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Episode 52: Bridles, Headstalls, Bits & Reins

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[00:00:33] In this season of the podcast I’m talking about tack. Today’s podcast I’m focused on the bridle, which includes the head stall, bit chinstrap and reins. First, I’m gonna give you five things to consider. Then I’m going to answer a listener question that was e-mailed in to me. And finally, I’m going to take you on a virtual walk through a tack store with a friend of mine where we will discuss all the options you will have when you walk into a tack store. I’m reminded again that this can be a really complicated subject.

[00:01:05] I’ll break it down here and I’m going to make some videos that will help you to those will be posted on my YouTube channel and on my website. Let’s get started.

[00:01:18] Typically, if someone says they have a question about a bridle, it very quickly actually turns into a conversation about bits, a bridle is actually the whole entire setup. It’s the head stall, the bit that chinstrap the reins. It’s everything. But very often when people have questions about bridles, they actually have questions about bits. So before we dove into specifically about bits, let’s keep it a little bit more general for a minute.

[00:01:49] And the five areas I want you to consider right now are, number one, dental issues. Number two, why use a bit at all? Number three, snaffle vs. shanked, bit number for different mouthpieces in either the snaffle or the shank bit and number five head stalls. So why use a browband? Why use a one ear? Why use a throat latch?

[00:02:17] All these different things. So as you can hear, again, this could go very, very deep. But what I want you to do is I want you to begin thinking about it. And then if you have questions, I want you to send him in. The first thing I want to focus on for a minute here is the idea of dental issues. So horses, pretty much their teeth continually grow throughout their life. At the end of their life, that might change a little bit. But for the majority of the riding years, we’re going to look at it like the horses. Teeth are continuously growing. And there are a variety of reasons why horses need dental work in episode 39. Dr. Monty joined me and he discussed many of the reasons he thought the horses need more dental work now than than out in the wild. And that would be a good thing to go back and listen to. My very short version is that the horses get sharp edges on their teeth when they’re chewing, and that can cause problems with eating and with riding.

[00:03:19] In addition to that, if their teeth don’t naturally line up really well. So if you can imagine that back row of teeth, if that backrow those back teeth top and bottom don’t line up perfectly, then they can actually end up with one tooth that’s just continually growing. And you can actually I’ve seen horses when the equine dentists have come. I’ve seen horses where the bottom tooth that didn’t line up was actually rubbing or cutting into the gums of the upper jaw because the teeth continually grow. So if there’s not a surface to rub against and you can see this in the front of their mouth, too, actually, because if they don’t line up in the back, odds are they’re offset in the front, too. So if you’ve got a great equine dentist, they will be showing you a lot of this stuff. And I have reached my hands into and I have felt those cuts, those lacerations, those sharp teeth, those long teeth. And when you get a chance to do that, all of a sudden you realize how many dental issues the horses could have. That could be physically painful and could be the reason why your horse is resistant.

[00:04:30] And this kinda leads into my point number two, which is why use a bit at all. But before I jump into that one. Keep this in mind. You don’t avoid dealing with the dental issues by riding in a halter or a bootless bridle, because when the horse is having dental issues and the teeth are causing lacerations on the inside of the cheeks, those horses are sensitive, period. They’re sensitive to handle, to brush, to lead, to touch. They’re sensitive to the outside pressure of a bit less bridle or a halter. And you can actually see a little bit of that in my YouTube series, Stacy’s video, Jack. There is an episode in there where I am lunging, Jack, and I actually say this horse needs his teeth done. And I could tell when I was lunging him because of the way that he was opening his mouth and acting odd on top of that. Again, even if they’re their teeth aren’t sharp on the side, there can actually be a locking type thing that happens to their jaw. If those teeth are offset and their jaw, when they flex, when they give their chin and flex to a more vertical position, if the teeth aren’t properly lined up and haven’t been maintained or just aren’t naturally really excellent, then when that horse goes to make that motion, that jaw actually needs to like that lower jaw needs to be on the slide forward and they physically can’t do that.

[00:06:06] If their teeth are inhibiting it. So you’ll actually see horses with problems chewing their feed because of their their teeth. So there is no way to avoid it. Whether you use a bit or whether you don’t use a bit, dental, dental, dental, dental, dental. OK, I’m going to leave that topic. Why use a bit at all? Now, this is interesting because basically if we just put the bit or bitless bridle, well, let’s just use the word bridle here for a minute. If we just put the word bridle there and we say a bridle is a motivator, it doesn’t really matter if you want to talk about having a bit or being bootless. Basically, the reason that we’re putting any of this onto the horse is for communication. So when to use one and why to use one basically is motivation and clarity of signal. So even if it’s a halter, you’re using it so that you can apply some pressure and release some pressure. Your using it a lot like if you’re holding someone’s hand and you’re guiding them through a parking lot.

