Why change a bit due to a horse's age? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 14 Old 02-01-2015, 05:22 PM Thread Starter
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Why change a bit due to a horse's age?

I was reading this thread, and didn't want to hijack it with my question.

Why is it required that a horse move from a snaffle bit to a curb bit at a certain age (if being shown)? Does it have to do with the expected level of training at that age, or changing physiology as the horse ages? Is this true across most disciplines?

In various places online I've read that what bit one uses with their horse should align with the rider's skill and experience level (including how gentle their hands are!), and with what the horse prefers and responds to best. I would think that these things would be more important to consider than age.

Please enlighten me and excuse my beginner's question! (And please don't feel sorry for my horse or judge me because I don't know this! I lease a horse -- and her appropriate tack -- from my trainer, so I haven't actually had to make any decisions about this sort of thing this far into my horsemanship journey ). I did watch this video recently and I thought it was a decent introduction to bits and how they work.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WOll8n2q5tg
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post #2 of 14 Old 02-01-2015, 05:51 PM
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One rides with two hands when using a snaffle but one hand is required and a curb works better for this. If not showing, many horses are fine with a snaffle.



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post #3 of 14 Old 02-01-2015, 06:00 PM
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It has to do with the level of training a horse should have by the time they are five. The curb bit takes much less pressure (little to none really). All of the riding should be done w/ the seat by that point....

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post #4 of 14 Old 02-01-2015, 06:17 PM
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Luckily not an issue in English riding.
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post #5 of 14 Old 02-01-2015, 06:26 PM
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While different bits are designed for different purposes, requirements to use certain bits for certain shows are basically arbitrary decisions made by the people who establish the rules. These decisions may be influenced by tradition.

Aside from show rules, one can hold the reins to any bit with one or two hands. The designed use of certain bits may favor the use of one or two hands, however. If riding without contact, it should make no difference what type of bit a horse is wearing or whether it has any bit at all.

Some bits are forbidden when showing because of their tendency for abusing the horse.

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post #6 of 14 Old 02-01-2015, 06:37 PM
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^^^^ Exactly. Tradition more than anything else. IMHO.
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post #7 of 14 Old 02-01-2015, 07:53 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you for all of the responses! :)

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post #8 of 14 Old 02-02-2015, 05:13 AM
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i think the level is different!
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post #9 of 14 Old 02-02-2015, 08:40 AM
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The Western tradition has a different purpose than English riding. Western tradition is to 'use' the horse for more than to get from point A to point B. Western events revolve around the old traditions of using horses to 'work' and handle cattle.

This is the same reason the western saddle evolved to have a horn and two girths. They are needed to 'use' the horse.

If you are going to rope cattle from a horse's back, you are going to have to ride with the reins in one hand and the rope in the other. If your going to be able to have your horse 'hold' the cow or calf that has been roped, you need a strong saddle with a big, strong horn and it needs to be fastened to the horse with two heavy-duty girths and a breast collar.

So, by the time a western horse is 5 or 6, it needs to be trained enough to ride one-handed. This means it needs to neck rein so it can be effectively 'guided' with one hand.

Western horses are also taught to ride a work on a loose rein. Since western horses are frequently ridden all day, it is so much easier on both the horse and rider for them to ride without a contact.

The only thing I can think of comparable for English horses are Polo horses. But, they are really much more similar to western horses in use as the rider is handling a mallet and 'using' the horse. They are also ridden one-handed and usually are ridden in a cube, most often a 4 rein curb.

For recreational riders, it all depends on what you want to do with a horse and how long you ride at one time. Frankly, I like having a free hand and I like the relaxation that comes with riding a broke horse on a loose rein while he is doing all of the work and I m just enjoying the ride. That means I am riding him in a curb bit, one handed with the reins loose and he will neck-rein.

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post #10 of 14 Old 02-02-2015, 09:57 AM
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It is often forgotten that the "English" riding tradition, also, often called for horses to be worked with one hand. Cavalry troops often needed to work two sets of reins and two bits with one hand while the other used a lance or saber. There were also Iberian herders who used one hand on the reins while the other used a pole to direct the cattle. There were also mounted bull fighters who rode with one hand and probably directed their horses in a similar manner to Western cutting horses but with the horse's head up rather than down.

Reading earlier texts on riding can prove enlightening.

Writing in the mid-1900's, Alois Podhajsky pointed out that earlier dressage competitions often included a requirement for the riders show slack reins to demonstrate that their horse was carrying itself rather than always being supported by the rider through use of the reins.

In addition, Mary Twelveponies, writing in the mid-1900's pointed out that it was only after horse shows became big business with professional trainers that the term "on a loose rein" began to be taken literally "whereas the true reined horse was worked on contact, going on a truly loose rein only from here to there." The sliding stop and spin seen in reining were also developed by professional trainers only after showing became big business.

While both English and Western shows may have developed from practical traditions, they have both changed riding practices greatly over the decades.

If not showing, whether working or riding for pleasure, most riders will vary their use of reins. They will have one hand on the reins at times and two at other times. They will have tight reins at times, loose reins at other times, and slack reins at still other times.
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