When is it ok to swtich your horses bit?
Hi, my 17 year old appendix horse has been ridden in a snaffle for most of the time I've owned him (going on 2 years now) but when we first bought him he was ridden in a hanging snaffle bit.
I feel like with the regular snaffle he does not respond to my half halts or my pressure on the reins. I don't jerk him in the mouth or anything, but when I have contact and give him the q\cues to lower his poll and go on the bit he completely ignored them, he runs around with his head up and avoids it no matter what I do and how much I increase the intensity of the cues. I have very quiet hands, so I don't think he's hard mouthed, just simply not paying attention to my cues. He only listens to my cues when I'm asking him to lower a gait or stop.
When he was ridden in the hanging snaffle he paid much more attention to my signals and kept his head down nicely and paid attention to my half halts and cues. I feel like he rode much better with the hanging snaffle, but the only problem is he would get very fresh if your hands weren't quiet. My mom has somewhat unsteady hands so we switched to the snaffle for her benefit, I however have my own bridle now and am considering switching my bit back to the hanging snaffle. Do I have good ground to do this? Is this a situation where it is appropriate to switch my bit to a slightly stronger one?
Regardless of how quiet your hands are if you pull on the reins and nothing happens your horse has a hard mouth. You can change bits but that won't solve your problem. Change the way you ride and change how you handle your reins and you will also change your horses response to the bit.
What should I do though? I follow both my of trainers instructions and nothing seems to be working. I've tried so many different exercises and such, nothing works. :(
I have to agree with kevinshorses. Changing to a stronger bit rarely, if ever, will solve your problem. Even though you said that your horse went better in the hanging snaffle, he really didn't, if he got fresh. Something with both of these bits is not sitting well with your horse. It may be a lack of respect for the bit and what you are asking, which requires you to take a good look at your training, or may be a tooth/mouth issue, which should be checked out by your vet.
Have you ever considered bitless? Especially for when your Mom rides? I ride all of mine in a side pull and find that I actual have softer, more responsive horses, then when I used a bit.
You said that you have owned him for 2 years. When did this behavior start? I would think that if you have 2 trainers trying to help and nothing is working, then your horse is not understanding the cues. I would go back to the very basics. Pretend that is does not know how to bend at the poll, lower his head and go on the bit. Work with him like this is new and maybe you can develop a better way to communicate your wishes to him.
While I agree that a bit alone is not a solution to a training issue, I think it's worth investigating whether a different bit might be more effective for your situation. If your horse is not willing to soften to it no matter what you do, he might just be uncomfortable with it at this stage of his training. Have you tried other bits within the snaffle family? Different rings, (egg butt, loose ring, d-ring), different thicknesses in bits and different types of middle pieces? I recently went through a bit change with my boy, not because he was not listening to it, but he wasn't completely happy with it either. It was a subtle change. We went from a D-ring french link to a slightly fatter loose ring french link. The difference was immediate.
If you know how to walk your horse in hand, walk next to him at his shoulder and hold the reins as you would if you were in the saddle. Pay attention to what he's doing with the bit as you walk along on contact. If you see him trying to push away the bit with his tongue, he might just not like it. A lot of horses seem to be liking those bits with the fat middle lozenge piece.
I seem to be rambling now. My point is, it can't hurt to investigate a little. The only time it would be wrong to switch a bit would be if you were doing it solely to "teach the horse a lesson". You're clearly not doing that, so my 2 cents is, switch away!
It sounds like you may need to pretend that your horse is an unbroke young horse who has never had a bit in his mouth before. Therefore, start with the basics (giving to the bit, stopping, and turning all at the walk). Make sure to also incorporate leg and seat cues (and also verbal cues, if you wish). Do not reward him by releasing the pressure until he gives you a correct response, even if it is the smallest correct answer. But the very instant he correctly does what you are asking him to do, you must release the pressure immediately (as the reward).
This sounds like a very simple and straight-forward approach but so many riders get it wrong; and that is what leads to a hard mouth on a horse. It's all about timing and consistency. If you release the pressure too late, he doesn't connect the correct answer with the reward and doesn't learn what the correct response was. If you release the pressure too soon, he learns that he doesn't have to do what you are asking because you'll give up anyway.
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