Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Yes, I ride my horse in a kimberwicke. Sue me.

I ride my horses in the absolute softest bit I can get them to go in. My entire bit collection is made up of various types of snaffle bits, all of which are dressage legal (this means no slow twists, no “wedges” or “triangles”, no two-metal bits, etc.) I’ve been known to foxhunt Red in a mechanical hackamore and a friend once showed Cash in a sidepull. If I could go with no bridle, I’d totally do it.

But when your Paddington blows through strongest snaffle and keeps on trucking at approximately mach one-Haffie, you pull out the only “big gun” you have – a kimberwicke that we used for foxhunting Oberon.

Schnoz pictures are surprisingly difficult when the Haffingon thinks you have treats.

NOTE: Just because Paddy has tiny cute earz does not mean he has a tiny cute nose. Bo’s SIX INCH kimberwick fits him fine. Not even joking.

So yeah. I ride dressage in a kimberwicke. My dressage instructor isn’t too excited about this because it’s not legal, but she understands why I use it. If I use a softer bit, we get into a tug-of-war where he ignores me until I have to use huge aids to get him to listen. The nice thing about the kimberwicke is that I can be very soft with my aids and get a response.

Obviously this is not where I want to be long-term. We need to work on Paddy’s softness and attention to aids so that we can back off to something more reasonable. Of course, for the near term, I need to find a bit that is dressage-legal but still gives me some hope of keeping Mr. Paddykins in the arena. Right now I’m trying a baucher, which seems to get his attention better. My trainer suggested trying a Myler baucher, since it’s a thinner bit and has the tongue relief, so I’ve got that on order. I don’t like using a flash, but that’s another option I’m willing to consider if it will allow me to use softer aids.

I feel of like I’m sticking a band-aid on a known problem – throw in a stronger bit and crank his mouth shut so he can’t avoid aids – but what else do you do with a horse that literally blows through your strongest aids? My goal here is to get some sort of baseline so that he knows when I half-halt, I mean business. Then I can half-halt more and more quietly until I’m barely asking at all. I’m incorporating voice aids too, working on the longe line, so that if I say “easy” under saddle, he slows down a bit. Hopefully between the two we’ll be in a much different place 6 months or a year on down the road.

Have you experimented with bits? What works best for your horse?

42 comments:

  1. Haffies are deceptively strong and super smart. When I was driving Shy, we used a snaffle, but had to move to a straight bar driving bit. Since I want to focus more on riding now, I also switched her bit to a Western type bit, since she ignores snaffles when it is convenient for her. And a 6 inch mouth! Wow!

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    1. I think your comment about them being "deceptively strong" is spot on! Little monsters!

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  2. I rode Don in a light loose ring snaffle and had the softest connection with him and he just went beautifully. You could have done dressage with yarn attached to his bit and it would never have had enough pressure to break his mouth was so soft and easy.

    Skye... Baby Skye... Is not that way. I started her in a halter and can ride her in that if necessary still and she's fine, her voice commands are spot on. But in a regular bit even after doing plenty of groundwork to set her up for success (lunging, ground driving, bending, etc) she figured out pretty quick how to poke her giant nose out and lock her neck and refuse to bend, or steer (stopping is not an issue for her).

    Enter the myler. The first time I rode in it I could actually steer. At the canter. It was thrilling. It's the lowest "level" d ring with hooks (I've played around with those and she really goes well with the reins attached to them, but I'm pretty sure using the hooks is not dressage legal so I don't have it hooked up that way right now).

    Joe I can't stop worth a darn in any bit invented. In fact I have a far better chance of stopping him in a regular snaffle than I do in the myler, oddly enough. The myler was nothing to him. He actually goes in a mechanical hackamore though. I tried the bits on him for fun but my upper body protested being dragged around, and he's just a poky trail horse so hackamore it is.

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    1. Myler bits are miracles for some horses. For others, not so much. I wish someone had a bit exchange online where you could try for a week before purchasing. Every horse is so different!

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    2. Maybe someone wants to try this and post about it, but Mary's Tack and Feed does bit rental for Myler, Herm Sprenger, Mikmar, Stubben, and more. I was about to do this a while ago for a Herm Sprenger Duo, but found the bit I wanted to try used at a consignment shop. It looks like a great program.

