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Old 02-10-2013, 08:26 PM   #1
Baquero
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Default Observations on the snaffle bit

I thought I would start off the new Snaffle Bit section with some things I have learned in the last few weeks while riding in a snaffle. There are a lot of snaffles out there, some really cheap and some really fancy. I have taught myself to be picky about the snaffles that I put in my horses mouth. I have seen horses with the hair on the corners of it's mouth worn off from the snaffle, or bleeding from pinching and hard pulling. I have also seen the scars in a horses mouth from a snaffle bit that was used with improper hands.

I don't say these things to scare people away from using the snaffle. I think the snaffle is a great form of communication with the horse. And when used properly, riders have been able to do some incredible things with the horses they ride.

I was teaching a lesson to a girl the other day who was having some issues with her horse. The horse was tossing it's head and being uncooperative. I had her stop and we looked over the head of the horse, she had the snaffle she was riding with cinched up, so that there was a few wrinkles on the corners of the horses mouth. We pulled off the headstall and put one of my snaffles on, we dropped the snaffle down two notches so that there was no wrinkles on the corners of the mouth. I was taught that when starting a horse you put one wrinkle on the mouth for the first 2-3 rides, then you drop it so that the horse learns to carry the bit. Bill Dorrance talks about this in his book. I have found that most people hang there snaffles too high, this means that all of the signals are being transmitted to the corners of the horses mouth. You miss out on valuable pre signals by doing this. If the snaffle hangs low enough it will move freely through the mouth of the horse which will allow a signal to happen before a pull is initiated. This is one way you can keep your horses light. Teach them that the movement or change in balance of the bit in there mouth is a signal, and means something. This helps later on when transitioning to other bits.

This girls horse quieted down, it began to work its mouth and slobber from the sweet iron and copper inlays on the bit. She then was able to teach her horse because it was comfortable, and she maintained a very healthy float in her reins.
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Old 02-10-2013, 10:48 PM   #2
DocsMinnieElixer
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I agree about hanging the snaffle lower in the mouths. I find that a snaffle that has even just one or two wrinkles dulls signal and will not give instant release when you offer the horse slack. The bit stays somewhat "engaged" all the time, riding the corners of the mouth. I like to use a snaffle with heavy weighted rings, which helps keep the bit hanging as low as posible and as soon as you offer the horse slack it drops back down more quickly. I also acquired a loose ring snaffle with a bit of a twist to it that had a dogbone in the center. While not a traditional "bridle horse" bit I have really loved the feel of it and it seemed to help keep young colts quiet as the multiple breaks in the mouthpiece allowed it to be pliable and pack a little softer in the horse's mouth, especially colts that seem to want to toss their heads or complain about a bit that touches the roof of their mouth. Ideally I'd like a similiar one that doesn't have the loose ring to avoid the possibility of pinching, but i've never had to get on their faces enough with this bit to have encountered that problem.
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Old 02-22-2013, 07:17 PM   #3
Picard
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Default Snaffle

I agree with having a snaffle hang with just one wrinkle in the corner of the mouth. I find most colts I ride this suits them well. Most times if head tossing occurs I find it is from teeth problems or the rider is too heavy handed and the horse is not getting release.
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Old 02-23-2013, 09:06 AM   #4
drgrimmett
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Another commonly missed issue is bit size. The majority of bits out there are the standard 5 " and I don't think most folks ever even consider that it might not be the right size. If it's too big and you hang it where you don't see any wrinkles the thing is bent in there at about a 60 degree angle probably pointing down the tongue to the most senstive part of the foretongue. If it's too small then the corners of the mouth are likely getting pinched and there is little relief and you end up with the same scenario as if the bit were pulled up to high.

Both of my geldings have 5 1/4 to 5 1/2 inch mouths. Once I discovered that my bitted riding became a whole lot smoother.

