Bits to use on bolting horses

Discussion in 'Training Horses' started by GoneRama, Jan 3, 2014.

  1. GoneRama

    GoneRama Gold Member


    Wise words!
  2. equislave

    equislave Well-known Member

    Very good message but hard to get across to people.
  3. GoneRama

    GoneRama Gold Member

    Damn straight. I had someone reasonably recently ask what bit I prefer, pelham or dutch gag, for a horse that gets strong when jumping and has the occasional bolt :rolleyes: I told her to consider very wisely if she wanted to pursue the conversation.
  4. old_mate

    old_mate Well-known Member

    Even a harsh bit will not stop a horse if it really wants to take off!
    They just turn the head to the side and carry on blind...
  5. Faxie

    Faxie Well-known Member

    Which bit? The bit of knowledge!!
  6. Horseagilitywa

    Horseagilitywa Well-known Member

    Love it Faxie!
  7. celestialdancer

    celestialdancer Gold Member

    After my QHTB gelding completed his first ever XC round, I was telling someone that he was exciteable out on the course, and that at times it was nervewracking, the speed we were going down the banks (Harvey), but he pulled up when I asked etc. Anyway, I was told by this lady to put him in a dutch gag on the bottom hole. HAHAHAHA, no.
  8. Aryahne

    Aryahne New Member

    A different perspective is - can you ride your horse without a bit ?
    If not, why not ?
    Everyone has the ability to ensure safety through what should be a basic skill for human & horse.
    A challenging thought.
  9. Rosinante

    Rosinante Active Member

  10. SueC

    SueC New Member

    The best book I've ever read on horses and bits is Tom Roberts' "Horse Control and the Bit." By the way, the reputed "soft" basic snaffle is not soft on every horse. It all depends on the configuration of the horse's mouth and a horse's own preferences. Some so-called "sharp" bits are actually often better when beginning riders don't keep their hands still - the unjointed bits with curb chains actually reduce jolting of the horse's mouth by spreading the force of the impact both over a wider area and over a longer interval of time. Tom Roberts makes superb reading on this and every other horsey topic I've ever read him on. I thoroughly recommend the above book, as well as "Horse Control - The Young Horse", "Horse Control - The Rider" and "Horse Control - Reminiscences" (about so-called difficult horses). I hope the books aren't out of print!

    Who is Tom Roberts? A now deceased Australian horseman who spent time with the army educating and re-educating horses when soldiers still rode horses, and was much involved with all manner of riding disciplines in his long life, including dressage, jumping, polo and campdrafting. He was a very influential educator in his day, very insighful, and is very good at explaining things from a horse's point of view, and making a rider THINK. I'd have him over the modern gurus anytime, and he's homegrown.
  11. Thatest

    Thatest New Member

    I almost always used a snaffle bit, however after getting a rescue horse who hated any bit being put in his mouth (he is very sensitive) I got a new trainer who was really into natural horsemanship. Now, I ride without a bridle and he's as happy as ever! I'm not saying that bits are terrible but any horse can use a gentler one or none at all. If anyone thinks that the "solution" to a problem is a harsher bit than they seriously need to recorder working with horses.
  12. SueC

    SueC New Member

    Just getting back to the original topic of horses and bolting:

    When horses bolt, they do it with their heads extended.

    The natural effect of a snaffle bit is that it causes the horse to raise its head to avoid the pressure from the bit - it transfers the pressure from the very sensitive bars of the horse's mouth (try putting a snaffle over the bony part of the bridge of your nose, then having someone pull on the reins, to get an idea) to the skin at the sides of the mouth. The natural effect of a curb bit is that it cause the horse to lower its head to lessen the pressure of the curb chain. Advanced dressage riders ride with both a snaffle and a curb bit during their tests.

    Getting back to bolting: Curb bits are generally more successful at restraining a horse from bolting than snaffle bits, because a horse can't run so fast with its head lowered and face vertical - and because the action of the curb bit is less painful to the horse in a bolting situation than the action of the snaffle (assuming a curb bit with a nice flat comfortable curb chain and not too much leverage). Tom Roberts makes the point that horses' natural response to pain is to run, and that bolting can be exacerbated if the rider hurts the horse with the action of the bit while attempting to restrain it. Even though the action of the snaffle on the bars of the mouth is reduced during bolting, due to the horse's extended head position, many desperate riders instinctively get rough with the bit during bolting, and snaffles can cause quite a bit of injury to the lips and mouth at such times. With a curb bit, any jolts to the mouth by careless hands are spread both over a wider contact area and a wider interval of time (because the levers of a curb bit take longer to act than the straight connection to a snaffle). Also a curb bit is very stable in a horse's mouth; the levers prevent the bit being dragged through the mouth sideways.

    Of course you're not supposed to be rough with a bit: The above just points out what unfortunately happens in reality in many situations, especially with inexperienced riders. A bit is supposed to be a communication device, and as the previous poster pointed out above, anyone who thinks that getting harsh with a bit is the answer to their problem perhaps needs to switch to motorbikes or some other mechanical, predictable ride.

    Bolting reduces when you have a great relationship with your horse, but it is always going to be a potential problem because horses naturally run fast when frightened in the open - it's a survival instinct. Around vehicular traffic areas this is a potential bloodbath. In such situations, if I didn't know my horse very well I'd be riding in a curb bit. When I was a child, the riding school I was in had us on a group outing one day. As we were riding single file at the side of a country road, a truck came up behind us. A young horse at the tail of the group who was terrified of trucks started bolting and infected every other horse with his fear. Seconds later the whole group bolted. All the horses were in snaffles and not even the instructor could restrain his horse. There was nowhere to ride the horses into big circles as is the recommendation for horses bolting in a snaffle. Soon the horses were running at breakneck speed through a pine forest, not on any track, swerving through trees and stumbling over roots, and one rider after another fell off, including the instructor. A sole eight-year-old girl arrived back at the stables still on horseback (and it wasn't me, I'd come off in the forest and broken my nose). Several people were injured, one very severely: Broken skull and brain swelling despite helmet. Horses too had got scrapes.

