Bit with a little more power for trails
I am currently riding my horse in a eggbutt french snaffle. She does well with it in the arena, but she can get a little strong on trail rides, especially in groups if we are cantering/galloping. I was thinking about getting a bit that has a little more "bite" so I don't have to get after her so hard to get her attention back. Anyone have any suggestions on a bit that would be an easy transition for her from the french snaffle? She doesn't have a hard mouth, and in fact she is very sensitive with her mouth which is why I try to stay out of her mouth as much as possible.
Rather than adding harshness to the mouth, you might try adding a cue elsewhere. My mare has figured out that if she wants to go fast (usually when she thinks she is racing our other horse on a trail), she can clamp her jaw shut, stretch her head near the horizontal, and then the snaffle only applies pressure to her molars - and that doesn't seem to mean much to her.
I've tried riding her with an elevator/gag bit. When the reins are pulled, it applies pressure both to the metal bit, and the poll. The metal bit is a standard two-piece snaffle shape, with a bit of leverage - but she still has the option of ignoring it. However, she cannot escape the pressure on the poll so well. She usually responds by tilting her head down (more vertical), bringing her area of focus closer to her feet. That makes her uncomfortable, and she slows to what she perceives as safe for where she is looking.
It seems counter-intuitive to me, but she seems to be getting the idea that clamping her jaw doesn't mean she can give me the Middle Finger Salute - because the pressure on her poll is still there. Unlike my picture, for riding, I attach the reins to the first little ring past the big one.
I'm also experimenting with the bit below. At first, she REALLY didn't like the curb strap. I haven't tried her on the trail with this one because I want her to get very comfortable with it in an arena first. The sides move independently, but without any nutcracker effect.
Good luck! I'll be interested to see if anyone else has some suggestions.
I have to agree with bsms on the gag. I rode a horse that ran in a gag because she'd grab the bit and go because she was never retrained properly from the track..BO purposely put me in a bit with no gag action and well, she took off with me. I hauled back on her as hard as I could leaning back and didn't even get her to slow down, thank goodness I didn't freeze up and let her get to the fence I'm almost positive she would've tried to jump D:
But, I also like combo bits as well..Most of the horses I work with do better with nose pressure than poll, and a combo bit gives me the power to not touch the reins, or to just jig the reins and get my desired response. I would definitely not recommend a combo with a rope nose though (what I use, vet wrap wrapped around) unless you know exactly what your hands are doing at every second, even during a fall. I've seen some broken noses/bars and bleeding faces from the rope being so abrasive.
I will say though, with any curb or gag action, I MUCH prefer a double jointed mouthpiece. It acts just like a TT and is poorly designed. Only single jointed curb/gag bit I will use is the Jr. Cow I got ST because she liked it more than the 3-piece reiner or single jointed snaffle (for whatever reason, I couldn't tell you why).
I also don't even bother with that first ring on the elevator/wonder bit. If I only need that much, I might as well fix it with a plain snaffle, BUT I'm also very gentle when I'm on the lowest ring because I know I can do some damage to the poll, which I'm experiencing with my new horse (previous owners) currently. But, if the horse really does go insane and take off and not listen to jigging or a slight pull, I can MAKE them stop if they become dangerous.
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I also used a gag, but with a Waterford mouth, on my draft cross who got strong cross country.
Metalab Antique Waterford Gag Bit
Sorry, but I can never recommend more severe equipment for any horse to fix a problem. You need to work on your mare's training.
What this would entail, is going out on the trail with one or two good friends who are also willing to work on their horse's trail manners while riding in groups.
Next, you guys can plan and participate in excercises the will start to give your horses better manners on the trail. My friends and I work on stuff like this periodically, so I will tell you the kind of stuff we do.
1) Have one member of the group ride off at a faster pace while you wait behind. At first, they only trot off a few strides, and then wait you catch up at your own speed, then you can practice the same, ride away from your friend or friends a short distance and allow them to catch up. Gradually you can increase the speed and the distance with which people ride off. Also you can have just one horse move off at first, and then more horses move off, varying how many get left behind. Mix it up. This starts to train the horse that just because one or more members of the group take off, they are to listen to *you*. At first your mare will want to take off after them, horses do not like being left. But when it is a planned and controlled excercise, and you do it short distances and repeatedly, she will soon learn that she will not be left, and that she needs to listen to you.
