My experience with a curb bit! - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 4 Old 01-28-2010, 06:59 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Australia
Posts: 6,179
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My experience with a curb bit!

I have been wanting to try out a curb for a long time. Just so happens a girl I know who rode western (the only one!) is having a break and selling all her gear, so I got a one ear bridle, curb bit, and split reins for about $80. The bridle and reins are made by cowperson tack – good brand? They are lovely quality, such thick leather, and the reins are weighted beautifully. The bit is quite short shanked, and a double jointed mouthpiece with a copper roller in the middle. I am well aware of all the controversy over Tom Thumb type bits, and it wouldn’t have been my first choice, but it was a good opportunity to get one for cheap so I took what was given. I also don’t believe in totally discounting something until you have tried it.

So! I went out yesterday arvo to try it out. You will kill me – I forgot the camera! But I will take it with me tomorrow and chuck it on between runs and take some photos. Silly me forgot that you need a curb chain/strap – We had an old broken one off a hackamore so I tied it on with baling twine :] Luckily the bridle/bit fitted him well, as I forgot to ask what size they were.

He didn’t mind the mouthpiece much – Only chewed a little bit and I think that was more about anticipating a treat than the bit. I jumped on and walked him around the silos. Gosh it is a strange feeling riding with one hand because you need to – Not just because I’m being lazy! It is also very strange having to consciously remember to leave a drape in the reins. Steering was ok – He does neck rein well but isn’t used to doing it exclusively so had to use an open rein a few times to show him what I wanted. He is quite responsive to my seat to didn’t really have to touch the reins much for a halt.

We rode out on the trail – He went much like he usually does, not change in head carriage or comfort. He didn’t understand the lighter stop cue when I lifted my hand, so I had to get a bit stronger a few times until he understood that the shift of weight on the bit was a cue. He chose to ignore the cue a few times so I gave a good tug and the first time he threw his head up – but after that understood a lot better and listened for that light cue.

We rode to the local agistment paddocks where they have a sand arena so I did some proper work with him. I had to be a bit stronger on the first few stops but after that he was stopping as well, if not a little better, than he does in the snaffle. I think he liked having a bit more freedom in the head for the stop, he still did a couple on his forelegs but generally they were of marginally better quality. He LOVED being able to carry his head low! He really would be a natural western horse – I would love to try reining on him.

Steering was much like earlier – mostly neck reined well but needed a few leading reins to clear it up.

We did some rollbacks – This was a bit different. He started going forward through the turn as I didn’t have a hold of his mouth like usual – But I used a method similar to that used by Larry Trocha in his spinning video – Asking for the turn with the reins and if he doesn’t, pressing with the spur. He got it pretty well – it was hard for me to ask for a rollback with no contact to stop forward movement – A few times I unconsciously lifted my hand a whisker too much and he hopped instead of moving flat around. I actually really like his slow turns in the bridle – We got the best foundation for a pin we have ever got. When I try it in a snaffle he tends to get bogged down in the contact, and moves forward if I don’t have contact, but it worked much better in the bridle and we got a 360 decent quality walking speed spin – I.e. with his planting the correct foot and not blowing out. I moved up to a trot and did some stops and rollbacks. I have to keep my hand so much stiller in this bridle as he was taking every little movement as a cue to start a turn – I think I am just not used to having weighted reins where they can feel the slightest shift. The only issue I had here was difficulty in getting him to lead with his nose – The leading rein helped him get around but didn’t really encourage him to tip his nose in the direction we were turning.

Backing up was horrible at first – he just didn’t get it. So I strengthened my cue and he got it slowly – by the end his backing had improved to what we get with the snaffle. I would use my blocking seat, put leg on and lift my hand a little, and when I asked for faster I bumped with my legs and wiggled my finger on the rein a little. We got a super quick back-up at the end when I asked for more – I loved it.

So – To sum up. I did no transitioning – just put the bit in and went. It took maybe one or two tries at each thing before he understood what I was asking. I could see that direct reining was not ideal in this bit – A leading rein worked ok, but it was harder to get lateral flexion like I do in the snaffle. The only time he seemed uncomfortable was when he got strong and ignored cues and I had to give him a reminder – A sharper tug, And still he only chucked his head once. Apart from that he was very comfortable in the head, even when stopping and turning in the new bit. I liked the results I got in stopping and slow turns, and especially the foundations of a spin. It will take us more time to get used to lateral flexion, faster turns (haunch turns), and constant neck reining. I liked it enough that I will keep using it sometimes at home to see where it can take us.

While this bit wasn’t a tom thumb – it was double jointed – It is similar in mechanics. I didn’t find much confusion in my horse, but he was already accustomed to working off seat and leg, long reins, and bridleless; I also kept direct reining to a minimum. I can definitely see the capacity for confusion in a horse that is ill-prepared (not prepared as such – more so ill-educated in the necessary skills) for the bit, and is steered mainly via direct reining. After I’ve ridden in this bit for a while and am used to it, I’ll look around for a mullen mouth curb and give it a try to see if I notice much difference.

There is an amateur reining club near me and one day I would love to take Bundy along – I think he would really take to it.

Promise pictures after this weekend!

wild_spot is offline  
post #2 of 4 Old 01-28-2010, 09:45 PM
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: Arizona
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I love those kind of bits- both the tom thumb and those with an additional joint in them. Sounds like the one you are using might be what they call a dog-bone mouthpiece.

I think people (in general) must not realize that they are meant to be ridden with very little to no contact, and if you do that, they work beautifully! If you lug them around like you might in a snaffle, you would be using it too strongly.

I'm glad I learned to ride western, and one handed, first. Now, years later I am learning to ride with two hands. But I think learning western first really taught me to have light hands. It's a wonderful feeling when a horse will work just off the weight of the reins. :)

trailhorserider is offline  
post #3 of 4 Old 01-28-2010, 09:55 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Australia
Posts: 6,179
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It's so different - I ride one handed a lot on the trail and am a big fan of loose rein, but it's different when it's a 'requirement'. I really enjoyed the different style such a small change brought about, and would absolutely love to ride a finished western horse, a reiner or similar, just to feel how it is meant to be.

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post #4 of 4 Old 01-29-2010, 01:36 PM
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: Arizona
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I've never ridden a finished reiner or any western horse that highly trained, but my trail horse is an ex-roping horse, and he just reins so nicely, especially when he gets excited (otherwise he is on the lazy side). But when a horse is collected up and turns like butter with just the tilt of your wrist, its quite the rush.

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