I'll be coming back eventually - we've been battling the bitter Montana winter for the past few weeks and then just
as it started to clear up and go through a warm spot I came down with a nasty cold. Now all my horses are fresh, snotty, and a little bratty. I've been out a few times doing groundwork and some desensitization, but have been unable to find proper time to ride + catch the horses with work and the cold. :) The gelding I'd like to mess with next with a gag is currently out on winter pasture(He's a trail horse known for being heavy and leaning on the bit, but a very sweet boy.) with 30 other geldings.... so catching the little dude is rather difficult sometimes. Hopefully, this Friday I'll have some time to grab him and try things out(he's also a bit quieter than my mare, so I can actually attempt to get a few pictures or a video on the mechanics to look at instead of dealing with Ms. Head-Tosser.).
Moving on from that - I came across this article about bits and bitting, and while I think some of the talk about bit seats is rather barbaric(If your bit is bumping up against the teeth so consistently that you need bit seats, you've got a much larger problem than the horse's teeth.), it has radiographs of a snaffle, curb, broken curb, and two gag bits action in the mouth. The gag is the only bit that ever touches the molars when under pressure, other than the full bridle(which, given it has two bits - isn't any better, but at least it makes sense. There's not a whole lot of room for two bits in the horse's mouth.) https://damascusequine.com/wp-conten...AndBitting.pdf
Also, a quote: "It might be thought that the gag functions to lower the head because tension on the reins
places pressure on the poll. But, because the horse's mouth is much more sensitive to
pressure than is its poll, the net effect of the gag bit, used with no auxiliary aids, is to
accentuate the basic head-raising action of a snaffle bit.2"
Obviously, response to poll pressure varies per horse. The young barrel racers in gags have horses with high headsets and crazy eyes. The eventers and polo players are the same. A working western horse, on the other hand, is valued more if he's able to move around and listen without jacking his face up in the air, so he's likely taught a bit more response to poll pressure than your Average Joe's horse. My horse is very sensitive and has been taught to give to poll pressure if I ask, so she's more likely to tuck under and curl her neck than a horse who's been pulled fresh off the pasture. But beyond that, that's been the only slightly more "legitimate" article I can find that directly mentions gags. Most only bother to go over a snaffle and a curb and just tend to ignore the rest. Considering bitting is typically such a... well, loud
topic(I'm glad no one has gotten loud here yet.. I might believe in certain things but I do try to stay civil and open-minded until I'm proven otherwise with good evidence.) as well I wouldn't doubt if people are hesitant to breach any sort of conversation on anything
beyond what's universally known or despised(ex - the Tom Thumb).
Another thing I'd like to point out is that so far, we've really only talked about the gag in regards to trail rides/etc, with the exception of
. A horse can be comfortable in just about anything on the trail, if the amount of trail riders using TT's or gigantic gaited bits says anything(The amount of leverage on those things frankly scares me away from ever attempting to ride with one for curiosity's sake - if I fall off or get off balance I could very well damage my horse's mouth beyond repair and I'm not willing to take that risk.). Try working or training in those bits.... you'll get a different result. My horse probably would have been fine after a half an hour or so if I'd ridden her off on a loose rein in the gag for a nice trail ride, but trying to train and actually establish any sense of contact was a different story. Part of the thing that I dislike about gags the most is that it's so easy
to rotate them. You apply just a little contact, and they start sliding up. If I were to apply the amount of contact it takes to guide my mare at a decent clip around a barrel pattern - the slide could be very easily all the way engaged. And so far we've shown that no one really want to fully engage the gag. (I also find it quite telling that of all the bits - gags are the ones that we see the crazy extremes in. I'm not talking your standard "Wonder Bit" or Dutch Gag that's found just about everywhere - I'm talking the 6-inch slide gag with a chain mouthpiece(chain is another dislike of mine.... mostly because yeah, it conforms to the horse's mouth - but the horse also can't ever carry it himself. That, and the pinch factor.), floating port, and no curb strap. I don't think you can introduce a bit like that in any way and not look at it and say "Looks scary. I wonder if it is?" somewhere along the line. I've seen some crazy snaffles(the hinged or ball-joint ones are... nasty, very pinchy things. I've heard of the ball-joint taking the tip of a guy's finger off. Like, no sir, not going anywhere near a mouth.
) and curbs(5 inch cathedral. Yeah... not for me. Spades I have no problem with, as long as your horse is ready. But sticking that amount of port in there without it being a real spade is just asking for a nice little hole in your horse's palate in my opinion.), but nothing like some of the gags I've seen. It's ridiculous. Worst part is - they're used more commonly that snaffles where I grew up. Every horse and rider may be different... but there comes of point in which you're just looking for a big "no brakes" band-aid to slap on your horse.)
So, enjoy picking through my late night thoughts and have a good night, everyone. :) (Cross your fingers the snow will go away - I desperately want to be able to ride my track in the fields again without having to worry about ice/snow/getting over icy, overflown ditches. It's no fun trying to get in a good ride while making sure you're not about to go ice skating at the same time on a temperamental 900lb animal.)