[00:07:22] So I’m thinking about holding the hand of a small child and guiding them around. You could be communicating just with language, but you can also use physically holding hands and guiding and shaping. So a lot of times you’ll hear me use the word shaping when I’m talking about the rider holding the reins and communicating with the horse. And that’s one of the ways that I view it.

[00:07:43] And that actually doesn’t really matter to me whether you’re thinking about the shaping bit or bitless. But where that does start to matter, bit or bitless, where that matters is clarity of signal. So there is the thought that you could actually have more clear signal with different bits. So we’re gonna get into that later. But on the surface, why use a bit at all? Well, you don’t actually have to. Let’s talk about a bridle, bridle, halter.

[00:08:12] They’re all motivators. And then what to choose is going to become dependent on the horses motivation level and the clarity of the signal of whatever you choose to use. So a horse that is more willing to ignore you. Might require more motivation. Where a horse that’s really sensitive might be motivated very easily with something that another horse would ignore. And then there’s clarity of the signal. We’ll get into that in the next topic, which is number three, snaffle bit versus shanked bit. This is where the majority of bridle questions starts to really come up. A lot of people have a lot of questions about a shanked bit versus a snaffle bit. They have questions about the length of the shank, the using the bit. Why would I use one versus the other? And let me do a short version here. A snaffle bit is simply a bit that doesn’t use leverage and is shanked bit is any bit that does use leverage.

[00:09:28] So when you look at a snaffle bit primarily, it’s gonna be something that you’re going to picture having rings on the left and right side of the horse’s mouth and that when you pull on the right rein,, that right ring is going to be pulled on and it’s actually going to kind of pull through the horse’s mouth and that left ring is going to push on the horse’s left side of the mouth. So this snaffle bit is going to actually have more of a signal to bend that horse to the left and right. And of course, you can pull on both reins at the same time, which is going to engage the left and right side. But what a snaffle bit does not have that leverage. And so when you would engage both at the same time, you’re just going to have that direct. We’re just going to call it like it’s a direct rein,. It’s a direct pressure of whatever amount of pressure you have in your hand is going to be directly down there, the horse’s mouth. Now, when we get to the shanked bit, let’s just picture that you’ve got a shank on the bit about the length of your your finger. And so with that shank bit, if you can imagine, the rein, is attached to that bottom of the shank and that there’s a chinstrap behind the horse’s chin.

[00:10:50] When you pull on the rein,, it’s going to rotate and there’s gonna be like a leverage action. So the length of that shank is going to change the amount of leverage that there is. And so when we think about the length of the shank, I’m going to post some videos and some pictures that go along with this. But the length of the shank, it’s actually really important to think about the ratio. So if you’re sitting here picturing a shanked bit that’s going to have a bit piece is going to maybe look similar to a snaffle the mouth pieces we can talk about in a minute. But you’ve got the mouthpiece and then on the shank, but you’ve got whatever is above the mouthpiece, which is called the purchase, and you’ve got whatever is below the mouthpiece, which is called the shank. And the ratio of that top above the bit to the bottom below the bib matters a lot because it changes the leverage point. And the more the the more leverage there is, the longer that shank, the stronger that pressure can be.

[00:12:00] So not all shank bits are created the same like some are really short, some are longer. But that’s just one tiny little piece as far as how they work. Let me say this the biggest difference between a snaffle and a shank bit as far as the horse is concerned with signal is that the snaffle bit has a more clear signal for turning the horse’s head left and right. So Ben, the horse left and right were a shanked bit, has a more clear signal for getting that horse to break at the pole or bring that face more to vertical or bring that chin back a little bit more towards the chest so that that breaking it, the vertical that is more clearly communicated with the shanked bit just as a side effect. So when we’re thinking about why we would switch from a snaffle to a shank or a shank, you know, one shank bit to another shank bit, a lot of it is going to actually depend on the signal and the clarity of of where the horse finds release. Let’s talk just a minute about number four, which is different mouthpieces so you can have a shanked bit that has a traditional snaffle bit mouthpiece in it.

[00:13:24] So when when most people picture a traditional snaffle bit, they’re going to picture a ring on each side and they’re going to picture these two bars that come together and are jointed in the middle. And then all of those pieces are loose. And that turned that would be like a traditional snaffle bit. Well, you can actually get a shanked bit that has that same mouthpiece. So there’s all these different choices that come into bits and then there are different mouthpieces inside snaffle serve different mouthpieces inside of the shank bits. But the whole purpose of these different mouthpieces is to communicate and use either different pressure points. So, for example, some of these bits are going to put more pressure on the tongue and some of these are going to have kind of a curved up allowance for the tongue, which means it’s going to not have the tongue pressure. And some of these are going to be more narrow, which means that the pressure on the bars of the horse’s mouth will be a little bit more increased. And some of these are going to be kind of medium. And then sometimes you’ll have these really, really big. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen these very large like twice the size of my thumb. These these bars of these bits that are like twice the size of my thumb. And so all of these different ratios are going to change how it feels in the horse’s mouth.

