Need a "bit" of advice please. - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 9 Old 05-25-2019, 09:56 AM Thread Starter
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Need a "bit" of advice please.

I have a strong mare. She's a paint cross. We think with a touch of draft. She's well behaved and now has a lovely walk and trot. It's been a haul getting her there. She is ridden in a full cheek snaffle.

Her canter is lovely but she is very strong. Once going I have a heck of a time downward transitioning from canter to trot. I think she opens her mouth but I have not had that confirmed yet. She doesn't try to run away, she doesn't throw her head in the air, she just leans very heavily on the bit/reins/my arms.

She will not tolerate a flash or grackle/figure eight noseband and hates curb chains.

So, I'm in need of bit suggestions please.

Im going to try....a loose ring French link snaffle, a slow twist full cheek snaffle and a French link elevator.

Any other suggestions greatly appreciated.

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post #2 of 9 Old 05-25-2019, 11:19 AM
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Personally, I use intermittent pressure to affect a downwards transition, so it's impossible for the horse to "lean." I start gently, and increase the signal until I'm heard, but I never pull and hold. There has to be a way for the horse to distinguish an "aid" from "contact".
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post #3 of 9 Old 05-25-2019, 11:43 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by mmshiro View Post
Personally, I use intermittent pressure to affect a downwards transition, so it's impossible for the horse to "lean." I start gently, and increase the signal until I'm heard, but I never pull and hold. There has to be a way for the horse to distinguish an "aid" from "contact".
I will say I am holding on tightly but any give and she just leans harder and speeds up. She works round, is in a lovely shape but is VERY heavy. It's the way she was trained before I bought her I guess and im trying to re-educate her.
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post #4 of 9 Old 05-25-2019, 11:49 AM
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mmshiro is spot on. It is intermittent pressure to transition downward if they do not heed the initial signal. That could be just wiggling your fingers, half halts, up to see sawing. Reward immediately with any slow in speed with your own transition to a lighter aid to get them to drop their gait as well. So if you have to see saw to get their attention to just slow, reward by allowing the slow then ask with a half halt to drop the gait as well... Never just keep hauling back with steady increase in pressure. Bit can stay the same if they work in it well. You want them responding to you not having to increase bit severity to get their attention. That will eventually create a run away waiting to happen.

The grackle or nose band is not meant to crank a mouth shut when they are gaping from the pressure you put on them. If it is fitted correctly then it shouldn't be an issue and would correct a horse that gapes just to gape or evades. Too many fit them too tightly. Same with a curb chain. It should have plenty of space so that it is not engaged unless there is an issue. Think of it as the emergency brake. Even then the horse has to understand it to respond correctly to it.
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post #5 of 9 Old 05-25-2019, 01:08 PM
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Work her on a 20 m circle, ask for a canter, get one stride and ask for a transition down using the inside rein, do this many many times until she is anticipating one stride and then trot, you can progress to two strides and so on.

Agree with intermittent pressure. If she is opening her mouth would suggest that you tighten her caveson noseband up so it is snug.
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post #6 of 9 Old 05-25-2019, 01:09 PM
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Do not see-saw to get a horse to stop. All that'll get you is a horse who hides from contact. Its a while lot easier to ride a horse who leans compared to one that goes headless. Same vein, intermittant contact(slack, contact, slack, contact) will not soften them.

You don't want to continuously pull. If you ask for a transition at E, you don't wait until A to get a response. If they dont react within a couple strides, you escalate the ask, either by sitting down, using your full body in the half half, you can run them into the wall if you really need to. It helps to ask for the transitions through a lateral movement like a shoulder in.

If she's leaning and heavy, then she's not traveling round and balanced. Utilmatly, what you are describing is a training issue, not a bit issue. Transitions, laterals, and a feeling hand will go a long way towards lightening them.

Draft cross probably indicates this is in part a conformational tendency, which will also indicate you are dealing with a strength issue behind. She's probably strong enough through the shoulder and back that she can get away with not really using the hind.

Also be aware that hind end soundness is a common factor in heavy, leaning horses.

As far as equipment, if she's opening her mouth readily, meaning as her first reaction to any contact, then a flash or similar will help while reschooling. If she hates it, it's probably because it's not letting her gape so she has to deal with the contact. You have a responsibility, if you choose to use a flash or similar, not to abuse it. Its a training tool. You need to be tactful with the contact so that you are not using such a strong hand as to force her to open the mouth. Then take it off.

Example. I had a little jumper who liked the long spots and thought a half half was for losers. He rode fine in a regular cavasson in all gaits and over fences, but if things started going squirrely on course or I needed to make a change before a fence he'd get offended and and half halts would result in him opening his mouth so he could continue to run at the fence. He wore a flash for about a month, only while jumping, and when we took it off he was better for it. We used that time to retrain a new reaction to the half halt.

