“Hi Stacy (and others),
I am new here, so sorry if this is answered somewhere else on the site (if it is please direct me to it!)
This is great information and I have been struggling with this issue with one of the horses I ride – I think changing bits may help. The horse is educated but falls into the “Employee Three” category on a few tasks/skills (not all of them, thank goodness).
How would one go about choosing a bit to try? Should I just go ahead and see what works and what doesn’t? I don’t want to confuse the horse and/or make it worse in the process.
What signs should I be looking for – especially since I can probably expect some reaction and/or resistance, since we’re trying to change some long-standing bad habits? How do I tell whether I am working through resistance, or just making it worse with the wrong bit choice?
Thank you for the wealth of information on this website – it is very generous of you to share so freely with us. Love your work!-Kate”
Here is a review of methods I have seen- along with my opinion.
The most common thing that people do when looking for a new bit is they start buying and trying them out. Often this is because they don’t know who to ask or how else to go about looking. This isn’t my favorite method but is the most common I have seen. The reason it is my least favorite is because, generally, if there is this much guess work going on it would indicate that the rider doesn’t fully understand the issue with the horse or which bit is likely to help. All bits have ‘side-effect’…strengths and weaknesses. For example a snaffle is AMAZING for lateral work but not as good for vertical (side effects could be and entire blog in itself).
The next method in searching for a bit, in my experience, is borrowing a bit to try it out. This is pretty common at horse shows that are several days long. People will talk and try out different bits during the off hours. Again, horses have preferences too. Last year at a mounted shooting show I loaned out my bridle. At the Congress last year the trainer down the isle from us loaned out his bit to another trainer several isles over. I like this better because it involves at least a couple of people discussing the problem and the possible solutions. For example, at the shooting show I was able to talk with the lady and based on watching her and her horse and make a suggestion. She was able to ride in the bit for two days. Later she bought one for herself.
My favorite method is when people come and ride with us, this could be during a lesson or during a clinic. The reason this is my favorite method is because I get to know the horses training level, the riders experience level and I can see things that are happening. As I stated before, all bits have side effects. It is not uncommon for me to suggest that a rider in a shanked bit tries out a snaffle and that the rider in the snaffle tries out the shanked bit.
With all bits, when I switch I do the following;
1) bending from the ground as shown at the beginning of Episode 16
2) bending and trotting as shown at the beginning of Episode 18
3) if it is a shanked bit-I also ask the horse to back up using rein pressure while I am dismounted, standing to the side
I suggest that you try to find a local pro to develop a relationship with. If that doesn’t seem possible my next choice would be to find a group of people that meets to ride, that could be a riding club or a group of friends. Attend a clinic if you can. The more hands on and face to face the better.
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Also remember; One of my standard questions is, “Have you had him checked by a vet? Is he sound? Have his teeth been done?” For more on this please read this blog; Why the internet isn’t the best place….
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