When to Use Stronger Bits & Nosebands etc.

Squeak

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If the 'ideal' is to have a horse in a snaffle and cavesson for everything (excluding doubles when used for high level dressage etc.) when is the right time to say this isn't working and I will change bit or noseband etc.?

I know theoretically we should be able to school our horses so that they can go in just a snaffle but quite a lot of the horses that you see at top level aren't just in a snaffle and cavesson so it's obviously possible for horses to perform well in other combinations and very experienced riders are not managing to school top horses so that they can go in a snaffle.

My reason for querying it is that I'm very small and my horse is big and strong. Two trainers (both very experienced) I use have both been adamant that he must stay in a snaffle. I will query my trainer about it again but previously he said it was because (it was a while ago so probably not completely accurately remembered) he wouldn't make a proper shape or be true in to the bridle and hand if he was in more than the snaffle. So this is where I come back to the horses competing at top level not in a snaffle.

So when is the correct time to change tack?
 
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Breagha

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I went through this with people telling me my horse needed to be in a snaffle when not showing. BUT I felt my horse was happier when ridden in the pelham all the time, I tried and tried with snaffles and a few different ones but she just wasn't as settled. I think it really depends on if your horse and yourself is happy in the current set up.
 

The Fuzzy Furry

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Have both trainers ridden your horse OP?
If not, then encourage both to sit on for a short while.

I prefer a simple snaffle (bomber happy mouth loose ring is usual choice for B) and hunter noseband. However, there are occasions where I feel its prudent to either add martingale, a drop or grackle, or change in a stronger bit.
For example, if I pop a mullen mouth Pelham in, I'm only likely to pick up the curb for under 5% of the time, which makes it really unnecessary, but.... we both know the additional brakes are in place.
If I add a change of noseband, its because I want to persevere with same bit but B is just having 'one of those days' when she doesn't want to fully cooperate.
 

paddi22

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if two good trainers are telling you to stay in snaffle then they must have reasoning behind it, I'd be interesting to see what they say when they break it down properly. The aim is to get horses riding more from your seat and weight aids anyway, rather then your hands, so maybe they want you to focus on that? or they think the horse needs to stretch forward and down more and a stronger bit might make it curl back? or that your contact isn't steady enough for a stronger bit. they need to be clearer in their reasons, because if they are both good and said the same thing then there is a logical reason.
 

Squeak

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if two good trainers are telling you to stay in snaffle then they must have reasoning behind it, I'd be interesting to see what they say when they break it down properly. The aim is to get horses riding more from your seat and weight aids anyway, rather then your hands, so maybe they want you to focus on that? or they think the horse needs to stretch forward and down more and a stronger bit might make it curl back? or that your contact isn't steady enough for a stronger bit. they need to be clearer in their reasons, because if they are both good and said the same thing then there is a logical reason.
The horse is fairly young and so you are right they have mentioned all these reasons. He's a very complicated and sensitive horse but at the moment I'm stuck in a vicious cycle where he goes on a slight long one or through a combination and worries himself (he's scopey and so this can work against him) and so gets stronger and faster which then means he goes on longer and longer ones and gets more and more worried. I just wonder if something stronger could break this cycle. We've been working on breaking it all down, keeping it small and repetition and we have made progress but at the end of the day as he is he can't jump round an 80cm course and this is after a couple of years and the switch of trainers.

He's also incredibly sensitive and so the two different bits I've tried he got worried by and did start curling back (although did complete an 80 ODE in them and some SJ after which as I could see he was a bit worried I went back to snaffle method) but I'm not sure that from just two bits it's right to say that there wouldn't be something that could give me a bit more control and not worry him?
 

Squeak

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Have both trainers ridden your horse OP?
If not, then encourage both to sit on for a short while.

I prefer a simple snaffle (bomber happy mouth loose ring is usual choice for B) and hunter noseband. However, there are occasions where I feel its prudent to either add martingale, a drop or grackle, or change in a stronger bit.
For example, if I pop a mullen mouth Pelham in, I'm only likely to pick up the curb for under 5% of the time, which makes it really unnecessary, but.... we both know the additional brakes are in place.
If I add a change of noseband, its because I want to persevere with same bit but B is just having 'one of those days' when she doesn't want to fully cooperate.

This is an interesting point, no they haven't. The first that I've now switched from always said they were going to but always seemed to put it off... The current one could well be worth suggesting especially around a course.

He is a man and much stronger and bigger so I'm not sure that strong to me would be strong to him but it could be very interesting to see how he got on.

