. There is a lot of Internet advice about how harsh curbs are. On a different horse forum, one I no longer frequent (nor am I welcome to frequent there any more ), folks argued that someone transitioning a horse from a snaffle to a curb was likely to have the horse rear and flip over them out of fear for those incredibly cruel bits!

But when I did try some with Mia, she responded extremely well. It was a night/day type of difference for her. I saw more improvement in her confidence and relaxation in a month than I had seen in the previous year. When you see a horse have such a positive response to a class of bits, it is easy to become a fan of them! Maybe too much so...
    02-18-2014, 06:08 PM
Super Moderator
If it works for you both bsms then why change it?
The mare in my avatar is very light mouthed I broke her myself and apart from a few occasions that I can count on one hand she's never been ridden by anyone else yet she's happiest in a very thin snaffle which some people would regard as harsh because in the wrong hands it could be very 'sharp'.
bsms likes this.
    02-18-2014, 08:59 PM
Technically, that's not a true full spade. If I'm not mistaken, that's more like a half breed. This is a true spade and, due to the manner in which it is used, it's actually one of the most gentle bits out there.
    02-18-2014, 10:03 PM
Originally Posted by bsms    

That's called a Mona Lisa mouthpiece. What makes the bit look severe to me is the length of the shanks more than the mouthpiece. But keep in mind it's a show bit. So they want a very light signal to the horse hence the long shanks. They want to ride the horse in the show ring with drape in the reins and the appearance that the horse is working off a totally loose rein. (Even though sometimes the reins are weighted, etc.) So it's a big bit that gives the effect of a very soft horse in the show ring, IMO.

Something like this:

So to me, that's a starter show bit for someone on a budget. Of if you want to bling your horse out for a parade or pictures something.
    02-18-2014, 10:04 PM
I believe a properly used spade bit is the gentlest bit in existence. I also believe only a small minority of riders have the ability to train a horse to use a spade bit properly. Bits like this, and horses who understand them, are works of art. I am one of the many riders who will never reach that level:

Thanks to all on the correction about the picture I posted in #12, however. It is one that I have no temptation to buy...and I view bits like some folks view candy!
smrobs likes this.
    02-18-2014, 10:36 PM
Originally Posted by bsms    

On a different horse forum, one I no longer frequent (nor am I welcome to frequent there any more ), folks argued that someone transitioning a horse from a snaffle to a curb was likely to have the horse rear and flip over them out of fear for those incredibly cruel bits!

Oh geesh! The people that say such are riding with wayyyyy too much contact and have never ridden western. Anyone that has been around western riders at all have seen curb bits used with great success even if they don't use one themselves. The whole beauty of the curb is that you don't have to pull on it. You are able to have finesse with fingertip control (in an ideal world and with training).

But when I did try some with Mia, she responded extremely well. It was a night/day type of difference for her. I saw more improvement in her confidence and relaxation in a month than I had seen in the previous year. When you see a horse have such a positive response to a class of bits, it is easy to become a fan of them! Maybe too much so...
I have a confession to make. I ride my 3 yr old in a curb bit out on the trails. When he came home from the trainer he was in a snaffle and he promptly spooked and dumped me. Should I have been able to control him in a snaffle? Yes. In the real world though I wanted to feel like I could stop him from bolting in an emergency. So I have gone through a few different curb bits, first this, which he did awesome in but it didn't give me much lateral control for a one-rein-stop:

Reinsman Mullen Training Bit -

So I switched to this for more lateral control

Myler Mullen Low Port Sweet Iron Bit with Forward Tilt HBT Shanks 89-20365

It functions similar to a solid curb bit when both reins are used but if I have to one-rein-stop the center barrel rotates similar to a snaffle. Since he already did well in the rigid mullen and he was already familiar with a snaffle, I figured this bit gave me the best of both worlds. So far so good.

The other day we tested it out with a major spook when two dogs came trotting up to us and I was able to spin him around and keep him from bolting. I even managed to stay on. So I think I will ride him in this for a while unless a problem develops with it.

This is my absolute favorite bit for a broke horse:

Myler Low Medium Wide Ported Barrel Bit with HBT Shanks 89-20335

So I really think nothing of trying out different bits on different horses. How else will you find the perfect bit for that horse? I think too many people are afraid of the curb bit for no reason. All you have to remember is that you don't want to ride it with constant contact (and even that rule can be broken if you have a specific reason ie, getting the best gait out of a Fox Trotter for example). But for the most part, if you ride a curb with a loose rein you will have no problem. And I have found most horses work well with them.

I actually hate snaffles. I never had good luck with them at all. But I only trail ride. I am not a trainer or a show person.
bsms likes this.
    02-18-2014, 10:45 PM
Sometimes I really wish I had the time and inclination to turn out a good bridle horse (I think Rafe would look smashing in a spade), but then I remember that it takes years of true dedication. In that respect, I'm okay with taking the shortcut route. My horses may not be up to bridle horse standards, but they do what I need done and they do it well .

Plus, I honestly don't think I could bring myself to spend $500+ on a bit and then actually use it .

I'll be honest and say I'm bragging, but IMHO, he did pretty well at the time for around 30 rides....

*note the crossing over of the front feet* He's really good at keeping that pivot foot planted and spinning on it like a very large, very slow reining horse.
bsms likes this.
    02-18-2014, 11:50 PM
Super Moderator
I have to say that if I have a horse that spooks to bolt I prefer to work at removing their inclination to do it than to put stronger brakes on them - though that's OK in the short term I suppose if its a step towards a cure - but I don't see the bit as the cure in itself - because the spook is still there
    02-19-2014, 12:03 AM
I don't hate snaffles. They work fine for a lot of horses. Trooper works fine in one. Every bit I've bought for Mia has been tried in Trooper, and he acts the same in every single one of them! But then, he's an ex-ranch horse who was used to take care of South American sheep herders who had never been on a horse before, but who needed to ride them daily in the mountains. A horse with his personality, experience and training just gets the job done, day in and day out.

My rancher friend who taught Trooper says Mia doesn't have any problems that couldn't be solved with a few 50 mile days. He pointed to a nearby mountain and said, "Ride her to the top of that and back, and you'll have a great horse!"

So I asked him if he was volunteering, because my 55 year old back wasn't going to survive the trip. He grinned and said his 58 year old back probably wouldn't either..."But if one of my sons ever comes down here..."

Until that day, though, I'm not above cheating. And I honestly don't think I'm cheating very much in using a bit she responds well to. Still, I'd love to get her so responsive and consistent with my seat, legs and neck reining that I could ride her safely in the desert in a sidepull. We aren't even close to that now, but it seems a good goal. The lady I took western riding lessons from a few years ago said her goal was to have the horse be softer and more responsive after every ride. English or Western, that seems a good goal to me! But dang! Some horses sure don't soften very fast...

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