As for bits, it's not always wrong to change bits for an issue like this, as long as it is done in conjunction with reschoolong. A loose-ring Waterford can help persistent leaners. You need a certain level of skill with it. It's not a harsh but, persay, but if you are using your reins to steer, the lateral action of the bit can be harsh. I used this one with a particularly heavy, tanky mare who liked to bolt after fences. She hacked in a regular loose ring and jumped in the Waterford.

I've used a fl Boucher too. Its a plain snaffle, no poll pressure, but the way it hangs can change the feel of the contact enough.

I don't like twisted mouths and would prefer to see any leverage used with two reins.
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post #7 of 9 Old 05-25-2019, 03:29 PM
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I think you should do some vocal work on the lunge line, then that will give you an edge in riding.

If she is leaning on your hand, what happens when you chuck the reins at her and just let her go with NO contact?

If she is not balanced and leaning on your hand, and especially because her walk and trot have improved, it sounds like a fitness issue. Pulling will deaden her mouth. I would let her canter without much contact except a little balancing around the corners to help her out, and do that for a few weeks until she's able to slow down and gain more control over her stride. Then start integrating the half halts when shes physically able to perform the action you are asking of her.

I don't think it's a bit issue, it sounds like the horse isn't fit enough yet to me.
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post #8 of 9 Old 05-25-2019, 04:56 PM
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WELCOME to the Forum!

Do you have some video of what you describe occurring?
It would so help to see you working together or against each other.
Someone is hanging against someone...

Sounds to me more she is leaning on you for her balance...
Your description makes me think she is heavy on her forehand not pushing from behind with impulsion and light up front...
Strong and not reacting, not responsive when you ask for downward transitions from a higher level of impulsion...
Me, I would dump her...
If she gets heavy and hangs...dump her, drop her on her face not continue to hold her...
Let her fall on her face...
She will learn to hold herself, then can't bear down on you when you ask for that slow-down in gait.
You should be sitting deep in the saddle, sitting on her forward impulsion half-seat, no two-point...sit down deep.
However, you are sitting, you are not driving with your seat either...driving is sending the horse forward with energy...something many riders don't distinguish a difference in seat bone use and intent.

Sorry, to me your horse sounds disrespectful of you and your requests when she fights you.
But, I really wonder if she is not leaning because she is not balanced...not pushing but pulling herself along..

But, I would not be going to a loose-ring bit...
Why are you using a full-cheek bit in the first place?
If you are using a full-cheek then you also have issues with the horse turning well and correctly...that is what full-cheeks are so made/designed for.
You should not just dump her to the least amount of assistance in turning unless you have addressed her turning issue and it is solved...then you go to a different ringed bit.
But, but if you still have turning issues and you remove that aid and stability feature you ask for a host of other problems to make a appearance.
I'm no trainer...but I am a rider and reflexive reactions work in a situation like this.
Whisper light contact is desired not a face-off of who can apply more pressure against the other to send and receive a message.
There are a host of bits you could go to...
The problem is you are leaning on her as much as she is leaning on you...
You need to out-think her cause you are not going to out-muscle her as you are learning.
To go to a harsher/tougher bit is just toughening her mouth. She's going to mouth callous against you...a vicious cycle.

I agree your tack needs a check to see if tightening slightly the nose-band would give you the assistance so she can't evade...but that also does not mean to cut off her breathing with so tight.
A flash or drop properly applied and adjusted is a slight pressure against the horse gaping or wonder if what you have going on is a crossing of the jaw = evasion and the fight is on and the heavy has arrived...

You said it was a haul, a lot of work to get the mare to go better in walk and trot gaits...
Now you've upped the ante adding the canter...again you face a training issue.
Please don't band-aid the issue by going bit stronger...
Work the issue with filling in her training holes instead...please.
Just a thought...

The worst day is instantly better when shared with my horse.....
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post #9 of 9 Old 05-25-2019, 07:31 PM
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In addition to what others have said, if she's opening her mouth in an attempt to evade the pressure, then it is causing her pain - so that's one reason why I do not think a 'stronger bit' is the answer. It is also something that would make me check her mouth, teeth, bit... and strongly consider 'reschooling' in a bitless bridle. And it 'takes 2 to tango' - if she is pulling/leaning on you, it's because you're giving her something to lean against. Whereas intermittent pressure, as others described, can't be leaned on. Also if you use one rein, to bend her to a slower pace, this can be more effective.

Some info I've found helpful; [COLOR=Lime][B]
For taking critique pics; [COLOR=Lime][B]
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