Wishing I could go gentler with my bit--ideas?
OK, so... I have a RMH mare 6 yo finished horse. She came to me in March and we've been out on trails, mostly, since my outdoor arena is taking forEVer to build (but I'm thankful that I'm getting one, of course). I have been doing a LOT of reading about gaiting since she's my first gaited horse (but I do have a saddleseat background). When I got her, her former owner/trainer said she'd been going in a long-swivel-shank curb bit with a medium port. I got one. I am a light touch on the reigns, and used to full bridles from earlier training, but on trails (which here in WV are very much up and down hills) both in collecting her, especially in half halting down hills, and generally speaking, I *feel* like it's a harsh bit for restraint. She doesn't exactly FIGHT the bit, but she will chew on it when at a standstill, and whenever I take off the bridle, there is much open-mouthed yawning. (Actually, she's a mare being marish to some degree, 'cause she also pointedly ROLLS asap after being unsaddled, feet checked, sponged down, and released from halter. Today, after doing it, she gave a half-rear just to say, "I am ticked off at you for riding me on a day when FLIES--hello, FLIES?--were bothering me!!!
Ahem. But I digress.
She's got a soft mouth and a wonderful disposition, and listens pretty well, had good head carriage, etc. I just want to relax her more, and have a way to check her without needing the leverage of a curb bit. I bought a Kimberwick, and I plan to try that on our next outing (tomorrow) but it's still a curb with a curb chain; it just has less leverage, so I'm hoping it's not as severe.
I did the bit survey... many ride in hackamores of various kinds. I'm not sure I'm up for bitless yet. I did get a chance to watch the Myler videos and they made sense to me. What about one of their gentlest (three jointed, maybe?) snaffles?
No recommendations on bits other than to try a different one and see how it works. I'd try in the arena first.
Horses don't roll because they are marish they roll because it feels good. Same goes for yawning after the bit's out.
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Have you tried the Gary Lane freedom bits? I haven't tried them. My TWH mare came with a 8" shank, jointed bit. I'm also light on the hands. She seems to be ok with it but I have been thinking about Gary Lane's bits at National Bridle.
Also depending on the training, some people say gaited horses with a head nod need a shank for the nod. If your mare has been trained in that bit, you have light hands, she seems fine with it, etc., why change?
the owner of the horse i'm leasing told me to use her short shanked jointed 'elevator' bit on him, she said it is the only bit he would listen with. the first day i went out to ride i promptly put him in an eggbutt snaffle, as i am one of those people that much prefers to have as 'light' a bit as possible in a horse's mouth, providing they will listen to it well enough. he went just fine :) i've since downgraded him to a mullen mouth 'happy bit' eggbutt (those ones with the white 'nylabone' type mouthpiece) because i noticed him trying to chew the snaffle a lot and tried to get it over his tongue often. he's working so much better with a non-jointed and non-metal bit and i'm happy with how he is softening up for me. i used this same bit on my rather stubborn horse back in the day and he did quite well in it too.
not all horses like the 'happy bits' though, and it is trial and error to find a bit that your mare will accept and listen with. i think all of us have a 'bit box' hiding in the tack room somewhere........ lol.
Why? Because there are times when, especially on trail with unexpected events or new sights, or when she wants to hurry down hills, and I restrain her, or even when I go to collect her, I feel jerky or heavy handed. I want more... space... to move my hands and not have it catch her.
100% Bitless here, and not much help to your immediate need, but keep a thought in the back of your mind to try it some day - even if just 'plinking around' to get the feel. I find that both my mares are so comfortable riding in that manner, they are much more obedient....give it a try, and you may be pleasantly surprised! A hearty welcome to the forum, by the way :)
Gaited horses have a tendency to "worry" their bits. This is a Good Thing as a rule, as it keeps the saliva flowing and the mouth moist and soft. Now if the "chewing" is because the bit is causing pain then you have a different problem. Identify it and fix it. But if the bit is properly sized and adjusted then a "chewing" is likely not something to worry about.
The noted, post untacking behaviors that you point out are incredibly normal. Stallions, geldings, and mares all do the same things. Xenophon, who wrote "On Horsemanship" 2300 years ago, recommended that a sand pit always be provided and that the horse be encouraged to roll after being untacked and groomed up.
Are you sure the bit is causing a failure to relax? How about other things (saddle fit, pad type, stirrup adjustment, rider's seat, rider's hands, rider's legs, etc.)?
IMO bitless devices have a tiny, niche place in horsemanship. In some traditions they are for starting youngsters. If a horse has mouth pathology that precludes a bit they can be valuable. They can be a bridge to help solve problems. But as a rule they are crude beyond measure when assessed as communication devices. They are the equivalent of a "tin can telephone." If that's what someone wants to use then God Bless 'Em. There are folks out there who do demos sans bit (and saddle). Consider the number of YEARS of training that they have and that they put on their demo horses. Is that realistic for the average pleasure rider?
Bits were invented about 4,000 years ago. They have been used over all that time because they work, well. There is no evidence that when properly selected and used they cause harm. Pick the one that works best for you!!! :)
I, like Northernstar, only ride bitless, so my replies always lean that way; I ride both my TWH mare and my Morgan/Qh mare bitless; a bit doesn't really give you more control (there are plenty of wrecks that can happen with bitted horses!); the key is to do the ground work and create the trust, confidence, and respect that you need between you and your horse; you both need to be relaxed and calm before good communication can happen; then, if the horse knows what you want them to do, you are really just communicating mainly through your leg, and seat aids; all of this, of course, is just IMHO
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