ETA I rarely ride with two reins and so I don't think I'd trust myself to be efficient enough with them to be able to really effectively use it round a course of sj otherwise this could have been a good option.
 

paddi22

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how young is he? is the rushing just a lack or strength in his body because he's not powerful enough to take enough weight behind yet? is it a lack of balance cause he's still going or young?

the danger with giving a young horse a stronger bit for control jumping is that you start off down a path thats hard to come back from. there'd be so much more I'd be aiming for schooling wise before I'd change the bit. has he a proper canter? is he on the forehand? is he accepting your half halts?
 

Squeak

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how young is he? is the rushing just a lack or strength in his body because he's not powerful enough to take enough weight behind yet? is it a lack of balance cause he's still going or young?

the danger with giving a young horse a stronger bit for control jumping is that you start off down a path thats hard to come back from. there'd be so much more I'd be aiming for schooling wise before I'd change the bit. has he a proper canter? is he on the forehand? is he accepting your half halts?
He's 8 and is looking great this year, he is mature and strong. He could do with sitting on his backend end and stepping under more but not to the extent that he couldn't jump an 80cm course. On the flat he accepts half halts, jumping when he's gone I could use my full strength and have nothing.

But I think this is where I'm just getting a bit frustrated and lost - his flatwork is easily good enough to pop around a small course and yet we're still a million miles from it and this is a couple of years of schooling and training later. I've been trying to do the right thing and avoid going for stronger bits etc but it just feels like we're getting no where.

I really appreciate all the help and advice as it helps to talk it through with someone who's not familiar with us. I'm getting to the end of my tether at this point and don't know whether I just need to accept defeat.
 

Red-1

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I generally advocate schooling rather than bitting up. Bitting up is for when you don't have time/skill to school.

I am taking mine to our first farm ride this aft. He will be wearing a Pelham, as I want to go this afternoon and don't have time to perfect his cantering in an open space before then. So, not against it as long as it is done judiciously.

Life happens. Horses are for enjoying.

The word is judiciously.
 

Squeak

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I generally advocate schooling rather than bitting up. Bitting up is for when you don't have time/skill to school.

I am taking mine to our first farm ride this aft. He will be wearing a Pelham, as I want to go this afternoon and don't have time to perfect his cantering in an open space before then. So, not against it as long as it is done judiciously.

Life happens. Horses are for enjoying.

The word is judiciously.

Just out of interest as I know that it is the accepted view that it's down to schooling - but where would you put the olympic horses that aren't in snaffles on this? Can we say that's not due to skill or time? What's made it different that they go in stronger equipment?

Not at all meant to sound like a dig at you I'm genuinely puzzled by why there's this difference and not all top horses are in snaffles.
 

Cortez

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Snaffles are not "kind" bits, they are blunt and rather unsophisticated tools used as an introduction to training and were never meant to be the end goal. I find a lot of horses don't go well in them, and the vast majority of riders are not taught how to use them properly. Use whatever (within reason) you and your horse need to feel comfortable and safe.
 

Red-1

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Just out of interest as I know that it is the accepted view that it's down to schooling - but where would you put the olympic horses that aren't in snaffles on this? Can we say that's not due to skill or time? What's made it different that they go in stronger equipment?

Not at all meant to sound like a dig at you I'm genuinely puzzled by why there's this difference and not all top horses are in snaffles.
I knew that comment would get a bite LOL. I think that even most olympic athletes would like their horses to be so responsive etc that they would go in a simple snaffle. The horses are there to do a job, changing bit works, so they do it! Like me this aft, changing bit will work, so I do it.

I do it though, knowing that I could spend longer and not change the bit. But, this aft it is sunny, so why not?

If it works, saves time, saves legs, then I suspect most Olympic athletes will change the bit.

I did say that I wasn't against.

I hold the horse being happy in simple tack as an ideal, something to work towards. Rigsby has achieved that in a snaffle in the majority of circumstances. His training is such that he can yield to a gentle touch.

In fact, mine generally have a blast with naked heads, obedient and happy. That is also fun.

Today is a Pelham day :p



ETA- I *could* hold him in a Pelham, but it would take a lot of force, not nice, hence the change to a Pelham, which I trained him to respond to over winter, when he was not under pressure. It will likely lead to a nice time to be had by all!
 
