changing from taking the bit to loose-rein curb

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changing from taking the bit to loose-rein curb

This is a discussion on changing from taking the bit to loose-rein curb within the Western Riding forums, part of the Riding Horses category
  • Hand cues using a curb bit

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  • 2 Post By AQHSam
  • 1 Post By MN Tigerstripes

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    04-29-2014, 03:40 PM
changing from taking the bit to loose-rein curb

I study regular dressage, so naturally I've started this horse by having her accept the bit, then chew into it, taking a steady contact, so that she'd stretch and supple her back. This was important because of previous lamenesses, which had caused crookedness in her way of going, and development.

Anyway, she's a cute Western-type, and there are very-Intro level classes in the Western schooling shows, which we'd like to attend, just for the variety and fun of it.

But at her age, my horse needs to have a curb, and neck-rein.

I'm having a hard time convincing her that the neck-rein aid, with no contact, is as important as direct-reining. I can usually turn with seat-leg aids, along with the neck rein, but it's not a sure thing.

My question is, what's your "escalation of the aid" for a neck rein? In schooling, I can tap her on the neck, but I couldn't carry a stick in a show, even a little one. I also sometimes direct-rein (I'm still using 2 reins, with an Argentine training bit, so I've got the snaffle to work with) but I'd rather not direct-rein with just a curb.

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    04-29-2014, 03:57 PM
When teaching neck reining you give the horse lots of little direct rein cheats.

I was taught to do all of these tricks at the same time in the early training stages:
  1. Move the reins slowly and purposely and high on the neck, below the poll, but definitely higher than mid neck.
  2. Use leg cues
  3. Use your pinky finger to provide direct reining on the off neck rein. Little taps or gently short pulls with pressure released (pull/release, pull/release). Using your pinky finger, this becomes more of a reminder than actual direct rein.
As the light bulb goes on for the horse, you rein lower over the neck and drop the pinky finger.

This is assuming your curb bit has a shank. When neck reining, you want the horse to respond to the reins without causing the shank to engage the bit. When you start higher on the neck, you are engaging the shank, but by moving slowly the movement should not jar the bit in the mouth.

When teaching, there is nothing wrong with polite and light contact on the off neck rein to cue the turn. Always remember to switch reins from hand to hand on your turns so the reins are crossing the neck and not as much of your hand/arm (which changes your seat profile in the saddle.)
MN Tigerstripes and 2BigReds like this.
    04-29-2014, 04:06 PM
I would add that depending on the horse, neck rein training (using the cues) could take several sessions or more. My horse started with western training habits, not English. We would do our normal riding session (w/t two-handed direct reining) and then spend 15 minutes walking through the movements neck reining. I started out walking a box, only 4 90-degree turns.

It took quite a few sessions to go from 90 degree turns to a full circle that was completely due to reins and no bit contact.

From your initial write-up, my perception is that you may be expecting results sooner than normal.

I am moving from western to English and teaching "my get out of my mouth" horse to accept the bit. He has no idea why I am maintaining contact with his mouth.

Good luck.
    04-29-2014, 04:50 PM
I used the same approach as AQH and it has worked well, I've put off transitioning to a curb out of sheer laziness, but it's on the agenda this summer. He neck reins very well now, unless he's being a stinker, but then my legs and seat take care of the turn, so I don't forsee any issues.
2BigReds likes this.
    04-30-2014, 10:34 AM
I put the horse in a solid curb. You may find this better than the jointed mouthpiece. I've always had success using the inexpensive ($10 or so) bit with the low port and slight swept back cheeks. Horses seem to find this bit comfortable.
    05-01-2014, 02:21 PM
Thank you, all. I'm going to try using the higher-position with light direct reining. My horse is very sensitive, and direct-reins very lightly. That's one of my problems with the neck-rein--- when she DOES turn, she keeps going, in a circle even, and I have a hard time trying to get her straightened out again. Using a pinkie aid should be a huge help!

And yes, I think I'm being impatient!

(I did try a standard curb bit, but she didn't like it at all.)

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