    Bit selection depends on horse, rider and situation. Personally, I've ridden in snaffles, curb bits, hackamores and plain halters. Currently I'm riding in a Spanish snaffle: Despite its name, it's an unjointed curb bit with a little bend in the middle and slotted D-rings at the side. You can choose the upper or lower slot to select the amount of curb action you want. I have mine in the lower slot and it gives me half the leverage of a pelham lever. The horse is comfortable in the bit and it counters the stargazing tendency with which he came. Now the neck muscles are nicely balanced. I do mostly trails these days and since he was a terrible chicken about wildlife at the start and I ride on my own, there were many potential bolting situations nipped in the bud effectively and with no injury to my horse's mouth - a great result for the safety of both of us.
  13. Marz

    Marz Well-known Member

    SueC- with the TARDIS you could translate what the horse is saying to us, right? Maybe we can figure out why they snort black snot ONLY when we're wearing nice white show shirts? Or how we might dissuade them from bolting..
  14. old_mate

    old_mate Well-known Member

    Horse's can and do bolt with their heads tucked up and or pulled to one side.
    My first horse was a bolter, as I was a horse crazy teenager at the time it was a problem but not a deal breaker.
    One time my horse was bolting and I had hold of the top of the bridle, the horses head was back and my back and head were on the horses rump.
    Horse's are capable of alot if they really want to get away, including bolting with the head pulled to the side and halfway bent around a leg.
    I spent 6 months with a horse bolting and people all giving me advise on how to stop it. Not an expert on horses but I have had a lot of experiance of how a horse can bolt lol.
  15. Skittled

    Skittled Well-known Member

    Definately! Just spend a week riding trackwork and you 'll learn that pretty quick!
  16. SueC

    SueC New Member

    Hi guys! I probably needed to be more specific. By "bolting" I was thinking of the kind of bolting horses do at breakneck speed and from which it is very difficult to dissuade them until they have had enough and / or reached home. In my experience that is done with the head extended. I've had horses go awry with bent-sideways necks or turned-under heads, but never at race speed. Horses actually can't reach their maximum speed without extending their heads. Sounds like some of yours went pretty fast with funny head positions though, and that also carries the risk of your horse falling over in its antics. Not nice...

    I will say that I've never personally had a horse bolt on me in a curb bit, all the bolts I've been aboard were with a snaffle. In fact with my mild curb (Spanish snaffle) I've had other horses bolt past my horse and my horse has not joined. This is true for three goey horses I've ridden, including a "neck-bender" like one of you described who'd been sold at a meat auction post-harness race career because he used to take off with people and jump guard rails at the track with the cart attached, smashing everything up (a nice ride for us and an excellent jumper actually). But: These were horses I really knew well. Totally different with an unfamiliar horse.
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2014
  17. SueC

    SueC New Member

    On Earth you have Murphy's Law, right? That explains the first one. Although added to that one suspects the entertainment value from the horse's point of view is at its maximum when you're wearing that white shirt!

    The second one is not so straightforward. The Earth books by Australian horseman Tom Roberts have lots to say about how early training and education, controlled exposure to different kinds of "monster", a good relationship with you, riding green horses with experienced ones, not taking unnecessary risks, creating controlled teaching situations, and getting the right gear to suit your horse can help prevent nasty situations. I have all four of these gems in my TARDIS library. They are also very entertaining!

    Vworp! Vworp! Vworp! *#)
  18. South Boulder Boy

    South Boulder Boy Well-known Member

    " a horse can't run so fast with its head lowered and face vertical"

    This comment jumped out at me, you know plenty of racehorses can and DO run like that. And as good trainers teach them to carry themselves, use their back ends correctly for a more powerful stride and as such round up I can assure you that if they decided to bolt a lot of them will do it in a way they are trained to move, with the head tucked under. They don't suddenly stretch out unless asked (ie when reaching for that winning post!)

    Also adding- had an 8 year old that had won $200k come in for one last start. He was the quietest softest horse we had at the time. One day, for no apparent reason, he bolted the entire length of our track (2km). He couldn't be pulled up and he only stopped when the rider jumped off. He was wearing a Dutch gag.
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2014
  19. old_mate

    old_mate Well-known Member

    I'm glad you put that up SBB, cause my horse bolted with just about every bit I tried, and I tried a lot.....
    Also that comment about the necks out straight when bolting, I didn't have a speedo but it felt like top speed. :}
    The things that a horse can do to get away from something that they deem frightening are amazing and varied, sometimes even as a rider I would be stunned at the athletic feats my horse would manage.
  20. SueC

    SueC New Member

    I've yet to see a horse win a thoroughbred race with its head and face in dressage position - which is what I'm talking about. By all means you might have a galloper with its head in a relatively lower position than another galloper. But the hindquarters of a horse have to work harder to be able to produce that dressage head position, and it is not efficient for a horse to do that at speed, so when the object is to be fast, the horse is better with a more natural head carriage. Have a good look at a Grand Prix dressage horse and compare that to a horse racing at speed you'll see what I mean. It's also why you don't see polo ponies with their head and neck in dressage position when they go full tilt, even though many polo ponies are in curb bits. Also note that a horse's vision is comparatively impaired by the dressage head carriage, which is one reason a horse at liberty will tend to angle its head up from the vertical.

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