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paddi22

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He's 8 and is looking great this year, he is mature and strong. .
ah right! When you said young I thought he might be four or something. Sometimes it’s just trial and error with them. I do agree with the other poster that a snaffles aren’t always the gentlest. Might be worth getting a bitting specialist out to try some?
 

Squeak

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ah right! When you said young I thought he might be four or something. Sometimes it’s just trial and error with them. I do agree with the other poster that a snaffles aren’t always the gentlest. Might be worth getting a bitting specialist out to try some?
I think part of the problem is that when I first started he was young and immature and so it did seem like we should school and build him up but I'm still at practically the same point (jumping wise!!) with him tanking me as I was when I got him.

I'm small on him and not strong so I don't feel there's any finesse in me having to haul on a snaffle instead of tweaking something stronger but I've been being told I must stick to the snaffle.

I will have another conversation with my trainer and see if I can get him on board with changing bit or noseband etc and if not why not. I think he will be hard to get it right for as he's so sensitive so I might well go down the route of a specialist.
 

palo1

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There are definately alternatives to the snaffle and cavesson arrangement...drop nosebands used to be brought in for horses very early in their training; I think they can be pretty helpful for horse and rider. All horses have individual preferences too so it would be a bit too simplistic to suggest that one sort of bit and one sort of noseband worked for everybody! Some equestrian traditions start with a bitless bosal for instance; not my particular choice but it is 'conventional' in other places, others work toward the use of a curb earlier in the horse's education. I think it is useful to have a sort of 'system' of thinking in place but there are lots to choose from. In just about every equestrian culture though it is recognised that it is most helpful to find a way of communicating to the horse to transfer weight to the quarters so that biomechanically healthy movement is developed! Basic, but rarely simple lol.
 

Squeak

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I knew that comment would get a bite LOL. I think that even most olympic athletes would like their horses to be so responsive etc that they would go in a simple snaffle. The horses are there to do a job, changing bit works, so they do it! Like me this aft, changing bit will work, so I do it.

I do it though, knowing that I could spend longer and not change the bit. But, this aft it is sunny, so why not?

If it works, saves time, saves legs, then I suspect most Olympic athletes will change the bit.

I did say that I wasn't against.

I hold the horse being happy in simple tack as an ideal, something to work towards. Rigsby has achieved that in a snaffle in the majority of circumstances. His training is such that he can yield to a gentle touch.

In fact, mine generally have a blast with naked heads, obedient and happy. That is also fun.

Today is a Pelham day :p



ETA- I *could* hold him in a Pelham, but it would take a lot of force, not nice, hence the change to a Pelham, which I trained him to respond to over winter, when he was not under pressure. It will likely lead to a nice time to be had by all!

Haha LOL I definitely bit (all puns intended :p ) this has been driving me mad for a while.

I feel a bit like I might be muggins schooling their horse for years but not actually making much progress (jump wise - dressage wise we can now go out and get some solid scores) just to achieve this holy grail that so many of the professionals don't achieve and I've been having NO fun and neither has the horse. In fact it's completely destroying my self confidence in my riding.

I just don't understand why my trainer has been pushing me for this so much and so I wanted to sense check that at this stage I'm not wrong to start looking at a change of tack. I'm at the stage where I'm considering selling the horse to a professional but in all honesty they'll probably just whack it in different tack.

I hope you enjoy your fun ride this afternoon, it's glorious weather for it.
 

Squeak

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There are definately alternatives to the snaffle and cavesson arrangement...drop nosebands used to be brought in for horses very early in their training; I think they can be pretty helpful for horse and rider. All horses have individual preferences too so it would be a bit too simplistic to suggest that one sort of bit and one sort of noseband worked for everybody! Some equestrian traditions start with a bitless bosal for instance; not my particular choice but it is 'conventional' in other places, others work toward the use of a curb earlier in the horse's education. I think it is useful to have a sort of 'system' of thinking in place but there are lots to choose from. In just about every equestrian culture though it is recognised that it is most helpful to find a way of communicating to the horse to transfer weight to the quarters so that biomechanically healthy movement is developed! Basic, but rarely simple lol.

This is very true that the snaffle is not the be all and end all in other cultures, it's very easy to get bogged down in what we see and get told all the time.

The snaffle is most definitely not helping me transfer the weight to the quarters when jumping as he's just tanking!
 

maya2008

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Firstly, if you're not making progress over a significant period of time either you've not got a trainer whose approach works for you, there's something wrong with the horse or you and the horse aren't a good match.