[00:14:53] And as you can imagine, it’s going to change if you’ve put that that really big fat bit mouthpiece into a little tiny horse. That’s going to be different than if you put it into a great big horse, because the ratio of the size of the horse’s mouth to the size of the diameter of these bits. So there’s a lot of different things to consider that this is why it can almost get overwhelming. But I think one of the best things to do when you’re kind of feeling overwhelmed, at least for me, what works well is I keep gathering information and studying and learning and trying things until I start to get oh, I’ve got a breakthrough in that area. I understand that a little bit more and just continue on. So when we are talking about any bit, we’re talking about shank bits in particular here for a moment. But this idea of signal, you’re going to hear me use this word signal a few different times. And when I talk about signal, what that means is that prior to the bit actually being used for pressure being applied before pressure comes signal. So the signal is like this pre-warning device. And what that means is you can actually look at if you’re imagine that you’re sitting on your horse and you’re walking along and you want to stop, one of the signals could be that you begin to take the slack out of the rein,.

[00:16:26] So let’s say the reins are loose. They’re not a direct line from the bit to your hand. So you start to take the length out of those reins. That’s gonna be a signal to the horse that, hey, the next thing, after the length, after she collects up these reins, the next thing might be pressure added to the bit. So the signal would actually be the slack coming out of the reins and the different signal could be with your body. But when we talk about the signal that the bit can give. That’s where we’re going to talk about some of these shanked bits that have these different mouthpieces that are kind of high and they make you wonder why would you want any of these mouthpieces that go up a little bit? The theory with some of them is that when you take the slack out of the rein, and then you pull on the rein,, just imagine rotating that bit one inch that when you rotate that bit, one inch, it doesn’t necessarily tighten up the chinstrap. Let’s say the shins drops, not engaged until you rotate the bit two inches. So when you rotate that bit one inch, this port, this part of the bit in the horse’s mouth, this port will actually kind of raise up off the tongue just a little bit.

[00:17:44] And when that raise is up, that’s a signal to the horse. The next thing coming after that might be the chinstrap. So signal is this pre-warning. And I’m going to put one more thing in there really quickly. And that is the idea that with shanked bits, sometimes when people see those ports that raised a middle piece, they automatically assume that that middle. Peace is to apply pressure to the roof of the horse’s mouth, and that is not true because that roof of the horse’s mouth, first of all, it changes. But when the horses are young, that is much higher up there. And the majority of those early riding years like that horse’s mouth has a lot of room in there to typically for there to be rotation with, however touching the horses. Roof of the mouth. If that bit rotates so high that it’s going to touch the roof of the mouth. That’s actually a flaw in how the chinstrap is adjusted. The majority of bits. And of course, there’s always gonna be exceptions, but the majority of bits are made if they have that port that that poor is is actually interacting as a release. Like it’s it’s like sitting in there. And when you rotate the shank, it’s actually like picking that up off the tongue and it’s changing things like that.

[00:19:09] It’s not about poking into the roof of the horse’s mouth so you can go on to do some Google searches, although that’s kind of scary sometimes. About it’s there’s actually a lot of room in there. And that’s why so many of these bits that have like, you know, let’s just use a number like like if the ports like an inch higher or whatever, like it’s not getting anywhere close to the horses roof of the mouth. And you can double check that even when your dentist comes out, you can ask how much room is in there, because I know I have that conversation with my dentist when he’s here.

[00:19:41] And then another subject is like broadband versus one ear. So this is moving away for a bit and more into the head stall. But broadband versus one ear throat latch versus not having a throat latch. These are some of the things to consider. And typically a broadband is used always with a snaffle bit and then the one ear you can ride in a shanked bit with either the broadband or the one here. But the reason why you want the broadband with the throat latch on the snaffle bit is that if you do pull on both reins at the same time, when you make that motion, it actually pulls the bit up into the horse’s mouth and makes the headstall loose, which means there’s more chance that say you were slowing the horse down and a fly lands and he shakes his head. There’s more of a chance that the horse could shake the heads to fall off, because when you were pulling on the reins, you’re actually taking and making that headstall more loose, where functionally when you pull on the reins on a shanked bit, it actually will have a slight downward pressure on the top of the pole.

