It's a long one so only if you have time.
I am a beginner level rider who just bought a gaited horse. I don't want to hear any slamming about a beginner and a gaited horse. I wanted a smooth ride and that's that. Anyway, I got my boy and with it came a hackamore or bosal = whatever they are called but it's bitless. He seemed very fine with this but because a) I'm a beginner and b) he was herd bound and left to pasture for a year before i got him, he will try and go places or turn around then it becomes a struggle. I don't mind because it's making me learn to keep my seat. But the "girls" at the barn thought what he needs is a bit so there will be more control. I put him in a snaffle bit and though there is more control, he doesn't really like it. But because of my inexperience and what I've been told by the other barn ladies, I will only ride him in his hackamore when I'm inside but not on the trails. So my question is- is there more control with a bit? I think I know the answer but if so, then what bit would work for my gentle giant. I dont' want to buy him something that will hurt him when I pull on the reins "by mistake" (aka: holding on because I bounce too much) Also he won't gait for me with either one he wears. He will gait for the others more advanced riders but not me. What am I doing wrong?
You need more help than you can get here with just a few words.
You need to find a gaited horse trainer, that trains horses and riders.
Probably, need more help for the rider than the horse.
Briefly, they can be taught to go with bitless or bit, that's mostly training.
Don't worry about hurting him with a bit. Not likely to happen.
Never let the horse trot or canter. always gait or walk.
His not gaiting is probably your seat, ie, the way you are setting on him.
You don't need a "gaited horse trainer." You have a "horse behavior" problem, not a "gaited horse behavior" problem.
You need an instructor who can help you improve your equitation skills. That instructor need not be specifically familiar with gaited horses. They do need to be good teachers. This is a problem that can be solved by most competent riders. Become a competent rider and you can solve your own problem. I'd bet a good instructor will help you when they see you are ready for the challenge.
Regarding bits, the bit is a communication device, not a control device. "Bitless" devices, in general, are crude instruments for effective communication. Some claim bits are cruel, but some also claim the Earth is flat. The power, and effectiveness, of a bit lies in the hands of the rider. That said, there are some bits out there that I would not allow inside my fenceline. That, however, is a discussion for another day. :-)
Your need is simple: become an effective rider. Good lessons and personal application will get you there. Then you can address this, or any other, routine issue with the horse.
Good luck in your program.
The only difference between a gaited horse and a stock horse is they are bred to not trot. Not to say they won't, it's just they are more wired for gait.
That's the only difference, a gaited horse and a stock horse can both be brats.
Get a trainer and take control before you have a really out of control horse. I also would like to know what the age of this horse is as any horse (to me) past the age of 6 should be in a tongue relief bit, and for that matter if they have good riders are trained enough it really doesn't matter to them what bit, or no bit is in their mouth. A horse that fights the bosal is not trained to give well enough to even be in a bosal. Many people will go to a hackamore or bosal to give relief to the horses mouth when often they just need to call the equine dentist.
I agree with the above responses. We have 2 gaited horses and 3 quarter horses, and so we've played around with bits a little. I can tell you that not all snaffle bits are created equal. The ones with O rings and a joint in the center of the bit can be uncomfortable if they are too thick or too thin through the mouthpiece. If yours is twisted wire or has sharp edges your horse may not be comfortable and a simple change might allow you to find one that is better for your horse. I love the Myler bits as they give you more 'feel' and control, and the horses seem to like them as they have a shape that lets them be more comfortable around their tongues.
One of our gaiteds was started in a snaffle and is still in a broken mouthpiece (a Myler comfort mouthpiece with 5" shanks) and he does great. With both of our gaited horses we had to do some trial and error, as their mouths seem to be smaller than the quarter horses, and the bits we were using with QHs weren't comfortable for the gaited horses.
As far as gaiting under saddle, if you're a new rider, I would strongly suggest that you take some lessons to learn how to ride. It would be so, so helpful if you could learn on a horse that gaited well, so you had that muscle memory of how you were supposed to sit and what it felt like. That would make it a lot easier to sit properly on your horse and encourage the gait. There is a great book about riding and understanding gaited horses' gaits, Easy Gaited Horses by Lee Zeigler. It's worth every penny and I learned a lot about how to encourage the gait I wanted.
quote: "The only difference between a gaited horse and a stock horse is they are bred to not trot."
