Lots of silly questions... - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 8 Old 09-14-2013, 01:10 AM Thread Starter
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Smile Lots of silly questions...

I'm back riding after a long time off. The riding is going okay, but I've forgotten a lot.

I don't know how to introduce myself, but I'll try by asking these questions...


I used to use a standing martingale. A lot of the people I ride with now use running martingales. What is a running martingale made for and why would someone use it, and is it more popular than it used to be or just the people I'm riding with?

I ride a horse that sometimes uses a 1 1/2 twist snaffle. The bit I ride in is much stronger. I'm wondering what it's called and why it's used. It's a full cheek (I know that much), it's got two twisted "bits" with the link in the middle. When I was a child, I rode a mare in a bit like this (but it was copper, and this one is not), and at the time, I understood (though I may be wrong), that she had a "dead" mouth (she was a dead broke bomb proof old mare). This horse that I'm riding is an old guy, but he's got a lot of "pep" in him. I can use more nuance and hardly touch the bit in the stronger bit than tug of war in the other one... Is this the reason? Is it really necessary? How are bits determined? The horse I rode as a kid had an egg butt snaffle, and that was about as complicated as it got. All these bits are totally confusing me...

When I was a kid, I picked up the canter with the outside rein and leg. Now, I understand that that way is kind of the beginner way. Now, I am picking up the canter with inside rein, inside leg at girth, and outside leg back. Is this correct?

Are there any good videos that I can slow down of a person jumping a low fence? I am jumping, and I didn't used to have this problem, but I am sometimes not following through with the jump and am almost getting hit in the butt with the saddle (ok, it happened a couple of times, then I just held onto his mane to keep myself from doing it).... I don't know quite what I'm doing wrong, and I have yet to get my husband down to video me so I can see what it looks like. Jumping was my favorite as a child.

With a bouncy sitting trot, I am curving my spine so that I am kind of sitting back on my butt, and so that I can move my hips. My shoulders are not straight up as a result of loosening my lower back. Is this okay?

How do I ask for a lead over a fence so that I get it on the landing (I've totally forgot)...?

I'm having this problem where my reins are always too long, slipping through my fingers. Do I need gloves? Or just a tighter grip on the reins?

When you put the bridle on, is it more convenient to hold the noseband up at the top? I saw someone do this, and it seemed to make a lot of sense to me, though I'd never seen it done before.

When I put the bit in the mouth... I see people holding the bit at the bottom of the horses mouth, expecting him to open it. I was taught to stick my thumb in the side of his mouth, getting him to automatically open it, and put the bit in with my fingers... Is this okay?

Are polo wraps a new thing? Or have I just never encountered them for some bizarre reason (or ive totally forgotten--which may very well be the case).. Everyone at my barn is really into polo wraps... Do they really support the tendons? I don't put them on, as I never learned how... Is it hard to learn?

Are TB's more sensitive on their backs?... These two geldings seem so unusually sensitive, and I'm wondering if its them or the breed.

I'm very happy with my barn. I like the gelding I'm riding now (he's the third horse I've been on in as many months)... I like my trainer, and the people are very down to earth. I like the fact that I'm doing a lot of gymnastics. I've cantered single fences, but have yet to do a line... Besides a gymnastic line. My trainer is really into distances, and we are working over poles to learn to get them. The horse I'm riding is huge (like 18 hh). And his stride is huge. I love cantering him though, it's so much fun. But I always brush my teeth, in case I eat dirt ;)...

Anyway.. I'm new. And am sure to come up with more questions. Things are so different. I am always asking questions at the barn. I don't want to be a pest, though.

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post #2 of 8 Old 09-14-2013, 01:51 AM Thread Starter
Join Date: Sep 2013
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One more... :)

What are those "split" nose bands called (like an x with one strap underneath the bit in the back)....? And what are they for?

I'm sorry if I'm being really pesty, but I don't know these things...

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post #3 of 8 Old 09-14-2013, 05:10 AM
Green Broke
Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: New South Wales, Australia
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Nosebands are flash if the top and bottom act on their own. It's basically a drop noseband. If they cross over each other with a pad they're a grackle, and while it does the same as a drop noseband it also encourages the horse to keep it's mouth shut and stops them crossing their jaw.

Jumping position comes with time and practice. Even if you used to ride, your muscles have probably forgot. Spend a lot of time in two point at the trot and canter as well as transitions to make sure you don't collapse. Then start working up into small grids, keeping in two point the whole time - approach, jump and then after. Make sure your leg is well under you, too far forward or back and your position won't be as stable. Holding onto the mane isn't ideal, it's compromising your position and it's not allowing you the movement you should have. Just practice more, and make sure you're not tipping too far forward.

Bit wise, a horse is only as good as it's training. People are always looking for different bits to fix problems or make a horse more responsive, however responsiveness comes from work. A bit is only as harsh as the hands that use, so if you have a soft hand and have control over gradual pressure and release it shouldn't be a problem because you're in control, if your think your hands need a bit more work, I'd personally probably look for a more forgiving bit.

Canter, different people do different things. I never really used "rein" as a canter aid. As a kid I learned inside leg on the girth, outside leg back. With my own horses I just use inside leg.