[00:20:55] And that is just because of the way that that leverage is working. But it also functionally kind of keeps it from coming off during that moment. So it actually instead of loosening the headstall, which is what happens at a snaffle, it actually if you can argue anything. You could argue that it kind of tightens it up a little bit. And so there’s some form to function things there. And then you’ll hear me talk a little bit more about throat latch adjustments during my discussion a little later with Thresh. I want to answer one question that came in before we move on. And that is this. I’m going to go ahead and read it. I was wondering what your thoughts are about riding a horse. two-handed with a shanked bit for Western dressage.

[00:21:40] I’ve always thought that a shanked bit equaled neck reining or moving to a neck reining, but I can see that’s not actually the case at all. Is there a type of bith that works better for using two-handed such as fixed cheek versus loose or anything like that? How do you gage when you should go out of a snaffle for dressage? I was also wondering if you like loop reins or split reins for the sport and with a snaffle. Do you ever use slobbers straps? Why or why not? That’s the end of many more than one question. Let me break that down for you. So basically the big the big first chunk of this is that the question asker is saying that they always thought that the shank bit was for neck raining. And I get that a lot. And traditionally, you are moving towards neck reining when you are using a shaped bit. But the bridge between having a horse that understands the snaffle bit and direct training versus neck reining you typically will actually see a lot of work being done to handed. That leads to neck raining. So when we’re doing the neck right, when we’re doing the direct raining in the snaffle bit, we will start to introduce the idea of a little bit of neck raining. And I’ve talked about this actually in other podcasts when I was talking about, you know, bending, spiraling out, some of those different things.

[00:23:12] But there definitely is a misconception out there that as soon as you move into the shank bit, you should be riding one and neck reining. That doesn’t really work because you need to be able to make those same or very similar corrections and help shape that horse when you’re riding in the shanked bit to help them bridge and understand the idea up into full-blown neck raining like when I walk in to show in a raining pattern. So what we’re doing when we’re riding two-handed is we’re actually helping build that bridge between the the two handed in a snaffle to one handed in the shanked bit. And the reason why that typically falls into me saying it like that two handed in a snaffle, one handed in the shanked bit is because snaffled are more well designed for using two-handed. Of course you could ride one handed and a snaffle when I ride my horse bridleless is the equivalent that equals the idea that I could actually ride in any bit, any which way I want because I’ve worked to the point where the bit is no longer necessary. But if we don’t go that extreme, what we can say is the snaffle has a more clear and better signal when used two handed, and that when you ride a lot one handed in a snaffle bit, the horses will frequently start to actually kind of poke their noses up and out because they find they can find a release there because of the way that the bridle has a signal that the bet that particular bit has a signal.

[00:24:54] So that’s why it tends to be a better bit two-handed. This is also why the shanked bit that I told you in the beginning tends to have a more clear signal for that vertical or break at the pole because has that it tends to lend itself better to being a one-handed bit because the horse doesn’t find accidentally find that little escape point. Of course you can fix either of those with training. But again, we’re just talking about the signal and what generally happens. When you do switch from. A snaffle bit to a shanked bit, what I switched to is something that has a loose cheek piece. And again, I’m going to make some videos posted on my YouTube video, on my YouTube channel and on my blog on the Stacy Westfall dot com and you’ll be able to see some examples. But the loose cheek or the the fixed cheek on the side of the shanked bit just means whether or not that cheap piece will rotate or not. So some shaped bits are completely solid, meaning there’s not a single moving point on them and some are very mobile, meaning the sides move and the mouthpiece might be broken in multiple pieces.

[00:26:17] And if you want a quick way to remember, the side effect of each of those would be that if everything is welded together on your bit, that’s probably going to be a bit that’s going to make your horse feel a little bit more like that welded together and straight. Those bits that don’t move a lot are meant to be ridden very straight. The bits that have a lot of moving pieces lend themselves better if you want your horse to be real bendy and soft and do some of those different shapes. That’s just the big broad generalization for try to remember the difference. Now, she did manage to squeeze in a bunch of other questions, let me see if I can can answer them real quickly. How do you gage when you should go out of a snaffle? Personally, my horses won’t graduate out of a snaffle into a shanked bit until they can bend, spiral out and counter bend and they can actually step around like a pivot or a very slow spin of at least somewhere between 180 to 270 degrees. And the reason for that is that basically what I’m doing when I’m able to make that horse do that little simple pivot or horsemanship turn or that little partial spin. And when I can do spiral out and counterman, I am showing that my horse understands moving its shoulders. And when the horse understands the the that I’m controlling the shoulders.

