western bit questions - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 23 Old 05-23-2010, 12:42 PM Thread Starter
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western bit questions

When transitioning a young horse to a curb bit for show, what is the best kind of bit to start him with? Horse in question is 5 (a very quiet and well trained 5). My 9 year old daughter will be showing him western pleasure this summer. Just 4H and local fun shows, nothing fancy. Since he is only 5, I believe that he can still be shown in a snaffle, which is what she's riding him in now. Our trainer has been working with neck reining on him, and he's coming along.
I get lots of conflicting opinions on curb bits for young horses, so I'd like to add some more to the list lol. Not sure if he will be ready for the curb by August or not. If not, he will just show in the snaffle. But when the time comes that he is ready, what should I get?
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post #2 of 23 Old 05-23-2010, 05:34 PM
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I'm afraid I don't quite understand the question. Are you asking when to transition between bits? I don't thik 5 is too young for a curb. I see the NRHA Derby horses in Curbs. Futurity horses in curbs. Mos tof mienshow futurity in a curb. I don't do a lot of derby stuff.

Pssh.I didn't pick up the wrong lead
It's called a counter canter...
...A very advanced maneuver.
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post #3 of 23 Old 05-23-2010, 06:00 PM
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If he has a good training foundation, transitioning to a curb should be no problem any time you want to do it. I usually have my horses into a curb within the first few weeks of training and they do fine with it. You will want to look for something with swivel shanks since he isn't solid with neck reining yet and they allow for direct reining too. Also, generally, the shorter the shanks are, the milder the bit is and it will be more forgiving for an accident instant of bad hands. I prefer something with a solid mouth and medium port just cause the solid mouth is much less confusing than say, a tom thumb, and the medium port gives enough tongue clearance without interfering with the roof of the mouth on most horses.

This is similar to my favorite bit for transitioning from snaffle to curb and all my horses seem to take to it well. Though what I have has much shorter shanks (about 6 inches).

Though since she is going to be showing in it, something a little flashier might be better. Maybe something similar to these.

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post #4 of 23 Old 05-23-2010, 06:12 PM Thread Starter
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Sorrelhorse, I am looking for advice on what type of curbs are good to start with.
smrobs - So I should look for solid mouth and shorter shanks, preferabley swivel. Thanks, that exactly the kind of info I was looking for.
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post #5 of 23 Old 05-23-2010, 06:54 PM
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Anyone who as asked that question before will remember that the bit I always use and advocate is one with a Billy Allen mouth piece. It allows one shank to swivel without effecting the other shank. In turn, each shank can swivel outward. The barrel in the center only allows a small amount of movement (the misnomer of a nutcracker). The bit I use has calvary style shanks that sweep back minimizing the length.

Personally, I only use two bits, either a single joined snaffle or this bit:

Bit 001.jpg

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post #6 of 23 Old 05-23-2010, 07:24 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you. Seeing pics is very helpful
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post #7 of 23 Old 05-23-2010, 08:02 PM
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Oh, right then. I must have read the post wrong.

I have a curb very similar to smrobs' one. I don't have any pictures and can't really take any due to it being cold wet and rainy (And I don't want to walk out to the barn to get it )

I have only started one colt without assistance from my trainer and that's what I started him in. He took to it like a bee to honey and I never had any problem with him.

Pssh.I didn't pick up the wrong lead
It's called a counter canter...
...A very advanced maneuver.
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post #8 of 23 Old 05-23-2010, 08:16 PM Thread Starter
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This horse is such a good boy, I don't want to wreck him or freak him out with the wrong bit. Especially since I still consider my daughter a beginner, since her previous experience is on her been there/done that pony who is very forgiving of any mistakes.
Before we bought him, Twilight was previously being ridden by a 12 year old girl in a Kimberwick. They mainly did trail riding. Supposedly he was in the western show ring "a little bit" as a 3 year old with his original owner, but I don't know exactly what they did with him.
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post #9 of 23 Old 05-24-2010, 01:20 PM
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Always, always, always remember that a bit is just a tool. Don't be afraid to use to tool on your horse, learn how to use it correctly from someone knowledgeable, and your horse will be accepting.

You can find a medium port bit, but just make sure that it is jointed to the shanks. You don't want a stiff bar in his mouth, because this does not encourage flexion left and right, and your daughter will find herself getting more and more frustrated with him when trying to tip his nose to turn with a neckrein. This is what you should avoid:


see how it's solid from the mouthpiece to the shanks?

Look for a jointed bit like this:


Your horse is plenty old enough to transition from a snaffle.

Snaffle bits are best for starting a horse, but something to remember, a snaffle carries a 1:1 ratio of pressure. One pound of pressure with your hands is one pound of pressure on the bit. If your horse is in a snaffle, the horse should hold and carry the bit in his mouth. What I mean by this is that the bit should be loose enough to have no contact in his mouth when you have no contact on the reins. It should leave no wrinkles in the corners of his mouth when the bit is in place. If there are wrinkles, there is already pressure on his mouth, and no way to measure how much. There could already be 5lbs of pressure on his mouth, so when you apply 1lb of pressure with your hands, it is moving up to 6lbs of pressure in his mouth. It is easier for your horse to distinguish the difference between no pressure and 1lb of pressure than it is for him to distinguish between 5lbs and 6lbs in his mouth, until he can distinguish 0:1 first, he most likely won't recognize 5:6 as a cue.

These ported bits, which, my husband moves a colt off a snaffle onto a high port correctional after 6 months, or 120 rides. When you put a ported bit, or any other solid bit in his mouth (that is not snaffle or broken) you want 2-3 wrinkles in the corner of the lips, so the headstall carries the bit, and not your horse's mouth. This allows the bit to stay in the same place, and not bounce around when your horse's tongue goes over and under it. It will place it correctly on the palet, and will be in the same place every time. The bit in the following picture is the one that I suggest.


This bit not only encourages vertical flexion at the poll and neck, but also encourages lateral flexion left and right as well. Since your daughter will be showing western pleasure, her hand will need to be down at all times except backing. This bit will allow her to have control with a dropped and loose rein, and help your horse become more and more soft. Pretty soon, your daughter will be able to give minor cues, just a flick or twist of the wrist, and she will have your horse's ear.

Just remember, the higher the port, the softer her hands will need to be. If your trainer is working on neckreining him, it may be an ok idea to head to your tack shop and talk to the salesperson there about a medium port with jointed shanks. Your trainer can get him accustomed to the switch, as well as teach your daughter how to use the bit. She can show her how it works in the horse's mouth, and what each movement of her hands encourages him to do. Since he's as broke and quiet as you say, there should be absolutely no problem with the switch. He will toss his head and play with it for a few days, but that's because he's trying to figure out what this new toy is! My husband will leave the horse to stand tied in a halter with the new bit in his mouth for an hour or two, two or three days in a row before he rides in it. (After standing tied, he pulls that bit, inserts the snaffle and continues riding) The horse probably will fight it, but that's only because he hasn't figured it out yet. He'll get it, and it'll really do great things for him!
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post #10 of 23 Old 06-02-2010, 11:36 PM
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This is my favorit bit. I ride all of my young horses on it. Both my 2 and 3 year old geldings Love it. You can get it with a copper roller. I think it's called a Colt Pelham Bit with a copper roller or something like that.

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