The great waterford debate... - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 6 Old 10-13-2009, 12:20 PM Thread Starter
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The great waterford debate...

I've searched through old posts for opinions on a waterford bit and didn't quite find a full thread that suited my question.

I've heard a waterford described as anything from "Soft" to "Jawbreaker". I've heard the debate on all different bits and generally agree that my french-link snaffle is my best friend. But this bit confuses me. I don't see how a round metal ball on the bar of the horses mouth could at all be soft.

I am going to be taking my horse off property to school cross for the first time. We are only going to be doing little things with him and trotting in. I would like to have another bit with me so that if he does get hot-headed and unwilling to listen I have something else in my bag with me. Of course, if I did bring another bit I'd be sure to school in it first to be sure that on home turf where he's comfortable the bit doesn't bother him.

My idea is just to have his regular bit with a running martingale and a flash attachment so he can't open his jaw and grab the bit on me if he gets too excited. But my coach has always said that a waterford once and a while can be a good training tool to get them off your hand (which he does tend to do). I've also read articles by top trainers/riders that say they recommend changing up the bit for a ride or two every month or so just so the horse doesn't get too 'dull' to responding to the bit.

What are your opinions on a waterford? Think it'll be a good thing to bring? Honest opinions welcome - even if you loathe them entirely - I would like to know. I'm not one for consulting 'gimicks' to fix problems, but I believe to communicate sometimes with a hot head horse that thinks he knows what you're asking without listening they can be a good tool to go to before you go back and train. (Don't even know if that makes sense besides in my head... me and words sometimes just don't get along.)

So what do you think about waterfords?

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post #2 of 6 Old 10-14-2009, 03:39 PM
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I'll be interested to see what people say. I've been wondering about this bit, myself..

One man's wrong lead is another man's counter canter.
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post #3 of 6 Old 10-14-2009, 04:16 PM Thread Starter
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Yes! Same here!! I'd really like to hear from people that have used them or just know some more about them.... Can they really be a soft bit? If so, how? I find it hard to believe. I mean, if you didn't touch the contact any bit is soft, but I need something I can hold a contact with and unlike what I'm hearing so far, I don't think this bit is capable of it! Let's hear some opinions! :)

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post #4 of 6 Old 10-14-2009, 04:38 PM
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My personal opinion on them:
They are a "busy bit" with so many moving parts. I WOULD NOT recommend them to someone with heavy hands or active hands or anyone who even thinks of see-sawing the reins.
The idea behind the Waterford is that the horse can't lean against the bit; the bit simply collapses.

I posed a thread like this one on another forum and got these very helpful responses:

I find the Waterford to be a useful bit for well educated horses that need a little more than a plain or French snaffle for exciting activities like jumping and cross country. Was first suggested to me by a man who foxhunts his high-school trained Lipizzaner in one. On the flip side, my experiments using a Waterford on horses that were weak or had gaps in their basic training have gone badly. I think it's the bit equivalent of using really big words in a speech.

The waterford is a very mobile bit, which suits some horses and not others. The mobility does discourage leaning and pulling, but as noted above it would not be my choice on a horse who leans because he doesn't know how to go properly. It was great, however, for a horse who totally knew what I wanted and just got a little too full of himself on occasion. Part of what I think made it work so well for that horse is that I could make a lot of subtle movement with it, using fingers to move one side in his mouth just enough to tune him back in to me. As you noted in the OP, in rough hands this movement can easily become a see-saw, which with the waterford is particularly harsh on the horse.

I have never used the waterford mouth with loose rings, and don't particularly want to--that just seems like too much movement. Dee works well, but full cheek is my favorite because the keeper loops give a little bit more stability to the bit.
I love waterfords. Tom goes in his (loose ring) for hacking, jumping, cross country. But schools fine in a french link. When he's more excitable he has a tendancy to get really heavy and lean on the bit, or try to grab hold of it and pull. Because it is super mobile in the mouth it just collapses and he has nothing to grab/lean on. The jawbreaker thing, some people seem to think they're really harsh which I disagree with, but it's probably just to do with that. They're a great bit if used with good hands etc etc.
I used one on AJ all season. He has a really soft mouth but can get strong jumping, so this bit is still very soft and mild but wont allow them to grab onto it. However, now that his dressage is way better, I downgraded back to a snaffle for all phases.
They are not the Devil's Bit, they can be a useful tool for some horses. Again, if you are unsure about your hands, don't use this bit.
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post #5 of 6 Old 10-14-2009, 04:48 PM Thread Starter
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JDI - that's fantastic! Thanks for taking the time! :) If you look at any of my pictures of us at shows you can see he's a puller. Even on a longer rein he'll take it all and drive his head down if he gets really excited or just gets full of himself and wants to take over.

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post #6 of 6 Old 10-15-2009, 02:59 PM Thread Starter
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Just an update! I used a waterford D-ring last night on my guy, borrowed it from another rider at the barn.


It did the exact thing I was hoping for without needing to really do anything.

My horse tends to pull down on the bit right before a jump, rather than setting back on his hind end to jump. He has old stifle injuries that I think, when they were sore, made him equate shifting to his hind end with pain. He's slowly been learning. We went completely back to basics with him and taught him to disengage and to use himself completely on the flat before moving back into jumping. But sometimes when he gets excited or is bored or is just being typical warmblood/oldenburg thinking ahead or getting full of himself he reverts back to his way....

Well! Last night he tried that on me the first time we cantered into a little vertical. He reached down for the bit and when it wasn't there lo and behold the horse rocks himself onto his hind end, canters the three strides remaining in a nice even stride and over the fence as if it was the most normal thing in the world. All with a very light light contact on the bit. Considering he didn't show one iota of minding this bit and I could keep a light contact and have him moving toward a fence on an even balanced stride without having to really ask for him to come back... just wow!

I'm still cautious. It was a shorter ride last night in an indoor ring... I don't know what it'll be like on a hack or out XC, but with that kind of result I think it will be perfect for periodic use when we're training something new/exciting or if he's getting into a 'phase' in the winter indoors....

Just thought I'd share!

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