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Archive for the ‘Bits’ Category

lv_teacherThe old, traditional California school of training was to first use the snaffle, then the hackamore, the two-rein bosal and a double rein or two rein, and finally the bridle. I prefer this method of training.  However, instead of going through those phases, there is a faster way of training, which is most commonly used today.

The modern approach is to use a variety of bits to achieve almost the same results as traditional training. We’re going to talk about a few of the bits you would use for the different stages in a horse’s training and why. 

Snaffle bit

Snaffle bit

When do you transition from the snaffle? Within a futurity horses’ three-year-old year. Even when they are on a snaffle bit, they are put in a leverage bit from time-to-time for schooling and educational purposes. Then as four-year-olds, they can graduate fairly quickly into the neck-rein stages. As we start neck reining, we want a little more of a refined, sophisticated bit that may have some pre-signal and a longer shank (but not necessarily more leverage). 

 

Argentine Snaffle

Argentine Snaffle

Graduating from the snaffle: First, we will graduate the horse from a snaffle to an Argentine (which can have a three-piece broken mouthpiece or a 2-piece broken mouth piece like the regular snaffle). An Argentine snaffle is very forgiving and will teach a horse about leverage bits, what a chin strap is, and how to respond to the pressure it creates. It is a pretty simple bit and gives you a lot of lateral control, because the cheeks will swing out when you pull with one rein. I will always start this process with a leather curb strap. 

 

 

 

Elevator bit

Elevator bit

I also like to use an elevator bit to maintain a horse’s training and to teach horses to neck rein. It also introduces curb strap pressure with a simple 1:1 ratio. So you can take a hold of him with without scaring him.  I typically don’t ride with the elevator bit until after I’ve ridden the horse in an Argentine at least a few times. Although the one-to-one leverage doesn’t apply much pressure the length of the bit on top makes it really fast so it can take some horses by surprise.

 

 

 

Progressing to a swivel mouthpiece bit: From the Argentine, I like to move into a flexible or swivel mouthed-bit to introduce the concept of a port to the horse. These bits have a lot of feel to them and will react a lot slower than a solid mouthpiece will. They will let you pull on the horse a little if you need to without causing any fear on his part. And that’s your goal with any bit:  to get as much respect as you can without scaring or overwhelming your horse. 

 

95 bit

95 bit

If you look at our bit line you’ll notice that the first number is the cheek piece and the second one is the mouthpiece.  The 95 mouthpiece is designed for a horse that still needs some extra control for his shoulders, especially as you’re teaching him to neck rein with the proper “shoulders up” form.  When you use your reins together it is like any other curb bit, but if you use them one at a time you can lift the horse’s shoulders individually. 

 

 

 

99 Bit

99 Bit

Our 99 mouthpiece is a great one to move to from the Argentine because it gives the horse a lot of pre-signal and a lot of give. A lot of things are going to move in that horse’s mouth before he feels the chin strap and that will give him time to react. 

 

If you have a nice horse, and you don’t see any major faults showing up on the horizon for him, it might be good to settle on a Performax bit that’s a “pair of two’s,” that is a number two leverage and a number two mouthpiece. That way as things come up that have to be corrected, and they always will, you have somewhere to go to fix it. 

 

LWWR bit

LWWR bit

Another broken mouthpiece that we offer is the LWWR, which is like a Billy Allen.  This bit works mainly off of curb action without much of what we might call “creative function”. If you need to move quickly from a snaffle to a leverage bit, the LWWR might work for you, but it’s not going to offer you much at a higher performance level. 

 

And this brings up another point that you need to think about and that horses will react differently to different bits.  Some horses work better off of curb pressure, some work better off of tongue pressure, some off the bars. It’s not that they like one or the other better, but some really don’t react well to tongue or curb or bar pressure, so you have to be aware of that as you try different bits

The finishing stages:  When you’re horse is feeling comfortable in one of the broken mouthpiece bits and neck reining well, it’s probably time to start moving towards a solid mouthpiece bit. As far as I’m concerned, a solid mouthpiece has more functions, and is more sophisticated. I get more control, attention, and more signal from it. Which solid mouthpiece we choose all depends on how the horse handles it and feels with it. You might have to go through a number of different bits with solid mouthpieces and calculated leverages. You will probably find out pretty easily the calculated leverage that you’ll need for a certain horse to get the feel and response you want and still have the horse remain user-friendly and responsive.

Also, if I have a choice, I prefer higher leverages to lower leverages because the bit moves more slowly, and it seems a little easier to communicate and develop a horse.

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