Choose a Bit

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Choosing a Bit

6 thoughts on “Choose a Bit

  1. I have a 7 yr old that was trained to over bend at poll and ticks his head at any touch of rein. It cause him to be front endy in barrel racing. What bit would u recommend to get this horse off his frt end. He is really broke but needs dif bit I believe, what do u suggest so he wt be so responsive and get off his front end ? Ty vickie

    1. Hi Vicky:
      Not being a barrel racer, I don’t really feel qualified to answer with any “barrel-specific”authority. However, my first move (with a well-trained horse) is to get him a well-made side-pull and remove the bit altogether to see his “natural” way of going. If it is the bit that tips him forward, you will know it because the behavior will disappear. (A poorly balanced curb bit can cause habitual over-bending at the poll)

      If he is still so “over-collected” at the poll in the side-pull then some retraining might be in order – starting with his lunging exercises. Allow him to change his posture while lunging, letting him relax more. However, be aware that it takes a long time to change his musculature and habit.

      You might try a better-balanced curb bit (if he wears a curb bit). If it is balanced correctly, it will encourage the proper head carriage because it will only sit comfortably when his head is correctly positioned. You will probably need an on-site professional to help you find one and fit it. See Leverage for a full explanation of the balance of a curb bit for head carriage.

      Hopefully we have some barrel racing professionals who might want to give this young woman some help.

  2. Hi. I’ve “ridden” my entire life. Back yard ponies and self taught. Well I have started to ride my daughters show horse and think I need a different bit. He is generally ridden in a “tom thumb” type bit. But I feel with my lack of balance and “hanging” on his reins I’m upsetting and confusing the poor guy. I went to a clinic and was quite scared. He bucked, and was all hot walking sideways being a real butt head. Shone advice I got that day was to maybe ride in a snaffle. But there are so many where do I start?

    1. Unfortunately, I am not familiar with the horse or the situation. What type of clinic? What breed of horse, and what was he trained to do for show? Is being “hot” a usual problem for him? Is he in the Tom thumb because it provides curb and poll leverage because he won’t stop?

      You are right. That bit can be pretty harsh in untrained hands. Given a choice I always start with a double-jointed snaffle with no leverage on a seasoned horse. Dover sells a nice fat, copper, double-jointed loose-ring bit. It has worked very well on two new horses we have that are a little hot and nervous.

      I can’t imagine a “show” horse bucking unless there was some saddle discomfort or something. Or…were you “flopping” in the saddle to the point that he could imagine a mountain lion on his back and got panicky? Maybe he was just “kicking up” in protest, but it feels like bucking to the untrained rider. If you can find a private trainer who can work with you for a little while until you and the horse develop a partnership, it would be a good idea. AND, of course, I always encourage natural horsemanship training first and foremost. Then specialize when all is calm and controllable. I wish I were more help, but the clinic was the right first move.

  3. Is this the bit you are using?

    I am not sure what you mean by “only listens”. Does that mean she does not stop? Does she turn smoothly and easily? Has she used a shanked bit before? Does she understand curb pressure? This type of bit has some gag action in the large ring used for turning. It is not very good for stopping when used with that ring.

    At first you said she “only listens” when you use the “D” ring, and then you said this is the only bit that she “pays attention” to. I have to admit I am somewhat confused.

    It might be better to get a bit that works on her problem area but leaves the other area alone. If she won’t stop, you might try a “Kimberwick” type bit with a three piece mouth. It has shorter shanks (if the high leverage is what she is objecting to) but still has some leverage to get her attention in the stop. (Are you sure you are using the curb strap properly?)

    The Slotted Dee Kimberwick won’t mess up the turn so much by gouging the cheek like a Tom Thumb (which gouges the tongue AND the cheek). I found a Slotted Dee, Double Hinged Uxeter Kimberwick Bit With Copper Roller Stainless Steel With 5″ Mouthpiece at

    She is 5 years old but was “green” when she came to you. Was she 4-5 years old when you got her? What type of basic training did YOU put on her yourself. If you have taken her carefully through the fundamentals yourself, it is pretty irrelevant what her former training was.

    Frequently it is not the equipment so much as the training. I would certainly recommend going back to the basics with her. Perhaps her training was hurried. You need to go back to basics in a round pen (then the arena) and perfect all of the voice, leg, seat, and hand cues for “whoa”. See the sections on “Verbal Whoa” and “Flex Training”. I highly recommend Clinton Anderson Natural Horsemanship Fundamentals if you are interested in doing it yourself. Step by step you can build the horse you want – and sometimes the bit is not even necessary at all. I understand that some people find formal training boring, but there is no substitute.

    I’m not sure I have helped. Let me know if I am not understanding. Also, please let me know if this solution helps you and which part was most helpful.


    I have this bit and my Thoroughbred mare coming of 5 years old only listens when the reins are in the first whole not the shank area. What Type of bit would be bet for her? I know little of her training back ground. She was green when she came to me. She hates the shanks, tom thumbs and runs through an o-ring. This is the only thing I have fond that actually gets her attention and she listens well to. Also can you tell me what level a bit this is and what it is mainly used for. My boyfriends horse listens well to it and is a completly balanced horse when she uses this bit.

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