Sitting trot you should be straight, but perhaps you are - sometimes we feel we're forward or leaning but we're not. This is one of those things that its great to have an instructor for. Although in my experience in sitting trot most people tend to tip forward and feel straight, when they feel they're leaning back a little they're actually straight, so I'd probably just try sitting back some more. If you're finding that a little tricky, check that the saddle is the right size for you.

Leads over fences - you're not going to get that together until you have a really strong position.

Either way is okay for the bit. Holding the noseband - whatever feels best for you.

From what I've read when searching for leg protection I don't think polo wraps make a real difference with support, and no more protection than many other purpose boots that often are a bit safer. Each to their own, most people I've known have only used it for fashion.

Thoroughbreds have been known to have thinner skin, so they can be a bit more sensitive to brushing and such. I also think TBs are harder to fit saddles too though, and if they're off the track they seem to find it harder to build back muscle. This can all lead to saddles that don't quite fit right and back pain.

I don't think things have changed too much, maybe it's that now, with the internet and such more products are available so you see more of them.
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post #4 of 8 Old 09-14-2013, 12:31 PM
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Location: CA
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With your reins, make sure your hands are closed around the reins. Not tight, necessarily, but firm, with flexibility and give in your arms. Gloves are nice to have.
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post #5 of 8 Old 09-14-2013, 04:00 PM
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Not silly questions! You can't be expected to just know all of these things.

1) A running martingale, in my limited experience (I have never used one, just seen/heard of them) is just one step up from a standing one. Same idea - keeping the horse's head from getting too high, I think the difference is that the standing attaches to the noseband and the running attaches to the reins. In the running, the rings will apply pressure on the reins if the horse's head goes above where the rider has control. I think it's mainly used by eventers.

2) I don't know much about bits, but from what you're describing, could it be a slow twist full cheek? Similar to this? Slow Twist Full Cheek Snaffle Bit | Dover Saddlery
What Saskia said about this is good advice.

3) That is the way I learned to cue for a canter. Giving support with the inside rein helps them balance for the inside lead (which is what you're cuing for with the outside leg back).

4) Work on your jumping position a lot on the flat to strengthen those muscles. I have just started jumping so I'm afraid I won't be much help on the jumping questions.

5) Like Saskia said, you might be straight. Have someone watch you ride and ask them what they think.

6) I would work more on your position and holding your balance over jumps before you mess around with leads.

7) You probably have a loose grip on the reins to allow your horse to move. The 'forgiving' part of your arms is your elbows - your hands shouldn't move. I struggle with this A LOT. A little exercise for you: my instructor will pluck two tail hairs from my mount and make me hold one in each hand at the beginning of the lesson, with the objective being to still have them by the end. Gloves are not necessary.

8) I've never heard of doing that before, but it does sound like it makes sense. Less stuff in the way when you're trying to get the bit in. I may just have to start doing that now!

9) Some horses are taught to automatically open when the bit is placed under their mouth. Others you have to put your thumb in - some were never taught, some have become sour after years of having the bit shoved in or clanked against their teeth, etc. As long as you make sure that they are in no discomfort when you put the bit in, using your thumb to get them to open is fine.

10) I don't know how long polo wraps have been around, and as far as support/protection I find them virtually useless. A lot of people just like the look of them. There is a learning curve to putting them on - there's a certain direction they have to be rolled onto each leg, and they take a lot of practice to get the right tightness and eveness. Too much work for something that does so little good.

11) I wonder if their saddles fit them correctly? Or have had saddles that didn't?(TBs are usually hard to fit).

12) Sounds like you're describing a flash noseband. It helps keep the horse's mouth shut.

Good to hear you enjoy riding! Keep asking questions, especially on this forum - everyone here loves to give their opinion

A horse is a mirror to your soul. And sometimes you may not like what you see. - Buck Brannaman
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post #6 of 8 Old 09-14-2013, 05:16 PM
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Location: southern Arizona
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Originally Posted by BlueMoon View Post
...I used to use a standing martingale. A lot of the people I ride with now use running martingales. What is a running martingale made for and why would someone use it, and is it more popular than it used to be or just the people I'm riding with?

The tack should depend on the horse, not what others are doing. I don't use martingales, but I don't object to those who do. From a non-user, the wiki article seems pretty good:


...The bit I ride in is much stronger. I'm wondering what it's called and why it's used. It's a full cheek (I know that much), it's got two twisted "bits" with the link in the middle...This horse that I'm riding is an old guy, but he's got a lot of "pep" in him. I can use more nuance and hardly touch the bit in the stronger bit than tug of war in the other one...

Is it this one:

If so, I'd get rid of it. If a horse runs through a standard snaffle, then I personally would use an elevator bit or go to a curb bit. Get out of his mouth to train him to listen. You can work on training him to listen to a normal snaffle (2 links or 3) or even a Waterford (which my mare prefers if she is in a snaffle.

Or consider going outside the mouth, with a mild western curb. I understand western curbs and jumping and English barns may not go well together...but I do not understand the concept of getting harsher inside a horse's mouth instead of applying pressure OUTSIDE the mouth.