2) Have your small group ride single file, at faster gaits, using constant transitions. What we do is, the person in front will call out the gait. So, say I am in the front, I call out, "Trotting!" if there are no objections, we will trot a few strides, then I call out, "Walking!" Then we walk a few strides, and so on. We add loping, stopping, just anything to keep the horses on their toes that even though we are going faster, it is controlled and they have to listen to us. If anyone's horse gets out of control, they call out "Walk!" and we will drop back to a walk to make sure that person can get it back together. Constantly vary your placement in the line, and who is the lead horse. Communication is the key with all these excercises, but especially this one. If you are in the lead, give everyone some time to prepare for each transition before you do it.
3) Play "catch up". Ride single file, at different speeds, starting at the walk and have the horse in the rear pass all the other horses at a faster gait to get to the front. You need a trail wide enough to do this safely, at least a two track trail. As I said, start off with everyone just walking amd the rear horse jogs by everyone to get to the front. Next you can try it with everyone trotting, then loping. It teaches them that just because another horse passes them does not make it a *race* and it helps rate their speed to either keep up with the group or go faster to get past them and then slow down again. You can practice this in an arena too.
If you are going to have a really nice, safe horse on the trail, it may take some work. You need to be riding with like-minded people who are interested indeveloping their control and safety, and ultimately better their relationship with their horses by doing these exercises. You have to be patient with one another. Nobody's horse will be perfect at these excercises at first, but soon you will have a mare that is really listening to you, rather than relying on pain to try to slow her down. Plus, these games are really fun to play.
Good luck :D
While that is really ideal, Kountry, some of us just like to do an occassional trail ride for fun. It is not something we all want to train for. I do understand that increasing a bit does not fix the problem,( I think most of us agree on that) however, there is no real reason that occasionally a rider can use a stronger bit for something like this. Some of us just want to have a nice relaxing ride, and I can tell you that, at least in my case, that was not possible. I did not have the time (or desire, honestly) to retrain my horse based on something I did several times a year. He was fine otherwise, just got strong and excited on the trails. Plus, some of us do not have folks to ride with who can (or will) help us. Your excercises are great, provided we have the time, desire and good companions with stable mounts to help.
I have very few trails that are safe for a gallop or canter, particularly when my youngest daughter is on the other horse. My mare wouldn't hesitate to shove Trooper & her aside to gain an advantage - she gets very competitive. That makes safe training on the trail very difficult.
Further, I see no reason not to change a bit to one that has more comprehensive signals. A simple snaffle doesn't use the poll for cuing. Adding poll pressure rather than adding brute force to the snaffle makes sense to me, as well as being more effective. After all, when she is calm, my mare will stop if I settle into the saddle the right way. The bit is for those times when she is too excited to pay attention to me, and that is for my safety and hers.
I'd love to have some long dirt roads to train her on, but that isn't happening. This is mostly what I have:
Hit that with 2 horses at a gallop, and someone is going to get hurt. So stopping, by any means needed, is my priority. Curb bits are not cruel or mean. They use other parts of the horse's head to help cue a stop.
Theoretically, anyone using a bridle has a horse that could use more training. Most of us train our horses to the extent we can given our skills, the terrain, and our training opportunities. That usually leaves them being ridden in bridles, with saddles, etc...
I would be extremely careful about galloping horses in groups if you have questionable control, no matter what kind of equipment you use.
Trail riding is my primary activity with my horse and I have learned over the years to really pick and choose my company and my activities carefully. This past summer we had two local women die and one become paralyzed after trail accidents.
We may have differing opinions, but mine will always err on the side of safety and training. Horses are dangerous enough, make sure you have the best possible start when you head out on the trails.
Be safe everyone. :D
If some of you are familiar with the Tevis cup, those are some of the trails we ride. I am lucky to live where the Tevis is run, but most folks would not call our trails easy by any stretch. Also many people do just ride with rope halters and have excellent control over their horses. I have yet to see anyone going for it bridleless, true, but never say never. My first response to trying to add stronger equipment is always going to be training instead. Just MHO.
I'm one that doesn't mind moving up in bit that will get a horse to pay attention.
And I've known horses that knew the difference in the bits too, without ever having to really engage it.
Just like carrying a crop for that matter, horse knows it is there.
It is way too easy for horse to get het up, and ignore the rider in trail situation. And even if horse is well trained with lightest bit there is?
Let everyone else get to feeling frisky and there you are, in trouble.
Horses think. All the training in the world does not always fix a problem if the horse thinks something is a good idea for it to do.
I like the bit bsms shows.
And might also consider using braided latigo string bsma for curb strap?
Has less feel to it?
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