Sunday, June 5, 2011

Reader with Horse and Snaffle Bit Problems

D.K. wrote me and said that she bought a horse who she had seen being ridden in a snaffle bit, but when she rides him he fights the bit, tosses his head and keeps opening (gapping) his mouth.

D.K. no offense but are you sure the bit you are using and the snaffle bit the horse was previously ridden in are the same? Even if they are both snaffle bits, there can be quite a bit (no pun intended) of difference based on the ring (fixed or hinged); diameter and shape of the bar; type and tightness of the curb strap; and, type of the headstall (one ear or a regular browband type headstall).

And then last, but not the least of it, is how you ride and manage the reins. Are you heavy handed? Is your timing on the release efficient enough for the horse to recognize the release with the pressure?

The true snaffle bit is a broken bit without any leverage, just rings either O or D shaped to attach the reins to. There is no leverage in a snaffle bit. One pound of pull on the reins provides one pound of pressure in the horse's mouth. And there are four places in the horse's mouth where pressure can be applied by a bit. 1 - the corners of the mouth; 2 - the bars or the space (gum covered jawbone) between the front teeth and the molars; 3 - the tongue; and, 4 - the roof of the mouth. A snaffle bit can apply pressure on the first three spots.

Snaffle's probably ought to be ridden in a regular browband headstall and not in a one ear headstall. A curb strap and not a curb chain is used, and really only used to keep the bit in place or keep the rider from pull it through or out of the horse's mouth.

Some people wrongly call all broken bits "snaffles". A broken bit with shanks extending from it is a leverage bit, not a snaffle. The one in the picture is sometimes called an "Argentinian Snaffle", but again not a snaffle at all, but just a leveraged broken bit. I have seen these used and have used them myself with curb chains. The chain has to be adjusted to apply pressure on the bottom outside of the jaw at the appropriate spot in the manipulation of the bit's shanks. But this article is not about this bit and frankly, I'll probably never use one again.

Be sure to check your horse for dental problems, like Wolf teeth still in place, in case this is affecting his acceptance of the snaffle. Make sure there are no sharp burrs on your snaffle and I think a sweet metal or copper inlay on the bars of the snaffle work best as the cause the horse to salivate therefore lubricating the bit.

Not last, really first, is checking how you are riding this horse in the snaffle. Horse's will gape their mouths when people (riders) are in that horse's mouth too much. Same with head tossing,..if there is no release from your hands through the reins to the horse's mouth, the horse will get frustrated because he can't figure out what you want, and he will try about anything to escape the pressure. And remember the reins are a small part of controlling your horse. Usually under forward movement, just to get the horse's head tipped in the direction you want to go. Try to ask as lightly as possible. I believe it is possible to lighten a horse over time even if that horses has been ridden under a heavy hand. I think you're just teaching it to expect something better.

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