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Mega_Ash

Want Some Educating On Bits.

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I'd like to think of myself as a fairly knowledgable horsewoman, however, when it comes to bits I am clueless.

Are there any sites or even just general information on bits and bitting horses that you all could share? I'm very interested in learning more about this.

:confused0024:

Thanks!!

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The first rule of bitting:

There is no first rule of bitting. There is no bit that is right or good for all horses.

(This should be a fun discussion. It's one of those "get three horsemen together and you'll get four different views" topics).

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The above (Shameless ) is true to some point, but there are basic fundamentals, besides individual choices and preferences, far as bits.

Young horses should get their initial training using a non leverage devise, be that a sidepull, bosal or snaffle

Then, next (talking western), you go to a transitional bit, that still allows some two handed riding, when you need to help that horse stay correct, and that has little curb action

We all have heard that the severity of a bit, depends on the hands that are on the reins. While this is true, one needs some base line to compare bits, thus you have to standardize those hands, and then look at the bit design itself, or any grading is impossible

Not only are the rider's hands part of the equation, but also the education of that horse;s mouth. No way can you put a curb in the mouth of a green horse,and expect to ride that horse with a loose rein, using that curb as a signal bit

There are many good sites on bits ,and I will see if I can find some

Snaffles are pretty simple, far as explaining bit action, but many more parameters come into play when talking about curbs

Total length of shanks

Ratio of purchase to the total shank length

angle of those shanks

Loose jawed or fixed, and much more

http://horse-pros.com/tack/bits/curb-bits

http://extension.uga.edu/publications/detail.cfm?number=B1379

Important fact, far as bit classification , between a snaffle and a curb

A snaffle is anon leverage bit, meaning that the reins attach where the bit exits the corner of the mouth. Although most riding snaffles are jointed, this does not mean all bits with a jointed mouth piece are snaffles, inspite of the wide prevalence of the incorrect terminology 'shanked snaffle' ) to describe a curb with a jointed mouth piece. Once you add shanks , you have leverage, and the bit is no longer a snaffle

This last link goes into why you move to a curb, and chosing a bit in general, and many other helpful info.

I have pasted the first paragraph as sort of an intro

Have you ever been confused about bits? Most of us have been from time to time. At our training facility we get people who have been trying to jam their horses around in curb bits, trying to force them, by leverage into submission. Most of the time this is a result of frustration from poor training practices. These horses have almost always missed a few crucial lessons here or there. A good friend of mine put it this way, "If you have a child in the first grade and he is not doing well, you don't stick him in the second grade." Moving to a curb bit should be a graduation, sometimes a compromise, but never a punishment.

read the rest:

http://www.infohorse.com/bits.asp

Edited by Smilie

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Very good explanation Smilie.

I agree with Shameless about the volatility of the topic. It's the horseman's version of politics or religion and requires some knowledge of geometry and horse psychology for a good understanding. When I explain bits to my training clients I usually characterize them into two simple camps; 1) If you need both hands to control your horses' head (novice rider or horse that does not neck rein) you need to be using a snaffle. 2) If you need one hand free to rope, shoot or hold a whiskey bottle and your horse neck reins, you can use a short shank low port curb* bit.

(* longer shanks and higher ports multiply the leverage action and severity exponentially.)

Curb bits with longer shanks and higher ports are correctly used by riders with extremely soft hands on extremely responsive horses to essentially make their control inputs almost imperceptible to a casual observer. They are wrongly used for correction and punishment for the absence of fundamental control training either with the horse or rider. A good example of wrong use is with a horse that will not stop or continuously seizes or runs through the bit. That's a fundamental training issue needing correction, not a more severe bit.

A properly trained horse will readily stop on a snaffle or even a hackamore. So think of curb bits as graduated power steering for a well trained horse and rider but not power brakes or a metaphoric 'rap on the knuckles' for one that has some holes that need fixing.

If I ruled the world it would be law that every curb bit hanging on tack shop walls be labeled " If your only tool is a hammer everything you see starts to look like a nail. This is for your horses' mouth. Hammers are in the hardware section."

Yes. I always ride my pleasure and trail horses in either a snaffle or sidepull ... and they both neck rein. IMO curbs are mostly for working ranch horses or for training and use in the performance arena. ~FH

Edited by FloridaHorseman

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Great info, FH, and well put!

I also would love to see some sort of way to control who can use what bit, or if any.

Those old westerns just keep those drug store cowboys grabbing those curbs and janking on mouths, plus re enforcing the image that western riding is based not on finesse and body control, but 'big bits'

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The first rule of bitting:

There is no first rule of bitting. There is no bit that is right or good for all horses.