[00:27:47] Now, that shows a level of understanding that the horse could graduate into another bit if the horse cannot do those things. I do not think it’s developed mentally understanding enough to be able to move into a different bit and total side note. But everything I just said there was so fun to find out that the same time in dressage that they actually allow you to move and use the equivalent of a shanked bit in dressage. The same thing that changes in the test is the same thing I’ve been saying for many, many, many years now, which is that horse needs to understand how to do that, that pivot that so that counter bend, that moving the shoulders, that is literally what divides second and third level. And that is also where they start to let you be able to use a shanked bit. Totally fascinating. Another question here is with a snaffle, do you ever use slobbers straps? Why or why not? And again, slobbers strap. You can do a little Google Research and see what that looks like if you’re not sure what it is. But for me, I don’t use a slobbers strap. So the purpose of the slobbers strap is actually back to that idea of signal that I talked about earlier. And with signal I actually am getting a really good signal with my really nice heavy harness leather reins.

[00:29:15] So my reins are already doing that signal which so a lot of times that slobbers strap can be used with a loop rein, or that mecade rein, or that rope kind of a rein,. And that’s just got a different feel. But I’m already kind of taking care of that that signal with the other rein, that I use. So I don’t personally use slobber straps, but I have nothing against them and I can see why people would use them, but just not the style I’m using.

[00:29:45] Poof. That’s a lot of information. How you guys doing? In this next segment, I would like to take you on a walk through the many choices that you have when you’re looking at bridles.

[00:30:01] And joining me will be Trish Campese and she is the owner of Stagecoach West. Stagecoach is a store that I do a lot of work with, and they have been in the industry for 40 years. In 2020, they’ll have been in the tack industry for 40 years. And I really, really appreciate working with Stagecoach West because they really care for horses and riders. And one thing I want you to listen for inside of this is I actually end up learning that they have a bit rental program. And I didn’t know that before this interview. And to me, that just is more evidence towards the idea that they want to help horses and riders have things with work. They want to be able to help you find what’s going to work for you and your horse.

[00:30:55] So let’s listen to my discussion with Trish from Stagecoach West at stagecoachwest.com

[00:31:06]  Trish, I’d like to talk about bridles, because I can imagine that someone standing in the aisle way at your store with all the bits and the head stalls, basically all the separate pieces that go together to make a full functioning bridle. I can imagine with all of those options, they could be kind of overwhelmed.

[00:31:39] I think with the material, the first thing that they’re going to walk into is primarily leather. Now we sell more leather constructed head stalls than we do anything or bridles. Determine where you want to call it. Yep.

[00:31:53] There are one ear and brow band and there’s other things to look at. Throatlatches. Then you get into color schemes. They come in harness leather. They come in chocolate. They come in. They’re coil. They come in Walmart. They come in later.

[00:32:14] In the western end of it, typically there are not a lot of size choices there, particularly all horse size. We do carry a couple that are Arab sized for smaller headed horse, but typically western bridles only come in horse size.

[00:32:33] I know one year for newbies, you know, new horse owners will think twice about one year because it isn’t as safety concerns with most of them. They want to throatlatch with a browband.

[00:32:47] Well, one area where most actives writers will lean more towards less, which is one year there’s less.

[00:32:56] I’m turn to think of other options would be how your bit attaches to the bridle.

[00:33:02] There’s Chicago screws,  There’s ties. There is quick change buckles.

[00:33:16] Right. And we haven’t even left basically when we’re looking at a bridle, just to be clear, we’ve got the headstock, which is pretty much all we’ve talked about yet. And then you’ve got the actual bit, which is another place I can imagine people just being overwhelmed, looking at all the choices there. We’ll talk about that in a minute. And then you actually still even have more choices. When you go into the reins, you’re gonna have a bunch of choices. And the little tiny innocent looking chinstrap comes in a variety of choices. So, yeah, so that so we’ve kind of covered the head stalls when they turn around. Now they’ve figured out which which headstall they want. They do come in nylon too. I would imagine that’s still they do possible they did. And so they’ve, they’ve chosen the material they’ve chosen whether it’s broadband or single ear they’ve chosen or double ear or with or without the throat latch which kind of does a little bit go with the ears and not depending. And then they’ve chosen how that’s going to attach the bit. And we haven’t even got to the bit yet. So then they turn around and they’re staring at your giant bit wall or how many walls of bits do you have?

[00:34:21] We have a long wall of that. Yeah. Everything from, you know, snaffle bits to big horse bits or, you know, more experienced horse bits. And there’s a hackmore and there’s you know, it’s just an area of different types of things out, you know, right. To keep up with as much as is on the market, you know.

[00:34:44] And so that they turn around. And if they. I would imagine that the customers fall into kind of two categories, because some people are going to come in knowing what they’re looking for because they borrowed a friend’s bit or a trainer recommended a bit or they’re gonna kind of come in and tell you what’s going on and ask for a suggestion. Is that does that happen much?