Not necessarily true. Many TWH are bred to pace. And all too many breeders are breeding horses whose conformation is to trot, even though they are registered as gaited horses. Just because they are registered in a gaited horse registry does not make them gaited horses. Some of your best gaited horses are not registered. The black horse you see in my avatar, is not regeisterd, but one of the best gaited horses I've ever seen. He doesn't know how NOT to gait. He will not trot, or pace, and is always smooth, never rough or choppy.
Because they are so varied, you have a lot of differing opinions. IE, Lee Zeigler, in my opinion, doesn't have a clue about how to handle gaited horses. Her greatest accomplishment is she knows how to make money writing articles. She is a very good writer, but too much of what she claims to know, simply is not true, or will not work.
Registry papers only mean the horse in question met the requirements for the papers. In themselves, they mean nothing. To an experienced eye they can suggest a great deal. Knowledge of bloodlines and capabilities within bloodlines is the mark of an experienced horseman. At the end of the day you always deal with the horse in front of you, but if you know anything about horses you can make some very accurate educated guesses from papers.
Put another way, personal anecdote is just that; it's not "data."
Excuse me, I should have referred to Lee in the past tense... But, that does not change the opinion of her writings. This is one peer that did not, and does not, respect the falsehoods she put forth. Horsemanship was not her forte, now writing, yes, she was a great writer.
As to registration papers and bloodlines. None of the gaited horse registry's (with the occasion exception of the TWH) have been around long enough to do very accurate predictions based on bloodlines. You do much better in the gaited breeds using the conformation and disposition of the grandparents. And that is not to says the direct parents are not important, they are, but if the grandparents are not of equal or better quality, the chances of predicting off spring is almost impossible.
The best quality gaited horses we have found come from small family farms that are very particular about the quality of the horses they are breeding, and very few are registered. Conversely, the worst we have found come from the large, high dollar, mass producing, TWH farms.
We really do need a quality registered horse registry. Many have tried, but, to date, it doesn't exist. The SHOBA is getting close, but has a very long way to go. The TWH registry is almost a joke. The Rocky Mountain Horse registry isn't there, and doesn't look like it will make it either. The performance registries help some, but do nothing to promote predictions based on bloodlines. It will be a long, long time, before they rival the QH, the ARab, the Thoroughbred, the Morgan, the Standard Bred, or any of the breed registries that have been around for a century or more.
Back to Kristi's problem, I'd suggest finding a trainer, where you can take lessons. Find one that makes it look easy, and their students are doing well.
I highly doubt anybody would slam you for buying a gaited horse just because you're a beginner rider. Physical problems are many times the reasons some of us old trotting folks went to gaited horses:-)
What does raise my eyebrows is this:
In addition, there may be a reason for the hackamore. Does the horse still have his wolf teeth by chance? How about palette height? Tongue thickness or tongue damage?
My friend's TWH had his tongue nearly severed off (I'm not kidding) by a so-called trainer before she got him. Her first thought was to put him in a hackamore but he wasn't happy so she called the Mikmar bit company. One hour and $80 later she had what they felt was a correct bit for this horse being mailed to her. That was three years ago and he's still in that bit.
When I bought my now 18 yo TWH as a 2-1/2 yr old, the Sellers, who were dealers (and pretty decent folks given they bought and sold) and experienced riders, said the horse would not ride with a bit in his mouth.
They weren't kidding. I tried everything the first year from low port curbs to snaffles, to a three ounce sweet bit. He was not a happy horse.
I put the mechanical hackamore back on him and he's been wearing it ever since. He's never tried to run away, does "whoa and go" as good as any of my others that wear bits, and rides thru the woods on the same loose rein the others do.
Hackamores take a very very light hand as they emit pressure in several places, including the poll.
With a bit, you will have to learn to "stay out of the horse's mouth". With a hackamore it's "get off those reins".
So yes, lessons from a qualified and ethical instructor are in order for you and your new horse:-)
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