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  3. Oh haffies...now you have an idea of what my 10 yr old daughter has had to deal with, with lily. She uses a pelham and she has still run off with a 14yr old experienced rider. My daughter has learned to handle her pretty wellbut iI still am quite terrified cause when I ride her I have a hard time. I will be curious to hear if you find some good solutions. For the steal mouthed, short necked little monsters.

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    1. Monsters indeed! I think we may foxhunt in a pelham... heaven knows we might need the brakes!

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  4. My Fjord mare sounds similar to your Haffie in this particular case. I've tried a single jointed snaffle, a kimberwick, and finally a d-ring Myler Comfort Snaffle with hooks. She goes amazing in the Myler (although granted, the clicker training helped a ton). No mouth gaping or evading now! According to Myler, the hooks are dressage legal; however, judges sometimes mistake it for a gag bit.

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    1. Oh my, your mare is ADORABLE! I'm in looove!

      Glad to hear the Myler worked for you. I tried a Myler D on Paddy, it was better than the loose ring snaffle but not as good as the french link Baucher. I'm hoping that combining the Baucher with the Myler mouthpiece might be the winner. It better be, because the 5.5s are special order and not returnable!

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    2. Thank you so much; Paddington is too cute as well!
      Mylers do run larger than other brands; I had a sizing concern as well and asked one of their employees. It turns out that they add an extra 1/8" on each side of the bit.

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  5. I have successfully taken two horses that did exactly what Paddington does back to snaffles over time, by doing pretty much what you are. One I had to restart in a dutch gag, complete with grackle to have any control when she decided to ignore me, after 18 months of working down through the bit collection, she ended up showjumping 4ft in a thin snaffle (she had a low mouth) and a drop noseband on so loose it wasn't really doing much. the drop noseband was only there because sometimes, when against the clock, she would decide that it didn't matter which jump the rider wanted to jump, she would jump the nearest one, but opening her mouth and just going for it... with the drop on loose (I'm talking 3-4 fingers vertically between her nose and the noseband) she never even tried it. She schooled at home in a cavesson.
    The other I started off in a pelham with double reins and went down to a fullmer snaffle pretty quickly. I believe that it is important to have the horse responding to the lightest aids possible. If you get into a competition as to who can pull hardest, you're going to loose. Some times you can get them down to a "mild' bit at all times, sometimes you'll just need to pull out the 'big guns' from time to time to remind them how they are supposed to behave! As an instructor of mine once said - even a plain snaffle can make a mess if you get into a pulling contest with a horse - a 'stronger' bit can be much gentler if used lightly.

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    1. Thanks for saying that it can be done! I was getting into some pretty awful pulling contests and with a stronger bit we just don't go there. I am also constantly reminding myself to be as light as possible, do more with less, with the stronger bit. There's definite improvement, so that's very positive! I'm hoping we'll eventually be able to go in a softer bit at all times, at least for dressage, but who knows. As you say, we may need to get out the big guns every now and again. Time will tell!

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  6. I've got quite the bit collection. Mostly various kinds of legal snaffles, same as you. My 'big gun' is a 3-ring gag which I used for Crispin on trail rides. I got sick of the bolting:P
    Right now I'm trialing a Myler comfort snaffle on the Ponch after the baucher failed which is working pretty well... provided I use a flash. Boo.
    I've never used a Kimberwicke....better get my google pants on!

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    1. Gags are MAJOR brakes, but man they can be used so lightly. I rode a jumper once who went in a gag... lightest possible ride as long as you had it. Anything else and you were in for a train wreck.

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  7. I swear Henry has no feeling in his mouth. We've used so many bits on him- these days I either use a full cheek twisted snaffle or a Pelham. Thankfully he's matured and trained enough to not have to switch weekly (ok maybe that's exaggerating but sometimes I felt that way!!).

    Luckily my trainer has a lifetime collection an I only had to purchase some- I prefer not to mooch off her :)

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    1. That's one thing I definitely miss about boarding - borrowing bits! If I want to try something new I get to go buy it myself. I may yet win the award for largest bit collection of a non-pro, lol!

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  8. If you get the Myler, I highly suggest the MB04 mouthpiece, if it's available. It's a very very very tiny port to give those thick tongued Haffies a little relief.