[00:35:04] It happens quite often, actually. We’re pretty knowledgeable, most of us down there in our tax department on how best to work in the horse’s mouth. So we do when they start talking to us about what’s going on with their horses doing. We try to give them the best educated choice that we can recommend to them. We also offer rental. yes, we rent out our bits because it is a very that is a very tough subject because there are so many. I probably have five hundred bits hanging on our wall.

[00:35:44] I’m over one now. I’m not even looking at it, you know.

[00:35:49] Yes, I do. Video is actually the perfect example of, you know, just snap pictures, videos help us if we did a video. What exactly that horse is doing with that particular bit that you’re not happy with? We would try to recommend some.

[00:36:06] Yeah. Can you tell me a little bit more about your bit rental program?

[00:36:09] Our bit rental program is a dollar a day and we recommend that you test the bit up to 15 days.

[00:36:18] Typically, though, you can see a difference in the horse after a few rides, but sometimes it does take a little bit longer, depending on how drastic you’ve changed a bit in the horse’s mouth.

[00:36:32] Yeah, that’s a really neat program. And I think it’s worth saying again that, you know, the store’s been running for 40 years, so this is not your first time around recommending bits like you can walk into. You know, some stores and get people that don’t have a lot of experience. They’re way more likely to get somebody with experience at your store. But also, I’m impressed that you guys run a bit clinic every year, which is another thing that people should just be aware of is an option, meaning that around the country or wherever you’re located, if you look, you can find bit clinics going on. And so I’m thinking about it from two standpoints. First of all, somebody attending a bit clinic would have a great opportunity to get the bit fitted and talk to the person and multiple people that are there. But also, you have at this point attended a lot of befitting clinics, I would guess. So your experience is way higher.

[00:37:24] We’ve done them for 18 years.

[00:37:28] That is out of clinic efforts.

[00:37:31] And it’s great because you get to see so many different horses. It is different now. It’s different. How did the horses react in different vets? It’s it’s a good it’s a great experience. Yeah.

[00:37:43] I always would recommend, even if you are a professional, it is such an enlightening information on the inside of a horse’s mouth and how different they’re designed. It’s a very unique opportunity.

[00:37:58] Yeah, I’ve I’ve sat through a fair number of them whenever I go to educational things, actually probably equipment fitting as I’ve done, saddle fitting, you know, clinics and and different clinics like that. And I’m looking in the dressage world at some different bits. And I was just at a store and they were saying, we’re gonna have a English dressage fitting, a bit fitting, you know, clinic coming up. And that’s what we would recommend that you come to nose like that is really good information to know. So. So you would you would recommend that people coming in and this fits obviously not everybody listening is gonna live within driving range of you. So this is just general general information for anybody listening that, you know, having pictures, having video of the horse, having pictures of having video of what the horse is doing that you’re disliking. Those would all help when you’re fitting the bit. And then I’ll have already talked about this in numerous other places. But but having the horses teeth worked on, I’m just going to sneak that in there one more time because a horse with dental problems is going to have bridle problems across the board. And let’s go move into the other two subjects that are still a piece of this, which would be chin straps and reins. Which one would you like to go to first?

[00:39:16] Well, we can talk about chin straps. Yeah, they they cut the same thing. They come in leather, they come nylon. They come with a chain. They come flat without a chain. And honestly, we tried to match up with the bit.

[00:39:36] The curb chains has to be within regulations if they’re showing we we kind of asked like just showing for h are you showing open or are you showing you know, when a breed show cause they there are some curb chains that are allowed and some that hurt you until we try to ask them about their horses, their horses pretty laid back and you know, very respectful we might say, you know, you could probably get away with no chain and just have a leather strap. But, you know, we try to look at those. And in matching the bridle, of course.

[00:40:10] Yeah. And I just had a horse here that was very large. He had almost like a draft cross mix. And it was really interesting because I was trying to help them adjust the chin strap because it was pretty much 100 percent engaged, like just getting it on. Basically, it was really tight. And we’ll talk about adjustments here. I guess we could talk about it now, but it was like it was really tight up against his chin just when you put it on. But mostly I think it was because he was very large and I was trained to look around my barn where I have a lot of small horses. And I was thinking we just need a bigger chinstrap for this draft cross type horse, because otherwise, you know, it’s it’s pretty much full on engage before you even started, you know, rotating the shanks or anything like that. So there’s a lot of different pieces. And I also just to throw it in there with a just. Else that when we are talking about those throat latches, which we kind of breeze past, you know, every once in a while I’ll say to people when I’m looking at how it’s how they’re they’ve got a digested, oftentimes I’ll find it pretty tight. And if you just if I stand beside the horse and ask the horse to back up, kind of holding my hands over the saddle area, you can see if the horse gives the chin and is choked by the throat latch that it’s not going to want to break at the pole because of that discouraging choking kind of pressure there. So a lot of there’s a lot of little adjustments that go into these head stalls and we. Yeah, into the into putting the head stall onto the bit the bit, you know, and the chin strap. And we still have even talked about reins. Anything you want to throw in there on the adjustments?

