What bit do you start your young horses in, and why?
Both a fun thread, and I'm curious, too.
My older TB has been going in a fat, double-jointed, copper centered loose ring. It seems to keep him very relaxed without having anything to lean on or pinch him. He doesn't need anything extra while flatting or jumping in a ring (for the most part).
When we did strictly hunters and he had major holes in his flatwork (I wasn't exactly aware yet), he went unsuccesfully in a plain D, then a slow-twist D, and then a corkscrew D at shows (all of which he was very tense/pulled in). For hunter shows now, he will go in a D-ring and I vow to leave his mouth alone during courses!
My young TB has been going in a the D-ring version of the above bit...fat, double-jointed, copper centered. It's been fine, but I think he's using it to lean on more than I'd like. I may try a waterford mouthpiece or maybe a full cheek. I'd love suggestions. I like to keep them in as mild a bit as possible, but he just doesn't seem to want to pay attention to the reins as a turning aid, only really pays close attention to them when I ask him to stretch down (he is great to stop or half-halt using the seat though). He also just doesn't seem to respect it and will lean down on it.
I used to ride my older Arab x large pony hunter in a D-ring with copper rollers to keep his attention focused, but he really went best in a rubber jointed pelham if you only used the curb rein sparingly and gently to refocus him.
My favorite pony that I trained and is now leased out goes great in a plain snaffle...he is just plain easy.
I do love bits, and if I could have a collection of them all, I would.
Oh the bit collection! Used to have a great one! My 3 yr old WB filly goes in a simple Herm Springer loose ring snaffle with the round middle thingy (so professional sounding) She is easy. My 8 yr old OTTB goes in a Myler snaffle with a slight port to stay off his big tongue. I noticed in all his race pics he went in a figure eight noseband. So I tried a bit with some tongue relief and he is fine. I go with "less is better" theory, you can always go up. But I also would rather have more bit and use it less than not enough and really have to use it if I have a harder horse to ride. My old TB used to lean in the turns, I used a Mikmar pelham on him and he went great! Barely had to use the curb rein, and he never fussed with it. Kinda like a big pacifier!
My horse started in a full cheek and eventually changed to a D-ring for looks and he was starting to tilt his head when bending around a corner. My favorite bit I've ridden him in was a rubber mouthed jointed pelham with tiny shanks (from top to bottom, it was about the length of making a C with my thumb and forefinger and I have small hands). I should get one but I can't justify buying another bridle and two sets of reins when he goes fine in the plain D, plus I wouldn't show in it.
I (re)started my OTTB in a full cheek french link, which he was very good in. Once he got the hang of lateral work and steering, I switched to a D-ring french link and he's been fine with that ever since.
I used to ride my jumper mare in a pelham for eq and hunters and a 3-ring gag (one rein on snaffle, one on bottom hole) for jumpers. She was a well schooled 17.1h wb and I was a 5ft midget who needed the extra breaks.
Loose ring copper/alloy French link- HS has a very pretty one in a narrower mouth, and Korsteel has a great cheapy, curved JP in a fatter mouth. My now 4 year old (Dutch WB) was started in a Korsteel JP last year and remains in it. He was started by me in a loose ring nathe, actually, but when I put my trainer, who is a dressage-jumpers guy, on him to install buttons, he had me switch to the French link.
My older guy, an OTTB who sat in a field for most of his life so is still somewhat green, goes in a loose ring nathe. He got heavy in it for a period so I changed to a Mylar with hooks, and we are now back in the nathe. I like them for very sensitive horses, but it is so mild and vague in its communication it seems better to give babies something like a French link that provides a bit more direction. My old jumper liked mullen mouth bits, as seem to a lot of OTTBs, although when he was less green he was happy in a HS French link.
My two now are also jumpers, and I love loose rings, but a French link dee (or anything double jointed with a copper mouth) is also a good choice as a starter if the horse is a hunter and loose rings seem too unhuntery to you.
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My young guy is about 90 days under saddle now and has been in a full cheek snaffle, I think to help with steering until he gets better about it. I don't think he'll be in it forever but for now it's working well. My trainer made a comment that she doesn't like the look of full cheek snaffles and it occurred to me that you don't see many in the ring anymore. I remember seeing tons of them in the 80s and 90s. I guess things have changed.
I do a little bit of everything normally since I generally have a project horse or two. So I do a little dressage, a little hunters, a little jumpers, and plenty of hacking out on the trails. But I'm a big believer in simple is always better.
I start (and restart) all my horses in a hackamore. Then when they are soft in that I go to a loose ring copper mouth double jointed center lonzenge snaffle or a D bit with the same mouth piece. If they need more than that in training/schooling I go back to the hackamore for a bit to fix the problem. For shows, I go with whatever I need to, but always keep it simple and un-painful. For instance, i, personally, won't use a twist, waterford, or super thin mouthpiece. I would prefer to use an elevator with two reins if it's a jumper type that needs a stronger bit for showing. For hunters, I go back to the schooling ring and teach them to listen to my seat better so I can leave their mouth alone. For dressage lower levels, if I have a horse who gets strong at shows, I might go with a baucher bit with a double jointed mouthpiece. But if I can, my first preference is always a hackamore or simple double jointed lozenge snaffle bit.
