Proper Bit for a horse that likes to go?
About a month ago I started riding a horse whose previous owner had incredibly heavy hands. He leans on the bit and when I use contact his head comes up and he works to avoid the bit. I have switched him to a Waterford, and he goes good in it. He doesnt lean on it, and has begun coming forward into my hands and getting rounder.
However today, when I was on a trail ride, when we headed home he took off with me and I was forced to bail for my safety. I know all about the one-rein stop and all that, there just wasnt space to use it safely. Nothing I did worked. I know I have to return to basics, and do tons of work in the arena before we head out again, but I was hoping someone had some advice on bits?
I was reading up online about options and I was wondering if a hackamore would be a good option? He is so hard mouthed that I thought it may be a good option. What about training aides? Draw reins, running martingale etc. ?
Thank you all so much for your input!!
I have a draft cross that has ALWAYS been heavy on the forehand, and has a history of what we call "freighttraining"-just gets faster and faster. I switched him to a Waterford several years ago (he is now 21), and he is much better. I use a Waterford D in the ring, and a Waterford gag on the trails-just in case I should ever need it, I have it. I will also say, we have come a long way by doing LOTS of transitions, and when we are on the trail, I half halt him, rather than getting into the pulling battle. Works much better. He always goes faster toward the barn, but I have always made a pont of never going faster than a walk toward the barn, and it he gets faster we zig zag on the trail. I have also started working him harder at the barn, and more of a rest on the trails, so he learns that home means work! We sometimes work before we trail ride, sometimes after....just to keep our horses all guessing. I also am fortunate enough to trail ride frequently with great friends, who will stop if there is ever an issue, and since we are behind them, and my guy loves his friends, he would never go too far!
Clinton Anderson also has a trail riding DVD I have watched, and one thing I have done that he did was find a little clearing amd do your serpentines, figure 8's whatever....right there on the trail. Kind of a nice change too!
While there is room required for the one rein stop, there is another similar technique that may have prevented your need to bail. It's called the pulley rein. You sit square, plant your right hand and rein against the horse's neck in a fist so it doesn't go anywhere and use the left rein to slow him down little by little in short bursts by pulling it away from his neck just enough to get a little flexion each gallop stride. I wish I could find video of it since it's a bit hard to describe. This move can be done in a straight line. Just this past week I watched a jockey use it after a race on a horse going at least 35mph. He stopped to horse on a straight line. It was very impressive.
I can't help you with the bit question since my horse I have never been on a horse who is heavy in the mouth.
Best bit? Better training. Go back to ground work. Get the horse to respond to cues and commands.
Thanks everyone for you input-
Myboypuck- I used the pulley rein today! This horse was hauling!! I rode it out until I felt like it was no longer safe to do so.
Solon- yes he definitely needs work! Transitions, half halts, circles you name it we do it! And he has been responding well in the arena which is why I felt safe to give him a shot on the trail. I also know that a horse with a mouth like his is never going to be back to a perfectly soft mouth. I can make him much softer but some damage is just irreversable.
I don't think I phrased my question well. I don't want to keep throwing meaner and meaner bits in, since that is how the previous owner caused the problem. And I don't feel I have proper contol now. Has anyone had experience with a horse with a tough mouth and urge to run do well in a hackamore? I have read info for and against this move and was just hoping for some real world clarity!
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Some horses do not like bits. You can try a hackamore or bitless bridle. I have a bitless for my draft horse but also use a low port kimberwicke.
I'm not sure about the statement about hard mouths not being able to be reversed. With time and patience it can be done, but that means time and patience.
Still, you need to get to the root of why he bolted as well as why you couldn't get him stopped. I'm all about trying to fix those kinds of things before moving onto stronger devices.
Did he spook? Has he bolted on you before? You don't want to get him thinking if he bolts he knows he can remove you! Does he yield to the bit you have him in very well?
I have a mare who will do the same thing in any kind of curb bit...probably due to someone with heavy hands, as well...