[00:41:55] I guess what the curb chain adjustment, you know, a rule of thumb, it was always two fingers behind it. But I found that, you know it in conjunction with a proper fitting bit. They probably should adjust it according to the horse. So like you said, with that one being too tight, that’s always engaging the horse’s mouth. Always putting pressure there. Some horses who are maybe better thinkers and need a little time to process things. You might want to leave that a little looser more if you have one that is in a situation where they’re a little bit more nervous than you need them to pay attention quicker, you can tighten it up. I always think of it as if you go out of trail riding. Sometimes if you’re with a group when you had to hold the horse has a tendency to be a little bit more forward. You would tighten your curb chain up a hole just so that a bit gages a little faster into the horse’s mouth. It’s just too tight according to the horse.

[00:42:52] Yeah. And I think one thing that you kind of alluded to there is that, you know, I’m holding my hands up, but since this is more like radio, nobody can actually see them. But if you can imagine that, yeah, the old the old rule of thumb was the two fingers kind of slid between if you could imagine putting your your fingers kind of stacking them and sliding that between the chin strap and the and the horse’s chin. And and that it it kind of works. But what I’m actually looking for is more what you just alluded to, which is actually the rotation of the shank because the whole point, the whole point of a lot of the way that the bits work, once you move into a shank bit away from a snaffle, which I’m going to take a moment and say even on snaffled bits, a lot of times in the Western world, you’ll see people have a chin strap on there and they’re actually using that more like a bit hobble type thing so it can’t pull through the horse’s mouth. And that really confuses people because it’s like, why do you have a chin strap on a bit that doesn’t have leverage? And basically it’s not being used for leverage is being used for a different purpose, which now we get into the more you know, what type of what type of side.

[00:44:00] Pete, how’s the shape of the side of your snaffle? Is it around the cheek snaffle or does it have a D type snaffle side or does it have like a full cheek snaffle? And then you wouldn’t need that like idea of the the chinstrap stopping it from pulling through. But I’m wondering down a rabbit trail here now I’m going to run back to the idea of like when you have this is this is the part of the challenge with bits. But if you go back to that chin, strap on a shank bit, what we’re often looking for is how much movement is in that shank before the chin strap engages. So, you know, you’re standing on the ground and you pick up, you know, you just reach out with your fingers and touch the end of those Shank’s where the reins would it would attach. And you rotate that back and you want there to be a little you want there to be some level of movement before it engages. Otherwise, you’ve got it too tight, which is what I was just talking about with the horse, with the really big chin. But then the other problem I see is if people either don’t use a chinstrap at all on a bit that was designed to have a chin strap or they have a really, really loose than that, then that bit can really over rotate beyond what it was designed to do because you can actually have those shanks pointed instead of just four because the lack of visuals.

[00:45:18] Imagine the shanks pointing more or less straight down to the ground towards what I’m going to call six o’clock. If you are on, if you’re the rider and you pull and that rotates it all the way back to like, you know, three o’clock or even higher up to two o’clock. You know, that’s a chinstrap issue, which is why everything I’m saying here is more and more evidence is why riding with somebody who can help you and give you some feedback on how all of this stuff fits. We actually do that pretty regularly when people come to ride with us for clinics or lessons, even people that have been riding with us for years, they’ll be times we’ll be like, hey, let’s make this little change for this little reason or, you know, this is what you’re dealing with right now. Let’s try a different bit to make a more clear communication of what we’re going for to the horse. So. Just hats off to you for standing there and answering questions about 500, literally 500 different bits. And we haven’t even talked about all the combinations of headstall styles and straps and last category, reins, what do you have for subjects and what do you have for materials and reins?

[00:46:41] There’s gaming reins, barrel racing rein, mounted shooting reins. I mean, there’s just so many different reins. Typically when somebody comes in, then the first thing I ask them iWhat are you used or used to have? One continuous rein,? Are you used to two separate rein, split rein,?

[00:47:07] And one of the questions they always ask is, you know, what would I personally use? Well, what I use and what somebody else might like in their hand are always very different. So I always tell people to walk around and hold them in your hands, you know?

[00:47:22] You want soft. Do you want something that’s, you know, more stiffer feeling? So they come with different ends on them as well.

