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cherriebark 06-24-2012 11:06 AM

New horse with a hard mouth
I recently acquired a rescue horse, who is a total sweetheart but needs work under saddle. He was used and abused by careless novice riders in the past, he has scars from saddle galls and that tired, dead look in his eye when you get him out to work. I have been doing a lot of gentle groundwork and just getting him out to groom him and love on him so he can begin to associate coming out of the pasture with good things.

My question is about his hard mouth. Wait! I'll stop you right there before you scroll down to type up your rant. Yes, I know it's about training not bitting. I am a very experience rider and I don't need your rant about hard hands etc.

Now that that's out of the way, I would like suggestions of a good bit to use while I am re-training him under saddle. The first day I rode him I was in a simple snaffle, and he nearly took my head off when he galloped back into the barn. I need a bit that will give me enough control to be safe. I need to have control of him so I can start schooling with light hands and get him responding more to seat and leg aids.

Yes, I know that a harsher bit is not the answer for a hard mouth horse.
My main focus is on re-training him to respond to any bit he's ridden in so he is not dependent on a harsh bit, but first I need to get his attention so he doesn't take my head off on the barn door.

Does anyone have experience re-training a hard mouth horse? What sort of bit or lack of bit worked for you?

I played on the polo team at university, and we had great success with gag bits for control at high speeds. I've also looked into various barrel racer bits and roper bits. I have always been a fan of sweet iron and copper bits, I ride my other gelding in a copper roller snaffle and have had good results in softening his mouth and getting him into the bridle.

I have heard of the MikMar bits, and I'm very curious, does anyone have any experience?

I'm also very curious about the gag/hackamore combination bits. Does anyone have experience with these?

Here are a few bits I have been considering:
7/16 Sweet Iron Mouth Bit
Rope Nose Ring Combo - Jeffers
Stop Turn Bit Reinsman Inc (Supplies Tack - Bits - Hackamores)
Wonder Gag Brookside (Supplies Tack - Bits - Working)
Mikmar Bit Company

EthanQ 06-24-2012 11:13 AM

start in a loose snaffle and work on lateral flexion, it'll help soften him up. I just got done spending 8 months going back to the "softness basics" with my horse.

Cinnys Whinny 06-24-2012 11:23 AM

I understand where you are coming from. You are working on training and yet need some amount of reasonable control in the meantime. My favorite thing to use is a knotted rope hackamore that I got from an online store on Ebay. My friends liked it so much that they bought them too.

It gives you good stop without hurting the horse and the ability of a good safe 1 rein stop if you have to (which you don't get with a mechanical hack). It works on the same concept of a side pull. My timid 12 year old was able to ride my horse in it when he was green and I'm actually able to still be able to communicate with him enough that my current trainer lets me use it for dressage lessons (we school level 1 work).

It think this might help the horse build trust in you as well as give you a little bit more response while trying to train for proper halts and other cues from the seat. I think once he realizes you aren't yet another stupid head that's gonna yank his jaw off you will get some nice results.

She has two kinds, one that is a complete bridle, and one that is just an attachment for your existing bridle (this is what I have). I'll link you to the attachment and you can see if you think it may help. The lady is very wonderful and if you email her she can do something custom for you too.

Bitless Bridle Indian Bosal Side Pull

The nice thing is, you aren't fighting against a hard mouth anymore and there is no worry about the horse clamping down or leaning against you reins, ignoring your hands, and plowing through you regardless.

Ray MacDonald 06-24-2012 11:28 AM

I agree, I totally know where your coming from Cherrie, but I would try lateral and vertical flexion also the one rein stop. If you do want something a little more, try a kimberwick.

It is stronger than a snaffle but not as harsh as your picks.

churumbeque 06-24-2012 12:49 PM

Please do a search for a thread called " Does your horse respond to your bit"
Some of the bits you posted are very harsh and I cringed when I saw them. I also would be riding in an enclosed area and doing lots of ground work with flexion and bit responce so they learn to whoa with just closing of the fingers maybe a voice command and sitting back in the saddle

Palomine 06-24-2012 01:07 PM

Are you sure it is hard mouth and not the bars are broken or nerves damaged?

