I have a great new horse in our program who is a doll. Decent forward/go, and a wonderful mind. However, I'm struggling to find a bit that he likes & works with our goals. Horse is teaching a younger rider to jump (2'), and will be schooled/trained up to 3' with me. He has show experience, absolutely loves to work including jumping, and has plenty of "relaxation" time (trail rides, t/o, etc). He's coming off of light/inconsistent riding for the last 3 years.
First off, know that I'm taking him back to Square-1 when it comes to flatwork, overall balance, flexion, etc. Love him, but he has a lot of "gaps" in his flatwork - so that is where we are mainly focusing when it comes to getting him round and working in a balanced frame. Also, he is post-EPM (totally cleared about 2 years ago), so we are very conscious about supporting his hind end and getting him evenly balanced through his body. I'm definitely open to any flatwork exercises in that regard too, to incorporate in with what I'm already doing - and I know quality flatwork is the most important aspect for him.
However, he also seems fairly picky about bits - and I'm trying to find something that he responds well to, but also gives the right "feel" when it comes to bringing him balanced and round. He has a pretty light mouth when it comes to '"woah", but can get VERY heavy - even with proper balance in his hind end. A simple D-ring or full-cheek snaffle tends to get him really heavy; a loose-ring snaffle or french link is a bit better (but not as much as I'd like to see).
He came with a traditional kimberwick (no joint, small port), which does seem to work best of what I've tried thus far. However, I'm not sold on the kimberwick being the right bit long-term. That bit doesn't give quite the feel I'm looking for - it tends to feel like too much bit, so he tends to round somewhat "superficially" in front. It is also too much for when the younger rider is riding (she is doing well, but is still learning about rein contact - so the kimberwick tends to be a little harsh on him while she's still learning).
I haven't worked much with paints as a breed - I'm wondering if their mouth structure is such that a port does work well/properly is giving some "lift". Anyone has any experience with paints, or can suggest a bit that would give the lift without too much woah?
Open to anything that could pair well with our flatwork focus - which he would respond well to and help build him into a much more balanced horse moving forward. Something that would be acceptible for hunter/equitation shows is ideal, but happy to use a "non-traditional" bit in schooling for awhile as we get him going properly.
Well paint can be a pretty wide term really. My paint is really appendix in breeding. That said, I have been playing with different bits myself. I started him out in a regular D snaffle, but he seemed to either be overly responsive or heavy like the horse you mention. I tried him in my other horse's mullen mouth rubber bit, which wasn't strong enough. I tried a friend's loose ring snaffle and liked him a little better. I've finally just settled and am going to buy a bit I tried that is a double jointed D with a copper lozenge in the middle. I really think the double jointed was the key for him. I think he's also easier to get to bend in this bit.
He has a pretty light mouth when it comes to '"woah", but can get VERY heavy - even with proper balance in his hind end. A simple D-ring or full-cheek snaffle tends to get him really heavy; a loose-ring snaffle or french link is a bit better (but not as much as I'd like to see).
Based on this part of the story, I would be inclined to try a waterford. They aren't necessarily a lot of brakes, but they are pretty much impossible for them to hang on. Their shape would lead me to think they could fit a lot of different mouths.
I have a stocky paint. He was in a reg d ring jointed but i changed to a copper instead and he likes it better. He can get heavy but that's when I correct him by insisting he listens to my aids and or drop him. dropping I'm works the best with a big push off my inside leg to pick him back up. Stocky types can get heavy because it is easier for them to plop in the forehand and be heavy. IMO a bit isn't the answer but more rides and correcting the problem through training. It mat not help he has a youngster on him right now while you are trying to retrain this and will probably mess him up more than help because he will be able to get away with it with her. If it was my horse I'd be the only one riding him for a while until he gets it and then go back to a student and see how he responds.
Horses aren't our whole life, but makes our life whole
IMO a bit isn't the answer but more rides and correcting the problem through training. It mat not help he has a youngster on him right now while you are trying to retrain this and will probably mess him up more than help because he will be able to get away with it with her. If it was my horse I'd be the only one riding him for a while until he gets it and then go back to a student and see how he responds.
This. Also, my trainer breeds paints and almost every single one (out of probably 40) go in snaffles. The only exceptions are the draftier ones who might go in a pelham at shows or with a more beginner rider. And again while there is a wide variety that the term "paint" encompasses, I have found that in general my trainer's paints are very naturally light and uphill. Its humbling to watch a big 17h draft/paint canter a cross-rail course much lighter and uphill than your OTTB!
Thanks for the replies which have come in already - I really appreciate it!
Yes, waterford was another on my list to try - as well as experimenting with other metals (copper, etc).
I have been using primarily basic snaffles and the french-link (which is a loose-ring) thus far, but am looking & open to other options. I know that the biggest piece is resetting the basic flatwork - we have literally started over in much of what he is doing, and it will just take time. The majority of the success will come from there - and there is no rush - but I believe that the right bit which fits the horse properly can aid in the overall performance (in knowledgeable and thoughtful hands, of course).
Removing the younger rider isn't an option - as that's one of his owners. He was "mom's" horse but now is the kid's horse while her older horse is on lay-up. Plus, he seems to really like packing the kid around & is a good teacher for her. There has not been any issue with him "loosing" my training rides in between. The next time I get on (even if the kid has ridden a couple times - including lessons with me), he seems to have "kept" what work I put in during my last ride. So, the kid is not the concern.
Oh and I forgot to address your hind end question. Nothing like hill work to build up a hind end and stifle. Of course you need him to be up and off the forehand for the best results but it is a great butt builder lol. Didn't realize the kid was part owner of horse so understand you can't pull her off but like I said before just keep working with him and he will come around. It took a year to get mine going great and light. He is 15.3 and 1100lbs so big stocky boy. He has to develop the muscles also to carry himself so sometimes you may only get a few steps before he plops back down. Let him condition and ask for what he can give you.
Horses aren't our whole life, but makes our life whole