    When I first got Mitch, I was trail riding him in a full cheek snaffle, and he was pretty good. Then as we got to know each other more, he started getting pushier and blowing through the bit, so I went to a short shank curb.

    Then when I was at Equine Affaire, Jonathan Field suggested the Myler with the MB04 mouth, and I got the Western Dee with the hooks. It was night and day! He settled right down, stopped pushing (although I think my getting serious on his butt when it came to ground work helped loads) and I've been able to ride him in a snaffle since, even on trail rides.

    He has a Baucher french link on his dressage bridle, and I took the flash off a few weeks ago because I didn't really see the need to use it (and my bridle had the hide-away flash keeper). He's much lighter and happier these days.

    I do drive him in a kimberwick, and if I ever get the money, I'd like to get either a butterfly bit or a Myler kimberwick for him.

    As far as bit sizes go... Mitch has a 5" Myler because the 5.5" Myler was HUGE, and the rest are all 5.5".

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    1. Mylers do seem to run big, don't they? The 5.5 Myler fits him just as well as the 6" kimberwick. ???

      Also, Blogger says your profile is not available. Do you have a Haffie blog? If so could you pleeeze share? Paddington wants more Haffie love!

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    2. They sure do! A friend and I looked at both bits and decided that 5 was the better option. The 5.5 was just ginormous. I'm used to a big mouthed Haffie, but not like dat.

      I do I do! I think Blogger's being a putz or something.

      http://sbtrailrider.blogspot.com/

      It's about a little (non) Haffie mare and the REAL star of the show, the Fabio Poneh himself. The blog was originally a trail riding blog with said mare while I leased her, morphed into the Haflinger blog when I got him, and ended up being for both after she came back to me for keeps, but it's mainly about Mitch because he's the camera hog, and the main ride.

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  9. 6", nice. Everything you buy will be more expensive and harder to resell. So it goes.

    That said.

    This is a phase. Do what you need to do. I'd vote french link baucher with a flash if you need to show. That would be cheaper than the myler.

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    1. So the Korsteel french link bauchers, which are like $30, only have the flat link in the middle. If you want a "bean" style link (which I do), Sprenger is the only mfg, which is like $200!!! The Myler bauchers are only about $70-80, and the mouthpiece is thinner, which he seems to like.

      Also for some odd reason, the 6" kimberwicke fits fine, but a 5.5 Myler also fits fine. I've measured both with a tape measure too! I had no idea that bits fit like ladies' jeans, lol!!!

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  10. My favorite bit on Simon is a triangle bit, which can also be considered harsh. I don't ride him in it often, but it's the best bit for us when he needs to re-learn how to be light... then we go back to our Myler Comfort Snaffle.

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    1. Glad you found something that works for both you and Simon! Love the comfort snaffles... those are really nice!

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  11. Sometimes you do what you gotta do. Carlos went through an array of bits before eventually he could go back to his softest which was a wire.... lol

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    1. Lol! We are stuck using plain snaffles in dressage - they even check your bit (pry the horse's mouth open) before you go in the arena!

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  12. Sometimes you have to use a bit you don't love to transition to one you do love :)

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  13. As long as you know it's not a quick fix, I think you're on the right track. You might try a drop or a micklem, instead of a flash. I find a horse's ability to evade is lessened so much more with that type of noseband. Maybe because they can't cross their jaws with it?

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    1. Oooh, and excuse to try a Micklem bridle! What more could I ask for ? I'm not super fond of flashes either, especially because the way Paddy's face is shaped, I think the flash is going to sit really oddly on him. Thanks for the tip!

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  14. Ugh, I feel you! My draft cross can pull like a locomotive and I swear has no feeling in his mouth. I'm trying to find a nice compromise - the gag gives a little too much oomph, the loose ring snaffle not enough! Looking forward to hearing about this journey, I know I'll get some great suggestions to try with my own horse.

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    1. There's a lot of steps between a gag and a loose ring - I'd definitely try a kimberwicke and if that's not enough, a short-shanked pelham. Both give you a lot of options as to where you put the reins and how much curb action you have/don't have. Assuming you're not special-ordering 6 inch bits to fit his drafty schnoz, Korsteel makes good options for like $30 each, so you won't break the bank trying bits. Good luck - finding the right bit sure is hard!

