Talk About Tack: What Is The Right Bit?

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Question: We purchased a large pony nearly 6 months ago. When we purchased him, he was being ridden in a tom thumb bit and shook his head a lot to avoid it. We changed him to a D snaffle bit and all he wanted to do is pull on the reins. Quite often resulting in my daughter being pulled out of the saddle. And he stumbled a lot since he was focused on the bit and not on where he was going. Very dangerous. We just recently changed his bit again and have been riding him in a kimberwick bit and it is working a lot better. He pulls only once in a while and not nearly as hard now. And his stumbling problem has disappeared as well. We like to ride him English and western and wondered what bit you would suggest riding him in for western disciplines? Thank you so much for your time and advice!

Much Appreciation,
Melinda

Answer: Melinda,

The description you give of your horse’s reaction to the various bits you have used is extremely typical. I have talked about it in clinics and expos a lot and there are articles in my training library on the subject.

The Tom Thumb bit is quite harsh and uncomfortable for the horse and almost always leads to gaping of the mouth, head tossing, rooting and head shaking. Occasionally I see horses that do just fine with a Tom Thumb (which is also called a western snaffle but it is not a snaffle—it is a curb bit, with shanks, a curb strap and a jointed mouthpiece); but many horses struggle with that bit.

The snaffle tends to make horses want to lean on it and pull on the reins, which makes the horse very heavy on the forehand and not much fun at all to ride, as you have seen. The kimberwick bit is a hybrid between a snaffle and a curb bit and the slight leverage it provides is probably making it easier for you to lift your horse’s forehand. If you are unsure of the difference between a curb (leverage bit) or a snaffle (direct pressure bit) do some research in my training library.

Myler bits are the only bits I’ve used for the past couple decades and there are many different Myler bits I would use based on the horse’s needs. I carry 8-10 bridles with me to clinics and expos so that when I see a problem that can be helped by changing bits, I am armed with the tools I need. For a look at my favorite Myler bits, along with a description of the type of horse I would use it on, click here. http://www.juliegoodnight.com/myler/

For your horse, based on the basic info you gave me, I’d probably recommend a Myler 04 mouthpiece with a short shank (The HBT shank). It gives a little relief of pressure off of the tongue and does not collapse or pinch (which will help prevent the leaning and other evasive actions); the short shanks give you just enough leverage to help lift the horse’s shoulders. I’d start with a leather curb strap and work up to a chain curb if you need more brakes.

Good riding!
Julie

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