I have seen trainers take money time and again for horses that are just not quite sound - so rush or whatever as a result. The rider ends up thinking it's them, and the trainer can make the horse behave because they are bigger/stronger/more experienced. There have been some examples on this forum where horses have been only slightly off, trainers have thought they were ok - owners got them checked and found they were not.

I'm wonky physically and cannot find a trainer - I do what I can from books, videos, getting my riding on camera, training OH to yell as appropriate. Even without a trainer though, my horses steadily make progress. All except for the one with pssm who could only ever get so far... and did rush like you describe when jumping. We could get round 80/90cm with ease though even after she was more affected by the pssm, with appropriate schooling (if she wasn't fit enough, it was an issue, so any lay-offs from jumping took ages to come back from!).

Regarding stronger bits/nosebands: I don't use a noseband at all, but I do use stronger bits. The alternative out hacking is to lose control as my fingers are not strong enough to really stop an over-excited horse/pony in a snaffle. I need to be able to work and ride home, so pulling multiple ligaments just to stop once isn't an option! So at the first inkling of needing one (usually around age 5) I put something stronger in to hack. I also jumped the pssm pony in a stronger bit, as she had a tendency to rush and end up on her forehand. With the stronger bit, I always have a very light contact and they are happy in the bits I choose for them. Obviously we do dressage in a snaffle, but dressage isn't exciting! My son jumps in a stronger bit, as madam shetland gets over excited and just rushes off like an over-excited puppy doing laps of the school otherwise!
 

Squeak

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Firstly, if you're not making progress over a significant period of time either you've not got a trainer whose approach works for you, there's something wrong with the horse or you and the horse aren't a good match.

I have seen trainers take money time and again for horses that are just not quite sound - so rush or whatever as a result. The rider ends up thinking it's them, and the trainer can make the horse behave because they are bigger/stronger/more experienced. There have been some examples on this forum where horses have been only slightly off, trainers have thought they were ok - owners got them checked and found they were not.

I'm wonky physically and cannot find a trainer - I do what I can from books, videos, getting my riding on camera, training OH to yell as appropriate. Even without a trainer though, my horses steadily make progress. All except for the one with pssm who could only ever get so far... and did rush like you describe when jumping. We could get round 80/90cm with ease though even after she was more affected by the pssm, with appropriate schooling (if she wasn't fit enough, it was an issue, so any lay-offs from jumping took ages to come back from!).

Regarding stronger bits/nosebands: I don't use a noseband at all, but I do use stronger bits. The alternative out hacking is to lose control as my fingers are not strong enough to really stop an over-excited horse/pony in a snaffle. I need to be able to work and ride home, so pulling multiple ligaments just to stop once isn't an option! So at the first inkling of needing one (usually around age 5) I put something stronger in to hack. I also jumped the pssm pony in a stronger bit, as she had a tendency to rush and end up on her forehand. With the stronger bit, I always have a very light contact and they are happy in the bits I choose for them. Obviously we do dressage in a snaffle, but dressage isn't exciting! My son jumps in a stronger bit, as madam shetland gets over excited and just rushes off like an over-excited puppy doing laps of the school otherwise!

Ah yes you’re right I should have mentioned he’s had all checks done routinely, including annual vet work ups and has never had anything wrong. It’s very much in his mind.

I completely agree, I was having that line of thought so I changed trainer and initially it seemed really positive and I think new trainer is a better fit for this horse but we’re still hitting a bit of a wall. As pain has been ruled out I’m at the point of selling and admitting we weren’t right for each other but it seems a bit crazy to do that with a horse I really like and don’t want to sell without having tried other tack when a large part of the problem is that he’s just too strong for me.
 

McGrools

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I have a big mare for me who i tried every bit for. She fought everything until i put her in a fulmer cheek bomber bit to remove tongue pressure. It isnt a bit i thought would be good for brakes but she is as light as a feather in it. I’m teamchasing her in it in a couple of weeks and she is perfectly controllable.
change the bit. Life is way too short to be struggling when there are potentially very simple solutions!
 

Mule

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I'd give another bit a try and see how you get on. If it works, it works and if it doesn't, there's no harm done.
 

Red-1

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Haha LOL I definitely bit (all puns intended :p ) this has been driving me mad for a while.

I feel a bit like I might be muggins schooling their horse for years but not actually making much progress (jump wise - dressage wise we can now go out and get some solid scores) just to achieve this holy grail that so many of the professionals don't achieve and I've been having NO fun and neither has the horse. In fact it's completely destroying my self confidence in my riding.