(This should be a fun discussion. It's one of those "get three horsemen together and you'll get four different views" topics).

I like your thinking!

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Great info, FH, and well put!

I also would love to see some sort of way to control who can use what bit, or if any.

Those old westerns just keep those drug store cowboys grabbing those curbs and janking on mouths, plus re enforcing the image that western riding is based not on finesse and body control, but 'big bits'

Amen.

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English and western bitting is quite different - and I know too many English riders who look at western bits with horror because they don't understand the difference.

I ride mostly English and all of the horses I ride at the moment go in some sort of snaffle. One goes in a boucher - which lifts upward in the mouth when he tries to lean on it. All but cured him of leaning - I recommend that bit for horses that have that problem. It's not harsh, it just has this lifting action that is hard to lean on ;).

The majority of English horses are ridden in snaffles their entire lives, in fact. Non-leverage curb bits are sometimes used (generally kimberwicks). I don't like them myself, I've generally found that they make horses pull harder rather than solving anything, but I've heard some horses like them.

Full bridles and pelhams - a single bit that has both a direct action rein and a leverage rein - are used at higher levels. You do see them in the hunter ring, especially pelhams. Full bridles are required at the highest level of dressage. Another thing I don't like is a pelham with "loops" that connect the direct rein and the leverage rein - if you're using a pelham, then you should **** well learn to ride with two reins.

The difference is that English people ride on contact. Western people do not. An English rider uses the bit to "adjust" the horse's carriage and way of going. Western people seem to do all of that on their seat - I've ridden western, but no formal instruction, so maybe one of the cowgirls who already spoke up can explain it better.

You don't ride on contact in a leverage bit for a simple reason. A leverage bit multiples the amount of pressure applied to the mouth. A non-leverage bit is 1 pound of pull = 1 pound of pressure. Leverage bits thus allow high control of the horse from very minimal use of the rein. Western people use them because when you're working on a ranch, you are using your hands a lot for things other than controlling your horse. The bit is used only to stop the horse and often only when the seat fails. Riding on contact in a leverage bit is harsh - which is why some English people, who really don't grasp the different philosophy think they're cruel.

A pelham or a full bridle gives you both a direct bit and a leverage bit. The full bridle is better because the two actions are more separate. A trained rider on a trained horse using a full bridle is maintaining the contact with the direct rein and signaling the horse with the leverage rein. This takes a lot of learning, but allows for tremendous precision in control of the horse. Sadly, I do see a lot of photos and video of people using the full bridle incorrectly, maintaining contact with the leverage bit, which results in a miserable horse that looks "trapped" in the rider's aids. I almost always see pinned or at least tense ears in those shots. Contact with the bridoon. Signal with the weymouth. And if you fully understand how a full bridle works, then from there you can get your mind around western bitting...or vice versa, I think. (A lot of western people don't understand English bitting, but I don't hear quite as much vitriol in that direction).

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true, English horse always ride on contact, and not only that, but with two hands on the reins.

When I ride any of my all around horses HUS, they are in a D ring snaffle

The reason some English people have such a negative view of western curbs, is the fact that any idiot can buy one, put it in the mouth of any horse, and use two hands on the reins, something similar you probably won't see English, as how many green riders ride a lower level horse English in a double bridle?

The correct use of a curb, and developing what is known as a 'bridle horse', or one that 'looks through the bridle, meaning he stays correct , centered between those two reins, off of seat and legs, takes time to develop, just like an English horse who eventually is up in a double bridle. Both require educated hands on those reins, combined with the horse having graduated from 'kindergarten' Unfortunately , all too often that curb is used incorrectly, western, and on horse who never had a solid foundation in a snaffle., or learned complete body control while in that snaffle.

I understand English biting enough, to realize that my horse, having gone through the snaffle bit stage, and for what I want to do English (rail and equitation ) will never need more than a D ring snaffle , regardless what western curb I am showing that horse in

'think. (A lot of western people don't understand English bitting, but I don't hear quite as much vitriol in that direction).'

True, but there is a reason for this. Most English people ride with two hands on one set of reins, thus hav eno need to understand the double bridle, nor do you even see that double bridle, except in upper end dressage
On the other hand, any western horse , aged 6 and over , is expected to have the education to be shown one handed, and in a curb
if all English horses had to be shown in a double bridle by age six, there would be greater understanding of the double bridle to begin with, and no doubt, also horses 6 and over no where near being ready to be shown that way, nor the rider having the competence to do so
Happens all the time western.
Edited by Smilie

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By the way, there is a first rule on biting

Any horse, needs to go through KIndergarten, in a non leverage bit, before that horse even moves up to a curb That non leverage bit to me, is a smooth one linked snaffle

Only when that snaffle is adjusted incorrectly,used with too much contact, do you ever get that fabled nut cracker effect..