When I got her, she was buck and bolt type; I couldn't even put my arm over her and she would buck and bolt...so she needed more retraining than just to the bit.
I put her in a french link full cheek snaffle. I also used a rope halter, and taught her to respond to lateral pressure on that as well. I have no issues controlling her in a D-ring snaffle, now. I have tried a mild curb, but she was definitely not ready for it...so back to the D-ring.
So my advice? Find a nice snaffle, and use it...teach him to respond to lateral (side to side) pressure, teach him whoa (try to teach him via your voice, more so than the bit right away, and get a good reverse on him...teach him this on the ground, first...via ground driving. At the same time, start teaching him a specific 'cue' to walk, trot, and canter. I use "walk on" for walk, a "cluck, or click" for trot, and a "kiss" for canter...teach that on a lunge line. When he's got those down, start 'reteaching' the same ones undersaddle, in a safe area...round pen, or an arena. I think if you do your homework, and not 'rush' to get out of the round pen or arena, you will soon have a horse who will respond no matter where he's at. That is what I did with my mare, and we both enjoy the trails, now, because I didn't rush to get out there.
A heavier, or harsher bit will not get the long term results you are looking for, as you have figured out already; go back to the basics, and he will be better for it in the long run.
I think if you are biting in an attempt to get him to soften and just need the extra bite temporarily, I don't see a huge problem. I am very anti-harsh bits but there are exceptions in my mind. Yours is one. If you are trying to break old habits, as long as you are dead set on it being temporary...that waterford sounds like a great idea. I have actually been doing some research on it since seeing it posted on this forum earlier. I am riding a friends draft mare who is a 'barn runner' and while I do ride very light handed...I like having more brakes that I would ever need. When they are in a full panic and are hauling hiney back home...not much is going to stop them. Sometimes having a heavier bit can help this. Then, in a few weeks...you can start backing it down. It usually takes one or two good times getting them stopped on their runs that they stop the behavior.
My vote would be stay with the waterford but add the gag action for now. It should make it easy to get back down to the regular bit. FnB's suggestion is a great one. Use the regular waterford at home and the waterford gag on the trail. They make a really nice copper waterford jr cow horse bit. They are dirt cheap and just that lil gag and little shank can make the difference between stopping and running home.
Im not a hackamore person. I just dont like them. They can be just as harsh as a bit...just in a different way.
Hope all this helped. Good luck!
Maybe I didn't mean irreversible, but a baby who has had the pleasure of soft hands their whole life in my experience is softer than when we are trying to undo past damage.
I am not entirely sure about his past. He just arrived to our farm and I been working in the ring for about a month. He responds well to me, and has really been coming along. He has never bolted with me, but this was our first time out iof the arena He did not spook, and you are so right about him not thinking this is something he can do! Unfortunately tome, it felt like he had done it before. He dropped his butt, picked up his head and RAN!
The first couple weeks were all about building trust. His head would be high, and his eyes huge the whole time we rode. When I would ask him to go forward he would take few quick steps then almost stop, so I think he's used to being smacked in the face.
I feel bad for him. People made him the way he is. I just want to help him get back to where he enjoys being ridden, and people don't have to worry about stunts like that!
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Mom 2 Pride-I have to disagree. My guy is totally voice trained, and has won many command classes. His response times are awesome...IN THE RING. Get him out crosscountry or on trails-that is just too much fun. Yes, he will still do all the gaits when I ask, but faster, faster, stronger and faster some more.
The beauty of the Waterford is that it really is not a harsh bit, as bits go. However-the way it is put together they cannot grab it and go, running through it like a regular snaffle.
I also am not a fan of hackamores, and really not so much bitless either.....I have tried a bitless on some of my previous horses and it takes a while to teach them to move. They are afraid of it. Like Corino said-hackamores and the like put pressure on a different place and could easily create resistance in another area.
Personally, the half halts, transitions (every few strides to keep him guessing!) serpentines, should help a lot.
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