I just don't understand why my trainer has been pushing me for this so much and so I wanted to sense check that at this stage I'm not wrong to start looking at a change of tack. I'm at the stage where I'm considering selling the horse to a professional but in all honesty they'll probably just whack it in different tack.

I hope you enjoy your fun ride this afternoon, it's glorious weather for it.
Oh yes!
177259430_10220354211429390_2718321776265178553_n.jpg
 

Casey76

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Just out of interest as I know that it is the accepted view that it's down to schooling - but where would you put the olympic horses that aren't in snaffles on this? Can we say that's not due to skill or time? What's made it different that they go in stronger equipment?

Not at all meant to sound like a dig at you I'm genuinely puzzled by why there's this difference and not all top horses are in snaffles.
Because it comes down to money. The riders are paid to win, so there is a lot of pressure from owners and sponsors to be in the money, and yes, that does mean short cuts in training, and forcing compliance through (occasional) harsh tack.
 

LEC

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Because it comes down to money. The riders are paid to win, so there is a lot of pressure from owners and sponsors to be in the money, and yes, that does mean short cuts in training, and forcing compliance through (occasional) harsh tack.
Ummmm no!!

They put the best bit in to get the job done best. Nothing to do with short cuts. The top pros are methodical as you can’t go down a line of 1.60m fences with holes or you will have poles and what’s the point in that? A talented horse might get fast tracked up to 1.30m but after that the work goes in.

Same xc - you can’t go round a 4* with a horse running through a half halt or else you will have a run out.
 

scats

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I will change bits, sometimes just short term, to assist with an issue.
I got Diva as a 6 year old who had learnt to grab the bit and tank to wherever she wanted (usually to try and leave the arena!) with the poor little ten year old skinny child she had been purchased for. They were selling her as she was just too much for them.
She tried it with me a few times when she first arrived so I promptly stuck a kimblewick in her for a while until I got a bit further with her schooling and got control of her shoulders. There was absolutely no point me having a tug of war everyday in a snaffle and her getting the idea that she could just grab the bit and go when she’d had enough.
The kimblewick did its bit to help me while I improved her general schooling, got her listening and more importantly, got control of her shoulders. Then she was popped back into a snaffle, which she remained in very sweetly until we lost her.
 

Squeak

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Ummmm no!!

They put the best bit in to get the job done best. Nothing to do with short cuts. The top pros are methodical as you can’t go down a line of 1.60m fences with holes or you will have poles and what’s the point in that? A talented horse might get fast tracked up to 1.30m but after that the work goes in.

Same xc - you can’t go round a 4* with a horse running through a half halt or else you will have a run out.
This was always my thinking as well, you get to a certain point and you can't hide a lack of schooling. Tack was essentially tools in the box that could be used to help when needed and as long as it was used correctly then there was no detriment so I was confused why I was being told changing from a snaffle was such a no go.

I've got a lesson booked this week so will see how we get on!
 

Squeak

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I will change bits, sometimes just short term, to assist with an issue.
I got Diva as a 6 year old who had learnt to grab the bit and tank to wherever she wanted (usually to try and leave the arena!) with the poor little ten year old skinny child she had been purchased for. They were selling her as she was just too much for them.
She tried it with me a few times when she first arrived so I promptly stuck a kimblewick in her for a while until I got a bit further with her schooling and got control of her shoulders. There was absolutely no point me having a tug of war everyday in a snaffle and her getting the idea that she could just grab the bit and go when she’d had enough.
The kimblewick did its bit to help me while I improved her general schooling, got her listening and more importantly, got control of her shoulders. Then she was popped back into a snaffle, which she remained in very sweetly until we lost her.
I'm hopeful that once my boy had got the idea of not running off and hopefully been able to get his confidence up that we could go back to a snaffle although I'm not convinced he'll ever be a snaffle xc horse tbh...
 

Squeak

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I'd give another bit a try and see how you get on. If it works, it works and if it doesn't, there's no harm done.
The moment you realise you still over think life...

Although my trainer was making out that it would completely ruin his jumping shape to use anything apart from a snaffle. Maybe I misunderstood him, I'm making him sound rubbish but he is a brilliant trainer with pupils at 5*.
 

Mule

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The moment you realise you still over think life...

Although my trainer was making out that it would completely ruin his jumping shape to use anything apart from a snaffle. Maybe I misunderstood him, I'm making him sound rubbish but he is a brilliant trainer with pupils at 5*.
I do that too :D
 
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