What bit you eventually move up to, depends on the discipline, thus getting very slight nuisances by a particular bit, in that discipline, but before you ever worry about that detail, you need that solid foundation in a snaffle >many people never require this slight nuisance in performance, esp if they just pleasure ride.

For instance, taking western pl for an example. Unlike a dressage horse, western pleasure horses are penalized both for using their tails , or working the bit. They are also expected to keep frame, collection, and rate speed off of seat and legs alone, while keeping true gaits. Thus, a bit is needed that creates equal signal on both sides, riding one handed, and that is a bit with fixed shanks, and one with the balance to encourage a horse to carry his face on the vertical, with a relaxed and closed mouth

Cowhorses usually have a bit with a cricket, and one can hear them working that cricket, waiting for that run, with that class being scored purely on how the horse gets that cow worked and controlled

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Smilie, I have never, once, encountered a horse that went better in a one linked snaffle than a two linked one. I'm sure they're out there, but I much prefer the French link. I'm basing this off of observing the horses and their behavior. Not saying I don't ride in a single link (because right now I'm riding whatever horses I can get my hands on, being unable to afford the average $500/mo board in this area), but I'm far more inclined towards the French or double linked snaffle. It avoids the nutcracker effect and it seems, as I said, with most horses to promote more relaxation and give to the contact. D ring or eggbutt or loose ring is very much a depends on the horse to me - it depends on the mouth conformation and the temperament. Eggbutt and loose ring bits can sometimes pull through the mouth - I wish more American riders used bit guards.

The single joint versus double joint thing is a long-standing argument, though. I'm a firm believer, when I have the freedom to do so, in trying a few different bits in the same "class" and observing the horse. They'll tell you what's most comfortable for them. Thoroughbreds in particular do not seem to go well in single jointed bits.

Western pleasure and rodeo I'll bow to your greater experience on, of course. I have ridden trained western trail horses and mules in a leverage bit and have been educated on how to do it without annoying the horse, but that's about as far as my western experience goes. I have found by observation (and experience) that it is, however, much easier to go from English to western and vice versa. A lot of western trained people are averse to taking up contact because, of course, they've often been taught never to do it, unless they have training experience. Which means that the poor English (or saddleseat) trained horse gets kinda confused...

(Now do you see what I mean about two horsemen and three opinions?)

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Lol, I see your point, but, you have to consider the way I, and many other western trainers use that single jointed snaffle and the way an English rider /trainer does.

I have found BOb Avila correct, and he should know, having won World's Best Horseman twice, plus many other events. He states that 98% of horses love and go well in that single jointed snaffle, and that he has won hundreds of thousands of dollars using one. He also states that he goes back to that bit, whenever teaching anything new. I have also taken enough clinics with well know reining trainers, western pl trainers and cowhorse trainers, to know that when working with ajr horse, that is the bit they use

Not once have any of these trainers suggested using a French link

You have to remember that we adjust that snaffle with no wrinkles in the corner of that mouth, and never ride with constant contact on that bit, esp tot he point of some english horses that are held behind the vertical . You never pull harder, creating that v, but instead just take hold and really push with legs

Also, it is incorrect that western horses never learn to accept bit contact, as it would be impossible to train that horse from day one on a loose rein,and get any type of form , etc. Sometimes you ahve to take quite a strong hold, and push with legs, until the horse softens, the difference being, you give the horse the chance to stay correct on his own, and over time, he learns to stay correct for a longer and longer period

I dis agree that it is easier to first train a horse English, then western. Just the opposite I always showed my horses western, before ever showing them English, because if they don't learn to rate speed, collection etc, on a loose rein, very difficult to then teach them that, if they have always had that bit support and contact. Much easier, as that western horse does understand contact,, from his training experiences, to then add light constant contact and lengthen their stride

I do show western and English on the same horse, once they get to a certain stage, and have won open English pl at an all breed show, against TBs , etc, and under a dressage background judge

I don't rodeo!!!!

Saddleseat horses are miles from being shown without contact!!!!!

Only stock horses demand that total self carriage on a loose rein, as even Arabian and Morgan western pl is shown with contact.