On the subject of up too high, I have a very good friend who is a dressage rider. She is very accomplished and her horses do quite well for her. I ran into her the other day while she was warming her horse up and happened to look at her head gear. She has a french link bit a big fat brass sucker stuck to that horse's mouth so the corners were actually pulled back. Then a drop noseband over the whole thing to hold it in place there.

It's amazing to me that those horses can do what they do. Of course, she's got pretty amazing forearms and grip on those reins. Different strokes for different folks. It's just hard once you've seen how light they CAN be to watch how hard other folks teach them to be.
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Old 02-23-2013, 09:42 AM   #5
MissNVaquero
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I'd like to hear about what people think about a snaffle that breaks in one place and then one that breaks in 2 places like a frenchlink or dogbone. I have been thinking about this and the construction of a horse's mouth lately. I never realized how sharp a horse's bars are and how close together they are. Most horses tongues are over the bars, I don't think I've ever seen a tongue that fits between them. So when we are using a snaffle the bit it predominantly working off the tongue and may be 'pinching' the tongue between bit and bars. I find that a lot more horses seem uncomfortable in snaffles that break in 2 places than those that break in 1 or a mullen mouth. I don't think horses like all that tongue pressure of the frenchlink type. I think this also is where the spade bit comes in as being 'kinder' to a horse's mouth than a snaffle. As Bruce Sandifer explained and showed it takes more surface area and gives the horse something more to hold on to and isn't as uncomfortable as a snaffle. Anyway, just my thoughts. I could be completely wrong!
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Old 02-23-2013, 06:13 PM   #6
Jimmy
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I must use a snaffle bit different than most. I am not main stream snaffle bitter anymore. All the horse has to do is learn to suck up on it. I use it in the corners of the mouth by lifting slightly. I rarely take my hand out to the side and try to lead him. But the snaffle is suppose to work on the corners of his mouth, not his tongue or the bars. In order for a snaffle to fold in half and pinch the horses tongue or bars, or poke into his pallet, one would have to have the hands of a butcher, and pull straight back and down and hard! Unless, like stated above, it is too big for the horse's mouth. I don't want the horse to drop his neck. I actually want to be able to lift his neck and head, or more accurately, signal him to lift his head. Otherwise, the horse learns to carry his neck out comfortably where he needs to get balanced. It will shorten and raise the more collected we get, later. I know that Ray had people tuck their horse's nose down and in, but I think that got misunderstood as time went on. People try to hold that nose in place, or feel bad when it comes out and up, which is really where we need it, with an open throatlatch. It is also helpful if you ride a horse with a nice neck to begin with. Anyway, these are some things I have been playing with lately, and getting nice results, better than I had previously.
As to the question of the Hackamore, and breakover, the nature of a hackamore makes it difficult to try and hold a horse's nose in place, so used correctly, we see a lot more natural neck carriage. I think.
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Old 02-23-2013, 08:54 PM   #7
DocsMinnieElixer
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I guess where I have gotten my understanding as to why a bit that is broken in multiple places is more comfortable for the horse to pack is that I compare it to a chain mouth bit. The links are light and smooth and it is very light and flexible in the horse's mouth. The horse gtes a lot of signal/warning before it really engages. The horse is free to move his tonge and feel the bit and there is nothing to poke him and no long hard surfaces to apply a lot of pain or pressure. My thought has always been that the more breaks the more light and "free" the bit is in there. Most horses can work in a regular single jointed snaffle just fine, but I have just found in my experience that a double jointed bit or a light chain link o-ring bit have made for really quiet happy colts that aren't chomping and fussing over the bit. I think it has helped to preserve the bars of their mouth for when they move up to a shanked bit. That is just my own experience though I can't speak for anyone else.
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Old 02-23-2013, 10:02 PM   #8
Jimmy
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DocsMinnieElixer View Post
I guess where I have gotten my understanding as to why a bit that is broken in multiple places is more comfortable for the horse to pack is that I compare it to a chain mouth bit. The links are light and smooth and it is very light and flexible in the horse's mouth. The horse gtes a lot of signal/warning before it really engages. The horse is free to move his tonge and feel the bit and there is nothing to poke him and no long hard surfaces to apply a lot of pain or pressure. My thought has always been that the more breaks the more light and "free" the bit is in there. Most horses can work in a regular single jointed snaffle just fine, but I have just found in my experience that a double jointed bit or a light chain link o-ring bit have made for really quiet happy colts that aren't chomping and fussing over the bit. I think it has helped to preserve the bars of their mouth for when they move up to a shanked bit. That is just my own experience though I can't speak for anyone else.
They seem to like to suck on a french link.
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Old 02-24-2013, 09:03 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DocsMinnieElixer View Post
I guess where I have gotten my understanding as to why a bit that is broken in multiple places is more comfortable for the horse to pack is that I compare it to a chain mouth bit. The links are light and smooth and it is very light and flexible in the horse's mouth. The horse gtes a lot of signal/warning before it really engages. The horse is free to move his tonge and feel the bit and there is nothing to poke him and no long hard surfaces to apply a lot of pain or pressure. My thought has always been that the more breaks the more light and "free" the bit is in there. Most horses can work in a regular single jointed snaffle just fine, but I have just found in my experience that a double jointed bit or a light chain link o-ring bit have made for really quiet happy colts that aren't chomping and fussing over the bit. I think it has helped to preserve the bars of their mouth for when they move up to a shanked bit. That is just my own experience though I can't speak for anyone else.
I really think that most of the answer to this is that it is in the hands. There is tongue conformation differences between horses that would explain preferences for a 3 vs 2 piece bit but when used appropriately both can be very light and comfortable for the horse. Think of it as the difference between carrying a bucket with a rope handle vs carrying a bucket with a wooden handle. Both can be quite comfortable and easy to manage depending on the load you are carrying. If your load stays light and manageable the rope handle is fine and seems to conform to your hand but if the load is heavy or is carried a long distance the wooden handle becomes much easier to bear. And if you are so unlucky as to carry a heavy bucket with a broken wooden handle then you would know how heavy hands on a two piece mouth would hurt where the pieces crunched on your hand.