I've been trying a sweet iron loose ring french link. He hates single-joints, he goes all right in a mullen mouth but I can't find one thin enough he finds it comfortable, trying the french link. At this rate, I may try a hackamore as he might just not like having ANYTHING in his mouth. (It's not teeth, they're good, he just seems to like playing with anything in his mouth and trying to get his tongue over.)
My horse started in a plain old Dee ring snaffle. Trainer soon moved him up to an elevator for schooling and a Dr. Bristol at home.
New trainer switched him to a rubber racing Dee with a curved mouthpiece for hacking and a Myler Dee ring ported barrel for showing/jumping.
He's now in a loose ring french link and I love this bit so much!
French link full cheek or D. I like the bean ones from JP. KK ultra if the one i have fits, otherwise i go on the cheap. If they prove to be supersensitive I switch to a Mullen rubber/Duo mouthpiece.
Every time mine comes back from layup (which despite good care and my best efforts, seems to happen once a year ), we have to start back to work in either the Happy Mouth Mullen or the JP with the copper bean in the middle. She stays in the copper bean for dressage, but the HMM is actually too big for her mouth, so for jumping/XC, we progress through a series of bits that over the years have involved playing around with everything from a plain D, to a Myler French link (massive hate from her on that one, retired to trunk), a D version of the JP bean (ok in the ring, not quite enough of a reminder XC), and usually by three or four months back in work, usually end up in a Dr. Bristol that took me months to find--big flat Dr. Bristol-style plate in the middle that is NOT angled. (Technically a French link, maybe? Though just looking at it you'd say "Dr Bristol.") She's got a soft mouth, so its more about the flat shape that doesn't take up a lot of space in her mouth, though the little extra bit XC is helpful occasionally when she tries to make an executive decision
I'm curious why so many people lean towards a loose-ring? I am NOT knocking it, the trainer who put 30 days on Aisha eons ago started her in a loose-ring (which I actually still have ), but I'm curious why? I always figured a full cheek or extra large D would help with steering with the push/pull affect. That's what I always used for starting horses, cheek-piece-wise, generally with either a french link or a fat hollow snaffle.
I was using a large D french link with a copper bean before Rory went to boot camp, not sure what the trainer is using other than "snaffle." I know he went back down to a bosal for the first two weeks.
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I lean towards a loose-ring for most of my work because the horse can't brace as easily against it. They can pull, of course, but it's hard for them to brace their jaw. The mouthpiece just slips around the ring when they brace, effectively giving them nothing to brace against.
I know a lot of people start their youngsters in full cheeks or Ds for just that reason that you said, the push pull effect. I start my youngsters in a hackamore. By time I put an actual bit in their mouth, they understand how to give to pressure and work off the seat, yield to the leg and weight aids etc, so the push pull effect isn't needed. At that point, the bit becomes the fine tuning of shape, not controlling for the most part. But that's me and my reasoning.
Last edited by Chestnut Run; Oct. 6, 2012 at 06:20 PM.
My TB started off with a full cheek french link, then moved to a rubber loose ring because I thought it would be softer (nope, he has a little mouth and kind of hated that bit). He went through a rebellious phase where I put him back in the full cheek and would occasionally school in a Waterford, which is a little too much for him but I wanted to have brakes. Now he's ridden in a french link D-ring and a loosely adjusted figure 8. He loves the figure 8--must be more comfortable. I suspect he would probably do well in a Micklem but I don't really need a fifth bridle.......that's what I tell myself, anyway.
The few people I've known that have started horses have started in a loose ring fat snaffle, or french link, depending on the horses mouth conformation, and then if they're training to be a hunter, moving on to a big d-ring with the same mouth piece since a lot of hunter riders want to see a horse in a d-ring. If they're having steering issues then I've seen a lot of full cheeks. Honestly I'm not sure about the functions of all of these bits, but this is just what I've observed.
My jumper mare gets rotated through an egg butt with a French link, and a plain full cheek depending in the mood of the month or what we're doing.
The young horse I haVe now, I started him in a fat egg butt and alternated between that and a full cheek. He's in an egg but with a French link right now and seems very happy in it.
A pony I started a couple of years ago started in a rubber full cheek and then I put him in a d ring which he was pretty happy in, although leaned on it a bit.
I do my best to keep my bits as simple as possible, I think a lot of bits these days are trendy/gimmicky and don't necessarily help the horse go in a better way. I understand that most bits have a place and I go out of my way to understand how a bit works and how it fits in my horses mouth and make an educated decision to ride them in one bit over another.