TBs, have always been taught to run on the bit

No horse that is ridden with constant contact, versus being gradually taught self carriage, is going to like a single jointed snaffle. See the one link I posted on this subject

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Smillie...I'm trying to work out if I had a complete communications failure here. Of course, it is the internet:

1. I was talking about the RIDER starting English first, not the horse.

2. I said saddleseat horses were ridden WITH contact, not without.

Apparently I was too tired when I wrote that or something.

Also, English horses are expected to self-carry. If you're holding them up with the reins, you're doing it wrong. If they're behind the vertical, you're doing it wrong. The contact is...hrm. It's hard to explain this, but it's a balance, riding the horse between the hand and the leg. What you've observed is far too common, though. Far too many English people, as I put it, "ride the wrong end of the horse." They try to correct everything with the hand. The leg says "more forward" and the hand says "but only this much." This generates the collection and compression needed for dressage and the stride control for jumping. (I know western people do some jumping, but not to the same degree). The contact directs the horse's energy upwards into elevation. Western horses don't elevate...in fact, stock breeds tend (with rare exceptions) not to be very good at dressage because their natural way of going, the way they're comfortable, is low to the ground and forward...the classic "pleasure" frame. Which is, of course, better for long trail rides than a Warmblood or baroque horse's bounce. Horses for courses.

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Ok, I got it, and glad you are an English rider that I like the way they ride!

Of course you don't hold that horse up with the reins-I also must be having communication problems!. The horse is however, ridden between legs and hands, more legs then hands of course, and does rely on that bit contact, light though it may be, to help carry himself

Collection has nothing to do with topline, or head carriage, and depends on how that neck ties into the withers. There are plenty of stock horses with a high head carriage,and in fact,one can often see them on trails, or ridden with tiedowns to compensate

I do ride HUS, so know perfectly well the following, (The leg says "more forward" and the hand says "but only this much.")

plus that is the step in western training, before eventual self carriage on a loose rein. Can't teach it any other way, or skip that step of reins compressing/holding the impulsion generated from behind

Seeing a trail horse ridden down the trail on a loose rein is miles apart from a show horse, trained to hold that frame, taught by the correct balance of hands to legs, and eventually taking the hands part out of the equation, with the horse learning to hold that compression, frame, collection, off of seat and legs alone

How do you think a western riding horse does those precise flying changes between markers, with such cadence and rating of speed and stride, on a loose rein?.Certainly not by letting all energy flow out the front end!

hOW about a trail horse (show) that does tight lope overs? Have to rate speed and stride on a loose rein Try it, drop the reins on a horse trained only English and see if you can rate that stride length or keep compression/collection

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Some of the horses I ride try to get me to hold them up, though ;). (A common problem with green English horses. I don't know if western babies try it too).

HUS and dressage have some differences, by the way - not saying you, Smillie, don't know them, but increasing education all around. I ride a hunter trained horse a bit different from how I ride a dressage trained horse - shorter stirrups and a bit of a more forward seat. This is talking about older, trained horses that have been ridden that way for years.

Correct bitting is an intersection of:

1. The way of going you're looking for from the horse.

2. The conformation of the horse's mouth and jaw.

3. The horse's temperament and personality.

4. The rider's style and skill level (we already discussed how novices should not use a full bridle).

For example, it's a general wisdom in English bitting that the wider the bit the less severe...but this falls apart if the horse has a small head and a thin mouth. Such a horse may be far more comfortable with a thin bit that doesn't take up as much room in his mouth - in fact I've seen people try to bit horses in thick bits and the horse was not actually able to close its mouth...but of course it's "not harsh" *laugh*. And horses can prefer the oddest things...

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For example, it's a general wisdom in English bitting that the wider the bit the less severe...but this falls apart if the horse has a small head and a thin mouth. Such a horse may be far more comfortable with a thin bit that doesn't take up as much room in his mouth - in fact I've seen people try to bit horses in thick bits and the horse was not actually able to close its mouth...but of course it's "not harsh" *laugh*. And horses can prefer the

Very true, and something I have often commented on, as many people take that 'wider the mouth piece, the milder', Carte Blanche. You can't put a mouth piece designed for the size of a WarmBlood in an average stock horse, as the horse just does not have the mouth dimensions to accommodate that bit.
I know that dressage and HUS are not one and the same, as even though I ride mainly western, have taken clinics in both of the former, plus have friends that ride dressage
Your points on correct bitting are valid
I just wish to add it also should be based on the educational level of that horse. For instance, there is a great training sequence of time and equipment to create a bridle horse (one up in a Spade bit or a Mona Lisa
That bit requires both a very educated rider and an equally educated horse

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You're right. So let's add:

5. Skill level of the horse.

What's a Mona Lisa? I'm familiar with the spade bit, which I tend to mentally file as the western equivalent of the full bridle, but haven't heard much discussion of Mona Lisas.