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    2. If you have a store nearby, Myler also has a free trial program, and Dover and SmartPak have 100% satisfaction guarantees, so you can send things back. My staircase in my head is mullen mouth/Duo, D-ring (I've never had much luck with the loose rings, both my horses found them too "noisy" in their mouths), elevator, pelham, gag. And they all respond differently. Both of mine hate nose pressure so a hack confuses the shit out of them.

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  15. Quelle horreur! You terrible person you ;) I got told the other day that bits in general give horses ulcers and that I'm a bad bad person for using my GIANT HUGE mechanical hackamore on O! I wanted to be like, here you get on and see what happens, good luck to ya!

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    1. Bwahahaha, I would have LOVED to see O dump whoever said that in the dirt and then head for the hills! Everyone's an expert, right? I do love your hackamore though, with that big fuzzy noseband. She looks awesome in it and goes great - win-win!

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  16. Prair did GREAT with the myler baucher when she was being regularly schooled in the pelham to avoid freight-train-like-tendencies. Now she's in a big, fat, loose ring and lighter than she ever was.... but it's been 18 months :)

    Bits are so individual to each horse, rider and whatever phase of their training they are in. I kept my wonder pony in a kimberwicke for YEARS before we could do anything at less than mach 5 in a snaffle.

    No judgement here!!!

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    1. I don't suppose you have a 5.5 Myler baucher that you would mind loaning out? Hehehe! Long distance bit trading!

      It gives me hope that Prair has gone from a pelham to a loose ring - hopefully Paddington and I will get there too. Thanks for sharing your experiences!

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  17. I ride Super Kid in a solid happy mouth pelham for anything but dressage, even hacking around. Because she is a half welsh cob the other half is a holstiner\lipizzan she has a brain of her her, all 14.3h of her. If I don't have that extra attention she will and has taken off. Even with the bit she has before but the reaction time is cut way down. I love it, and I want a haffie :(

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    1. Oh man, I used to have a Lipizzan mare and wow, she was way too smart for her own good. I can only imagine a Lippi crossed with a Welsh cob! How do you even keep her in a pasture, lol!!! Mine could open doors and pretty much every gate latch ever invented. She must be a blast to ride!

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  18. No, I think you are doing absolutely the right thing and I use the same strategy. I DON'T believe in ever tying a mouth shut and if you want a more stable bit, use a Baucher (love them so much!).

    But IMO, it is much better and more effective to be softer on a stronger bit than wrestling on a snaffle out of some weird principle. This is why I rode Solo XC in the elevator. I COULD have done it with less, but all I had to do is touch it and he was there. With time, he graduated up the rings.

    Encore was similar --- we started with the rubber Duo, when he ignored it, we switched around between a Myler D and a Happy Mouth pelham. Now we are back at the Duo again after the point was made. Of course, I am sure I am not riding perfectly, but when making a bit point, I try to be super focused on riding correctly so I don't "blur" my message.

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    1. I'm not one for tying the mouth shut either, but I have noticed that Paddy prefers a slightly tighter noseband than my other guys. Maybe it helps stabilize the bit? It's not on tight enough to hold his mouth shut for sure. Every horse is different, that's for sure! Gotta try different things until you find one that works for that horse.

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  19. I was going suggest a Baucher and then a second later read that you said you were using one. It's my favorite dressage legal bit. I actually school in a double bridle even though I am no where near showing at a level where that is required. Go ahead and sue me too. People think I'm nuts for riding in one because I should be riding in a snaffle and "making" my horse soft in that first.

    Why?

    I can ride my horse around in a Baucher and it's fine. But that's just it. Why ride her around and let her be heavy and not as light and hanging on my hands when I can put the double on, literally not even have to touch her face, and get a greater level of lightness and collection.

    You gotta do what you've gotta do and at the end of the day he's your horse. Do what you need.

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    1. Yeah, I really prefer to use a softer bit, but it's just not happening right now. He needs more training and more ability to carry himself first. We'll get there, and until then we'll use what we need.
      It's been forever since I've ridden in a double... all those reins are so complicated! Good for you, and hopefully you'll get to a level where you can sport that double in style!

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