Bitting Up for Hunting?
I'm wondering what everyone's opinions are on bitting up your horse when fox hunting. My horse and I did a couple of hunts last fall (in the "hilltoppers" group - trotting and some cantering) and he was very excited and strong. I didn't have much control over him in the field and felt a little bit uncomfortable knowing that I would have a very hard time stopping him.
I'm planning on doing another couple this year and am wondering if it would be a good idea to put a slightly stronger bit on him. He's not hot or strong at all when schooling at home/showing etc. but when out hunting he gets very excited and VERY strong.
I know that throwing a stronger bit on your horse is not the correct solution for getting effective "brakes," but in my case, my horse is already well trained and is very responsive and always slows down when I ask (except when hunting). I would just be using a stronger bit as a sort of safety precaution .
For everyday riding, he is in a JP Korsteel copper oval-mouth loose ring. If I were to bit up, I would probably use something like this :Happy Mouth Mullen Mouth Short Shank Pelham Bit < Bits|Dover Saddlery .
Any advice/ suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
Sounds like maybe you're getting excited and he is too.
I'm not against using something stronger, but only if I'm sure I need it. Half the time I want something stronger and it turns out the horse is only excited when I get excited. Of course there are always those horses who are just naturally strong, or get strong because they want to work and get to it a little faster than their rider does!
My TB and I have been eventing together for 4 years, where I can compete with him in a basic snaffle *french link or Myler comfort snaffle* without having to use a flash or figure 8 or any gadget you can think of. When I ride him at home, schooling or in lessons, I have the same equipment....simple snaffle, simple bridle, no gadgets.
He is always 100% with me, as I am with him. I can extend him, bring him back under me, we can turn on a dime, stop at any given moment - without issues.....BUT...when we Fox Hunt, all that goes down the drain. *Flush*
When we get into that atmosphere that he looooovvess...the hounds braying, the Hunt Masters horn blowing, the other horses around him, the whips hootin', whistling, calling - my boy gets into a big frenzy.
I can sit as quiet as I can on him, but he'll be so riled up, that he is covered in sweat withing the first 1/2 hour of the ride...and we ride with the main group. All that work and training that we've accomplished together....goes out the window. Because he is in such a mentally heightened state, it ended up with me just going along for the ride and that is not acceptable to me, nor to all the others who are out hunting beside me.
Since there are so many P's and Q's and rules, ettiquete, traditions to follow - I don't take any chances. I must beable to stop him when I ask, I must beable to bring him under me when I need to, and etc, etc, etc. Plus, some of those fences that they jump out there, make me cringe *which is very rare* and I want to beable to opt around the fences instead of going over them...and I need him to listen when I ask.
SO, when I hunt, I put my 3 Ring Elevator Bit in him, with either a flash or a figure 7. I don't need a martingale or any other gadget, because the bit itself gives me that leverage of control needed, to beable to stay under the "Radar" while out there. With that bit, I can keep him under me, I can bring him back down to me when needed, I can opt to go around any fence I choose...yes, he still gets hyped up and excited, but I can at least control him when needed.
Aside from that, I always have snaffle in his mouth, with just a plain old english bridle on him.
As the Fox Hunters in my club say "Never go to battle without all your weapons". There is nothing wrong with turning to a "stronger" but for quick fixes, for needing one for that particular moment in time. It's one thing if you train in that bit all the time and ride in it all the time, but another if you have to throw it in for a moment here and there.
As David O'Connor says "Always train at home in a snaffle, when in competition, use what you need to get the job done" and I believe in that whole heartedly. Many GP level horses and Upper Level Eventing Mounts are trained in snaffles, but when in comp, the riders use what they need for that environment, to get the jobs done. Better to have it and not need it, than not have it and need it.
Riding in a field of horses is a lot different then being in a hunt field. Because of that, you definitely bit up to something stronger then what you need.
My hunt field is full of kimberwicks and elevators with some twisted wire snaffles.
I would much rather have wayyyy to much bit, and ride really light handed, then not have nearly enough.
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Use whatever bit keeps you safe. The pelham is just fine on the hunt field. As said, you will see plenty of elevators and kimberwicks too.
It is really not fun to charge past the master!!!
It's against the "rules" to pass the Hunts Master or whomever is leading the group. It's a no no, to pass anyone who is infront of you.
Thank you all very much for the helpful advice.
We will be in the "hilltoppers" group for the first hunt, and if all goes well, hopefully we can move up to the next group for the second day, which will be on our property and with a much smaller group.
I'm not very bit savvy, so do you think I should go with an elevator or pelham? I'm not very experienced with riding with two sets of reins, so should I use converters? I like the idea of using two sets because I know that the horse can't avoid the curb action of the bit and that rein aids are muffled if you use only one set of reins, but I would rather not be flying around the hunt field while worrying about keeping my reins sorted.
As a new member, you'll have to stay at the back of the first field as well, since it is considered bad etiquette to ride in front of someone who has colours...unless you've been invited up.
So even if you are in the first flight, you'll still need the extra control.
I am no bit expert, but I think a mullen rubber mouth pelham would still be a relatively easy bit on the horse...but if you use converters, it might work. You can always try it and hope it works!
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I would go with the pelham with converters, it is my 'go to' choice for the exciting days when you need a little extra. Don't forget to school in it before you set out, make sure that he is happy with it:wink:
There's a reason that pelhams are so common in the hunt field; it's because they're an incredibly useful bit in hunting situations because the can be ridden entirely on the snaffle rein when your horse is going calmly and you can add as much or as little curb as the situation requires. A three ring snaffle or elevator has the same flexibility, but doesn't have the added control provided by the curb chain.
"Bitting up" for hunting is also pretty common practice. Lots of horses hack quietly or go out in company in snaffles, but hunt in pelhams. I had a sweet, deadhead school horse that could be ridden anywhere in a halter and leadshank but still hunted best in a pelham. You just can't underestimate the effect of hounds and galloping in company on even the calmest and best broke horses. Among die hard foxhunters, you may continue to "bit up" as the season progress and the horses get fitter and keener, starting out in a mullen mouth rubber pelham and ending with a thin metal broken mouth.
I do second the recommendation to school in whatever new bit you plan to hunt in at home; and also experiment with the tightness of the curb chain - you don't want the horse to overflex and go behind the bit to avoid the curb chain.
Good luck and have fun.
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