And exactly what I mean on mouthpiece thickness. Yes, a wider/thicker mouthpiece spreads the pressure, but you do have to take into account the horse. I hadn't thought of WB versus stock horse - the times I've seen issues are people not knowing how to properly bit ponies, which often need a thinner bit as well as a narrower one.

And we haven't even got INTO bit material yet...

Edited by ShamelessDQ

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actually there is one discipline "working equitation"--a mix of dressage, a little jumping, a little domo vaquero, trail, speed trail and working cow horse--where at the highest level you are required to ride with one hand. for working cow horse you're allowed to have a garrocha in your off hand, but no crops allowed.

points are awarded for clean flying changes, precision over and through obstacles, and speed.

back to bits--having gone through this recently myself--there isn't a double broke snaffle on the planet that the horse will like if it tastes like crap. i had my horse going in a very expensive double broke metal snaffle, and there was always a short discussion before he'd actually take it although he's a perfect gentleman about lowering his head and keeping it there for bridling. he's now in a single broke sweet iron, and based on his reaction to it (give me that thing!) his preference is clear.

about self carriage, the only way i can describe it is that the horse "takes hold of you". it's an incredibly powerful, yet under control feeling, kind of dancing with somebody who knows what they're doing with their own body and can take you with them.

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You're right. So let's add:

5. Skill level of the horse.

What's a Mona Lisa? I'm familiar with the spade bit, which I tend to mentally file as the western equivalent of the full bridle, but haven't heard much discussion of Mona Lisas.

And exactly what I mean on mouthpiece thickness. Yes, a wider/thicker mouthpiece spreads the pressure, but you do have to take into account the horse. I hadn't thought of WB versus stock horse - the times I've seen issues are people not knowing how to properly bit ponies, which often need a thinner bit as well as a narrower one.

And we haven't even got INTO bit material yet...

A Mona Lisa is another one of the three common bits , used in the Vaquero tradition of a bridle horse, besides the Spade and half breed

It tried to find a good picture, but this all I came up with so far

http://www.spanishspade.com/tietjen2.html

Bit material certainly comes into play, and we touched on that in another post, but will repeat here. I love sweet iron, as do my horses, so that is the type of material I look for, and which is common in many western bits

Other that that, bits that have some copper inlay, as copper helps create a moist mouth, but straight copper bits are too soft and often develop frays

I stay away from rubber, as rubber dries a mouth

I do also use an aluminium grazing bit, that my horses also like

Since I could not find an English D ring with sweet iron, I use a western snaffle in my English bridle, after checking rules, which did not have any rules against doing so

Here you go, better picture of a MONA LISA

http://www.jtsilversmiths.com/mona_lisa_45_ctg.htm

Half Breed (between spade and Mona Lisa)

http://www.jtsilversmiths.com/half_breed_41_ctg.htm

The above site also has a this great picture display of many different mouth pieces

http://www.jtsilversmiths.com/see_all_mouthpieces_51_ctg.htm

Edited by Smilie

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Thank you. It looks to have a lower port and thus less roof of the mouth action than the spade - would this be a bit you might use on a trained horse with a lower palate that finds the spade uncomfortable?

Right now all the horses I ride (none of which are mine, dang the board cost around here) go in stainless steel bits. I'm fond of rubber for English/dressage work with a horse with an extremely sensitive mouth. Sometimes they can find any metal too harsh. I have mixed feelings about nylon bits...I know people who swear by them, but they look likely to fray to me.

I think English people generally don't use sweet iron and that's why you couldn't find that particular bit. Copper inlay does seem to help some horses - I think it tastes better or something.

One incident I remember with bit material was that somebody brought a pony, got him home, started riding him in a bit that had been around the barn for a while which fit. Two days later, his gums were red, raw and bleeding.

The vet did a scratch test. Nickel allergy. That horse had to be ridden in a rubber bit with bit guards because even the small amount of nickel in "non-reactive" stainless steel was enough to cause him problems. It's the only incident of it I've ever encountered, but poor critter.

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I have been riding my horses in Cook's Bitless Bridles. Something to think about -- my horses love them on trails and in the arena. Would check into the results of using bitless bridles if possible for your events.

http://www.bitlessbridle.com/

Of course, another option, and something many people prefer, but we have a topic on bits versus bittless, and this thread is on bit information

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