WWYD: When a mullen mouth happy mouth is too much? [Update on Post #45]
My new jumper prospect is super sensitive in the mouth. I have fairly light hands and I still feel like I'm walking on edge shells while I ride him. He's soft and supple and fabulous and rides beautifully off of my leg and seat but when we start jumping, if I need a half halt its all or nothing. I either get him sitting on his hind end almost halting or he doesn't shorten at all. He also will let you know if he thinks you're pulling too much by tossing his head around.
He came to me in a 3 piece D ring happy mouth with a roller. He really liked the roller but I felt like it was just too much bit. Put him in a happy mouth mullen and he's better but still ubber sensitive. I was thinking about trying him in a hackamore, but I don't really need more breaks or anything so I'm afraid even with short shanks, a sheepskin cover & leather or no curb (can you ride them without a curb?) it will still be too much for his little brain.
He's totally a worrier, super sweet and responsive just a little neurotic.
Any thoughts would be wonderful
Last edited by EdgeBrook; Nov. 15, 2012 at 03:29 PM.
What about a plain loose ring? It's actually my favorite. I'm a serial bit-changer, but I always find myself going back to the loose ring. I recently moved my hunter into a full-cheek slow twist just because I wanted a heavier (in actual, physical weight) bit and its what I had.
Have you tried him in a nathe? Or, if you don't want to spend $$$, try a soft rubber mullen mouth. You can find them for $20, so if he doesn't like it it's not a huge financial loss. It's thicker than the happy mouth, but it's also a lot softer. Make sure it's not hard rubber, you want the soft flexible one.
I had one that couldn't handle the most basic snaffle-type bits, and I tried everything on him over the years. Beyond bits, he also wasn't happy in a hackamore (or a Dr. Cook's bitless bridle or Micklem, or sidepull, and so on).
What finally worked for him was a Mikmar combination bit (curved, low port version). Sounds counter intuitive since it looks like a lot of bit, but it was the only bit my guy would accept and even lean on a little. He did have a physical "issue" (that I think exacerbated the neurosis he suffered from), and that was that he had a fat, low palate. So the big, flat mouthpiece seemed to work really well with that mouth conformation where happy mouths, other mullen mouths, waterfords, and many others upset him. I think the combination effect (nose rope and curb strap) also helped distribute the pressure to more than just his mouth, which was helpful to his neurotic and worrisome brain.
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A horse likes this needs to be ridden with a smooth but constant, wrapping leg into steady, elastic, but constant contact in a bit you *know* to be mild. He may throw a tantrum but he needs to deal with it. He's unrideable if he doesn't accept leg and hand. You don't need a softer bit, you need a horse who accepts the aids. Just my opinion.
I have a weird, Kocher Farm custom made thing that's even softer and thinner than a Nathe. Maybe you can find one.
Or another whack idea: One of those racehorse bit-suspender things. It goes from the crown piece, down the front of the head and splits to attach to the bit. It holds the bit off the bars of the mouth, I think, and it stabilizes the bit. I knew a neurotic, soft-mouthed hunter who got schooled in this. It worked for him.
i liked ms red britches answer..why not go to a plain ol' snaffle..if he is that sensitive and works very well off aids then IMO there is no need for a mullen happy mouth.
but could also do your hackamore/bitles bridle idea and do a couple session with it to see how it goes.
I tend to agree with Come Shine and Sswor... I've had my fair share of hot, sensitive horses that over react to hand and leg. After making a ton of excuses for them, fiddling with their tack and compromising how I rode them, it was pointed out to me that they just needed to deal with hand and leg. I was to put my leg on, ride them into a soft but consistent contact, and just leave hand and leg there until they accepted it. It's a bit terrifying at first to leave hand and leg on a horse that's threatening to run away or pitch a tantrum, but the end result is worth it. I actually ride one mare with spurs now, after going through a phase where I rode with my leg almost entirely off below the knee in an effort to make her happy. This particular mare would either ignore leg or rocket forward with the slightest pressure, then either run through the bit, curl behind it or fling her head around. She was so awful at one point that she fell over on her side (with me on top) during a tantrum about accepting hand and leg. She'll always be hothothot, but she now has pretty darn good flat work and is very accepting of both hand and leg.
Taking leg and hand away actually seems to make things worse, as the horse is forced to deal with an aid going from "nothing to something" rather than just increasing slightly along a continuum. I'm not suggesting that you need to ride the skin off the horse into an unyielding hand, but rather that your leg is always draped on their side with a soft, passive pressure, and that your hand offers the same consistency.
If you don't have to show in a bit, how about a sidepull? I have a "jumping hackamore" made by Tory that's just a rolled leather noseband. You attach it to the bit hangers and take off the bridle's noseband. My mare goes in that 100% of the time (she had her tongue nearly severed by idiots with a harsh bit and no amount of 'just making her accept a bit' will work at this point). She went from a rearing flinging people mess that got sold (I knew her years ago and wanted to give her a retirement home.) to a kids lesson horse. It really gives about zero breaks as its about as harsh as riding in a halter, but you don't necessarily need 'breaks' on a sensitive horse.
My gelding started out way sensitive and I broke him out in that noseband also. He ultimately decided he likes JP Korsteel's oval mouth eggbutts or a Mullen Pelham.
I think it's deceiving how not mild happy mouths can be. The company changed manufacturers not so long ago and the bits aren't what they used to be. They come with sharp edges at the seams and some people choose to sand them down. The bit actually chafed the corners of my horse's mouth into sores from friction. I was very disappointed in the new product, especially since I had an old one from 15 years ago that has held up really well.
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I'd think more about bit shape to find something your horse is comfortable in. For horses who have light mouths and have difficulty with contact, I use a Herm Sprenger KK bit to encourage contact. This would be a gentler version of the bit that he was in when you got him. The double jointed bits, IMO, fit more comfortably inside a horse's mouth. I'm not really into rubber bits. Some are just so fat they may be uncomfortable for the horse because of their size alone, and honestly that rubber or plastic isn't really that soft anyway. "Plain ol' snaffles" don't always work, when you pull back on the reins the nutcracker shape can be very uncomfortable for some horses. Some young or fussy horses are more comfortable with a bit that applies tongue pressure.