[00:47:34] The way how they attach to the bit they can be snaps’s, they can be tied. They can be Chicagos screws. They can be quick release pieces. So, I mean, there’s a lot of options with the rein,.

[00:47:49] Yeah.

[00:47:51] We always try to ask them, what what are you currently using, what have you used, what you haven’t used? What did you like? What did you like?

[00:47:58] Yeah, and I can definitely see whether that be a good starting point because. And then that your advice to hold the different reins in your hand because you know, sometimes you just learn from experience. But I know that personally, if I’m writing, obviously, if I’m going to show one handed, then I’m gonna be, like you said, dictated to by the rulebook. I’m going to be in split reins. I’m gonna be, you know, one finger down in between. It’s gonna gonna spell out some of it. But then when I’m at home riding, there’s more, you know, like, hey, I’m riding younger horses, I’m riding predominantly two-handed. Does that mean that I you know, I actually just had a a single rein,. So basically a loop rein, made butt out of the leather that I really like in my split reins. But I did that because of showing in the western dressage and the way that I have to adjust the horses head up and down. The split reins were kind of getting like there was just a lot to manage and I wasn’t really using them for what the purpose was. So it was like, OK, I’m gonna go with a different rein,. But then back to what you were saying about holding him in your hands. I ride with a more narrow rein, because I’ve got really pretty small hands and I know that the same leather reins that I’m riding in that I think are a half inch thick come in a thicker version with I should say they come in a wider virgin. and a lot of people with bigger hands like the wider version. And it’s like back to what you said, it’s kind of a personal preference that comes down to like personal preference and physical size of my hands. So good advice on holding things and then. Yeah, just riding in them. Riding in them. You’ll develop a feel. Absolutely.

[00:49:43] Well, thank you so much for joining me today, Trish. Thanks for your time. You’re very welcome. I’m glad to help.

[00:49:53] I’d like to mention that the rental program that Trish mentioned is available through the mail. So if you don’t live anywhere near them, they’re located in New York. You can actually do this through the mail, too, which I find fascinating. And one thing that I should also mention is that putting bridles together once you have all of these different pieces can be intimidating. I need to make a video for you guys on YouTube that shows you how to put the bridle together. But if you’re really intimidated and you are looking at a different bridle and that includes the head stall, the bit, the chinstrap, the rains stage coach will actually put the bridle together for you, which is awesome because I myself have remember putting things together upside down, backwards and wrong.

[00:50:52] And it’s always a little bit sad if you’re at a horse show and they’re checking bits and somebody goes in and shows their horse and then comes out and the judge checks and they can be disqualified for things being put on incorrectly because that’s some of the rules when you show, as Trish mentioned. There’s different rules. And so not only could your let’s just say your chinstrap could be illegal, but if it’s twisted, that can also get you disqualified. And different things just being improperly put together are not going to signal correctly because I know a lot of times there’s these little loops on the side of some of these bits and this little mystery loop. And I will definitely put a little video together for you for this little mystery loop on the side of some of these shank bits. Is there so that you could actually use that shank bit like a snaffle by moving up the reins to beside the mouthpiece? But when people don’t know, a lot of times they’ll put their chinstrap there. But then it doesn’t actually have any leverage because the chinstrap actually needs to hook to the same loop typically as the head stall.

[00:52:02] So this stuff can get really confusing. So I would highly encourage you to work with somebody. Go ride your horse and take a lesson and ask them questions about your tack. Nine times out of ten, they’re going to walk up any way. I know if you come here for a clinic or a lesson, we’re going to mention anything that we see that’s out of place. We’re going to show you how we would adjust it. We’re going to tell you why. And I think the majority of people out there teaching would do this. And I also know that places like Stagecoach will and we’ve mentioned doing bidding clinics where you can you can go and you can watch at these different horse expos or you can find bit clinics. If you go to any area place like like your local tax store, ask them, search online, find these information outlets.

[00:53:09] And if you decide to purchase anything there, you can use the code Stacy for 15 percent off your entire purchase excluding saddles. And speaking of saddles, that is next week’s topic. Thanks for joining me. I’ll talk to you again in the next episode.

1 Comment

  1. Martina Brown on November 21, 2019 at 10:05 pm

    Hi Stacy
    In my opinion seeing the variety of bits drive me CRAZY!!!!!! You did clear up some of the misunderstandings I had regarding bits—Thank you, however I still don’t understand why there has to be so many because I am always wondering…is there a bit that Hildy will like better or feel more comfortable in. The one that I am using now she is doing fine in but every time I go in a tack store and see the bits I stand there and look and think–maybe I should try this one. I know you use a snaffle bit but I would like to know what type of shank bit you use and why you use that one. Thanks

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