You might also try squirting ACV, Heinz brand, not imitation, in mouth as that will tenderize the tissues. 10 cc is what I would use.

Saddlebag 06-24-2012 01:14 PM

When he decides to head for the barn there's likely no bit that will stop him. Just work his tail off when he gets there so he's sweating and puffing hard then ask him to leave. You may have to do this more than a few times before it clicks with him. The barn becomes less inviting. Horses will run in to the pain of a bit until taught otherwise. I find that by using a snaffle and lightly stroking the rein with my little finger I get a turning response.

Just Me 06-24-2012 01:18 PM

Not a professional, but have you tried a bosal or a bitless bridle? Just in arena, not away from home. Even if a horse has a hard mouth, it can still respond to "whoa" (verbal) and your seat right?

He's bracing against the bit right? I'd would take all opportunity to brace against bit away if he can be safely ridden in small roundpen in bosal or bitless bridle. Safety of course comes first.

Give his mouth a break and a break in what he "expects". He's not going to be expecting a bosal or bitless right? Someone new to think about and something new to learn. He's already learned he can brace against bit and ignore rider.

Just an idea.

cherriebark 06-24-2012 01:49 PM

Thanks for the responses and advice!

I am very familiar with the school of thought that holds to the minimalist theory of bitting, such that no bit is a good bit and we should all ride our horses in nothing but a loincloth like the natives. As I said, I've been a horse owner for many years and have trained many of my horses from the ground up. In theory, I love the idea of riding any horse in a plain snaffle or hackamore, and I wish that were a feasible theory. In reality, as experienced horse people should know, that is not always realistic.

Currently, this horse in question is downright dangerous to ride if I can't get him listening somehow. I can't begin to work on things like flexing and bending when we are both in danger of crashing through the gate and fences and both getting injured.

As any trainer can tell you, any bit is a harsh bit in the wrong hands, and "harsh bits" are only harsh when used improperly. There is no need to "cringe" when the training equipment is used in the proper way to improve rider/horse communication.

At the moment, I need to use all my strength to control this horse just to prevent him from plowing through fences and gates. I want to use less contact to control him, by using something that gets his attention, I can ease up and ride in a long rein. NO bit is a "harsh" bit if ridden at a long rein with light contact only when needed.

I think my bottom line is, I know what I am doing, thanks. I am not here for the tired old rant about harsh bits blah blah blah. I'm looking for specific advice on the usefulness of certain bits. I've already read the sticky about different bits.

This horse is also very well trained, he was originally trained for western pleasure and gymkhana, but was ridden too long by novices and picked up bad habits. He has advanced enough training that he should come around quickly once I can get him over this initial hurdle.

I am also looking for short term bit solution for training purposes. I want to get him going and start re-learning, then as he softens up I will downgrade.

I have an indian hackamore that I ride my other gelding in from time to time. I've had him 7 years and started him as a baby, so he's well trained, bombproof and has no bad habits. He does well in the hackmore, but he will still be a little stiffer in it and stick out his nose more, and on the trail he's always eager to grab a bite of grass. I could try the hackamore on my newer gelding, but I am not too optimistic.

Honestly I really like the idea of a hackamore or bosal. I would love to give this a try and see if the different type of contact would get a different response. But, I know he's not going to respond to a basic english hackmore or side pull. I'm looking for something with a bit of curb action. Has anyone used the "stop and turn" hackamore?

I really do think it's a beautiful idea to ride every horse in a snaffle or halter and rope and poke right along without a "harsh bit", but ask your local barrel racer, roper, cutter, polo player, etc., and you will see that there ARE legitimate, humane uses for bits that everyone likes to get up in arms about.

Thanks to everyone who provided useful advice! I appreciate it. :)

Just Me 06-24-2012 02:42 PM

I hear yeah, we aren't anti-bit at all, my mare rides in bosal or a short shank tom thumb (gasp) that's all she's ever ridden in; and she's still very soft umpteen years later and takes her bit willingly. I switch them back and forth.

Just I had a horse once w/a hard mouth...other than that, she was great, we just rode her around in bosal for awhile, then put gentle bit back in, she was fine, just needed a break I think.

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