While a well made and well fitting bit is the best choice, the preference between two or three piece is really a personal and horse choice. I have used both successfully and do think that for a horse that is particularly "mouthy" on that bit, having something with more pieces seems to soothe them a little.

I do think that learning how to ride in the hackamore effectively sure makes you a better rider in the snaffle bit.
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Old 03-03-2013, 09:28 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drgrimmett View Post
I really think that most of the answer to this is that it is in the hands. There is tongue conformation differences between horses that would explain preferences for a 3 vs 2 piece bit but when used appropriately both can be very light and comfortable for the horse. Think of it as the difference between carrying a bucket with a rope handle vs carrying a bucket with a wooden handle. Both can be quite comfortable and easy to manage depending on the load you are carrying. If your load stays light and manageable the rope handle is fine and seems to conform to your hand but if the load is heavy or is carried a long distance the wooden handle becomes much easier to bear. And if you are so unlucky as to carry a heavy bucket with a broken wooden handle then you would know how heavy hands on a two piece mouth would hurt where the pieces crunched on your hand.

While a well made and well fitting bit is the best choice, the preference between two or three piece is really a personal and horse choice. I have used both successfully and do think that for a horse that is particularly "mouthy" on that bit, having something with more pieces seems to soothe them a little.

I do think that learning how to ride in the hackamore effectively sure makes you a better rider in the snaffle bit.
Great bucket analogy, one of the things I always say is "I like to give my horses a chance first" By that I mean I never start one in a thin wire or thin mouth piece. I know trainers who have recommended using them as a means to lighten a horse. I have never understood that, and consider it a short cut for poor horsemanship. The best shortcut I have found, is to take time off of my day job and give the horse consistent riding.

As for the discussion about mouthpieces I found this picture, but am not sure if I buy into the logic of it yet.
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