The pictures below are 2 western curb bits that I think are a heck of a lot 'milder' than using sharper bits inside the mouth:

I've been using both. The top one has a 1.25 : 1 ratio, so 8 oz of pressure on the rein gives 10 oz pressure in the mouth - a fairly mild ratio. It also applies pressure to the poll, which some horses respond well to (and others apparently do not). I believe the bottom one has a pressure ratio of 1.75 : 1, but the mouthpiece has a little curve for tongue relief and the pressure doesn't go all on the bars of the mouth. The center piece is a copper roller, and the shanks can swivel independently.

In any case, there are two threads that are "stickies" concerning bits. Either snaffle or curb, there is a lot of good reading and advice there from folks who know more about bits than I do.

Bit Information (Snaffle and English-Type Bits)

Bit Information (Curb and Western type bits and hackamores)

...Jumping was my favorite as a child.

Just an FYI: Jumping is much more hazardous than not jumping. Odds of injury go up 1,000-4,000%. That tells me folks ought to feel very comfortable riding the flats before they take up jumping...but I'm 55 and only too aware of my mortality.

With a bouncy sitting trot, I am curving my spine so that I am kind of sitting back on my butt, and so that I can move my hips. My shoulders are not straight up as a result of loosening my lower back. Is this okay?...

Not if you want to jump. That is probably OK for western riding - the instructor when I took lessons kept shouting, "Get on your pockets!" The design of a western saddle makes it work for western riding. IMO, it puts too much pressure to the rear of the saddle with an English saddle.

...I'm having this problem where my reins are always too long, slipping through my fingers. Do I need gloves? Or just a tighter grip on the reins?

Tighter grip.
My opinions in bold. I'm glad I own my horses, because I would never survive at a 'barn'.

"Make the right thing easy and the wrong thing...well, ignore it mostly."
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post #7 of 8 Old 09-14-2013, 09:35 PM Thread Starter
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The bit is not my call. So I'm just as soft as I can be with my hands.... Like I said, my reins are always getting a little long (I was pretty sure about the tighter grip, I'll just have to work on it)... So I don't think I'm leaning on his mouth.

I had heard that polo wraps were not great somewhere. I think I've used boots in the past--which are easier to put on anyway...

No one has said I'm leaning back on the sitting trot, so I'm wondering if it just feels like it. I wasn't having a problem before this horse, but he's bouncy, and requires all the strength in my stomach.

I also grabbed the mane on this horse because he jumps very round and it surprised me. I'd rather grab the mane than pull unnecessarily on his mouth. I see people riding all the time dragging on their horses mouths, and I don't like it.

These are small jumps (just a single)... I'm not worried about the danger in jumping--i mean to say that i think about it, but I know it's dangerous, and I love doing it. And ive been dumped on a lot of jumps. i know it only takes that one time, but heck... geez...

My trainer is taking me slow (we don't jump every lesson, actually it's like 1/3 to 1/4 of the time, and usually it's just a little bit... My last lesson was just good, so I'm feeling enthusiastic about the whole thing. If I'm having problems, my trainer stops me). I've gotten pretty secure on the flat (we do lots of transitions, changes of gait and direction, poles, etc.).

I do want to get my husband down to video/photograph the lesson...

Anyway, those answers were great! You guys cleared up a lot of stuff for me! I don't like the bit situation, but I don't have a say. When I was young, we did a lot of exercises bringing the horses head down, so martingales weren't "mandatory" items... And I did wonder about the nosebands..and the running martingales.

All I can say in the end is that I don't know how I look. I know what I don't want to look like, and hope I am not going there. I think videos and photos are very helpful tools..

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post #8 of 8 Old 09-18-2013, 10:08 PM
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Regarding the canter departure, I think it kind of helps to know some of the reasoning behind the cues. I have a friend that has recently been perfecting her departures, and with our trainer, we have been having discussions about this topic, so hope you don't mind an additional contribution.

You ask for the departure with the outside leg behind the girth for a physiologic reason. This pushes the hip over and allows for the departing leg to be in best position to start off...therefore you get the correct leading legs on the inside.

You can improve your departures by doing some hindquarter disengagements prior to asking for the canter. It is the same motion, pusing that hip over and having them step over with their hind feet. For instance, if I am going to ask for the canter with my right leg (giving me the left lead), I may use my right leg to push that hip over in a few disengagements prior to setting off and asking for my lead. Moving the five body parts (head, neck, shoulders, middle, hineys) is key towards ultimate body control and good riding. This is just one example.

The inside leg at the girth thing is more optional, it depends on how much of a bend you want in the body when asking for your departure. It is used to give the horse a point to bend around, and as described above, pushing the hip over creates a bend allowing, again, the correct lead. The degree of that bend is going to vary, but you will deepen the bend if you use that inside leg to give him a spot to curve his body around.

You would want more of a bend when teaching leads and departures, and riding in circles and corners, or switching directions or setting up for a lead change. You might use it less if trying to start the canter in a straight line or on the rail. I always use my inside leg to some degree, but if taking off on a straight line, it is there more as a stabilizer, rather than a point to bend around.
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