Training

English Bits, Part II

From flat work to over fences: Learn which English bits are best for horse training in this two-part series.

From The American Quarter Horse Journal

The numerous variations and types of horse bits can be a little intimidating for horsemen. Different events, training purposes or horse preference could determine which bit is most appropriate. The most common English bit is the snaffle, but there are far more options than you may think. There are many different mouthpiece options for a snaffle – from the smooth mouthpiece to a rubber bit to one with a twist and a little more bite. There are also leverage bits, including snaffles with curb chains, Kimberwicks and Pelhams.

AQHA Professional Horsemen and judges David Connors of Colts Neck, New Jersey; Jerry Erickson of Sanger, Texas; and Sandy Vaughn of Hernando, Florida, all weighed in on the best bits for English horses. Riding on horseback, do not forget to visit our site bestes online casino.

Over Fences

Jumping fences requires a different approach and a great deal of caution to protect the horse’s mouth. Even the most seasoned trainer can be caught by surprise if a horse jumps greenly or awkwardly, and catching the horse in the face is an unpleasant experience for everyone.

“I’d like to see my horses go in a slow-twist, which is a big fat snaffle with a twist to it,” Sandy says. “With the amateurs, a lot of times, they miss at the jumps – and you know, I can miss at the jumps, too – and if that amateur rider gets left in the air, with that bit she’s not going to floss the horse’s teeth like she would with a wire (bit).

The American Quarter Horse Journal is available in print and digital format and focuses on the issues that matter most to horse owners. Read insightful articles on training, breeding, health, racing and more. Subscribe to the world's largest single-breed monthly publication now.


“If you think about it, we can use a martingale, then we put a wire on for more control, then get left,” she adds. “And then you are really, really punishing that horse when he leaves the ground. I always think less is better. You can always go up, but it’s hard to come back. That’s my personal preference.”

David, too, keeps gentle bits in the horses’ mouths while jumping.

“So much of the horse going over the jump is about his mouth,” he points out. “So if a novice is getting left while she is learning how to jump, it really affects the horse’s mouth and whether the horse is going to cross the jump well or not. We really don’t use a lot bits or a lot of strong bits.”

Key Tools

All the multiple-world-champion-winning trainers agree on one important thing: It’s not the bit that makes the most difference, it’s the rider using it.

“I’ve come from the old school of riding, where I learned about equitation and riding from your legs to your hands,” David says. “We try to educate our people on the reasons you have a bit, and why it’s so important to learn why you use your legs. You’re going to be able to achieve what they’re achieving the correct way with less bit and riding your horse forward than you are with those gimmicks and just pulling the head down. You don’t get the real sense that you’re controlling your horse through your legs to your hands … you’re just controlling it by your hands.”

Jerry agrees, observing that English equitation teaches riders to push the horse forward into the hand, allowing him to properly use his back.

“It appears to me that a lot of the amateurs and the kids are real quick to think they need more bridle,” Jerry says. “They have some pretty severe things on those horses. Bits don’t have to be severe. Instead of trying to put a lot of bridle on one and then mash him down, those riders would be very well served to take a little more time and figure out just what (they’re doing with) their hands and body. Things like bits and spurs are just aids. They are not the whole story.”

Observation is a valuable tool. Watch other riders, both in the warm-up pen and the show arena, to see what methods they use, how they ride and the result. He also adds that, if you have questions, trainers are usually open to being approached.

“The trainers, I think, by and large, are very willing to talk to amateurs and non-pro riders,” Jerry says. “If I’m not busy, I’m happy to stop and talk to them.”

The world's largest single-breed monthly publication is available in print and digital formats. Get up-to-date information on health, breeding, racing and more. Subscribe to The American Quarter Horse Journal today!


There is one caveat, though, which is to ask questions with an open mind.

“I hate that ‘Yeah, but…,’ ” he says. “So, if ‘Yeah, but …’ your horse does this, this and this, why are you asking? Ask with an open mind, then try to implement what that trainer is telling you.”

It is also good to give your horse the benefit of the doubt and investigate every possible cause. Often a horse who may appear to need a bit change really needs a physical examination – a horse may have a problem with his teeth or other physical problem that is causing him to resist.

“If he’s refusing to do something for you, providing you think you’re not dealing with one that’s being sassy, think about what might be wrong,” Sandy says. “It might not be the bit. It could be the teeth, or a physical issue. You can talk about bits, what you like and what you don’t like, what works and doesn’t work, because we’re always going to like the bits that work for us. But always be careful that you don’t end up changing bits when you need to address other issues. More isn’t always better. A bit is no better or worse than the person using it.”

Watch this Video


Check out the 2011 AQHA Amateur Equitation Over Fences World Champion's winning run.