Bit? help for a strong but not constantly strong horse

One of my clients recently purchased a young draft x gelding who was absolutely perfect when we tried him and great in the videos as well. However since moving him to her farm, he has developed a habit of dragging her where he wants to go (usually out of arena). She is an adult re-rider, and is working on building a fence around the arena but for now there are double stacked railroad ties-which he just steps over (or on top of). He doesn’t do this with me, well, he tries but I have much stronger legs to prevent him from pulling this stunt on me. I am currently working him 4 days per week, working on turning from leg and getting in front of leg so he’s straighter. I wear small spurs and carry a jockey or dressage whip everytime i ride him, but she doesn’t have the confidence in herself to put the spurs on, even though her leg is pretty steady. With her, he gets to the rail and bears down on the bit while stepping out of ring with outside shoulder. Until I improve his balance and get him moving forward off leg and away from leg consistently, is there a bit that she could use when she rides that will help with him bearing down against the bit? Forgot to add, he is light and responsive in the mouth at all other times, only gets strong when he gets to the side of the arena that he can pulle her out of.

I wouldn’t just put a bigger bit in this horses mouth because that is treating a symptom and not the problem. First I would try to get the ring enclosed on the cheap, could be some plain plastic electric fence posts and run some rope through them to make a barrier. Also working on the ground with the horse to get the horse listening to her. Example while walking to the horses stall stop several times and make the horse wait and then start walking. If he runs over her stop him back him up and get his attention. When riding maybe don’t get off near the gate and make him stop several times before you walk out. If you just put more bit in this horses mouth IMO he will just run through it and then will have a very hard mouth all of the time. The horse is just young and needs to learn to respect the rider.

I will tell her to hurry up with the fence, she has a tractor and post hole digger and full time farm hand so shouldn’t take too long. He is generally respectful on the ground, though to be honest, she doesn’t take him out of the field much and she probably only really rides him 2-3 times per month (I ride him so he does get worked with) So you’re probably right in that he doesn’t respect her as the leader. She has a natural horsemanship trainer friend that has been working with her on ground work a bit, but I can’t see it helping much yet. Thank you for the advice! Sometimes you get a little situation blind when you’re in the thick of it. Lol

She needs to work at getting to be a stronger, more confident rider, not put a stronger bit on him. Not suggesting a rubber snaffle for a draft cross here but perhaps this horse is not that perfect for her skills and physical ability at this point in time since she’s not strong enough to back up her steering and stopping aids.

Good chance a stronger bit in the hands of a weaker rider will just create a different set of evasions and make future corrections more difficult plus it won’t make a lick of difference in him ignoring her attempts to steer/stop.

Wait until the arena gets fenced, in the meantime, horse would benefit from Pro rides to avoid teaching him he may drag his riders around at will. He’s doing it because he can and she’s not able to stop it. That’s what needs to be fixed. He’s not mean or anything, just needs a proper, consistent ride.

Much as the stronger bit won’t help, NH is going to help steering and stopping by a weak, timed rider even less. That cannot be taught and rider will not get stronger from the ground, that needs to be done in the saddle.

I agree that a stronger bit probably isn’t the answer long term, however, if he doesn’t try it with you then maybe he just needs a wake up call with her. He knows he can get away with it and it’s become routine so my suggestion you be
a) if he opens his mouth to evade the bit when he does it then throw a flash on and see if it make a difference.
b) if she has soft hands then see if someone has a different bit that she can borrow for a couple rides. I’m thinking a slow twist so that when the contact is light it doesn’t really come into play, but if he throws is head into he’ll get a little wake up. Or something like a waterford if he tends to grab onto the bit and run through it.

Good luck

I use a full cheek with a triangle mouthpiece on one of our draft mules who will do that to my mother. It’s not a crazy harsh bit, just gives her a little extra help stopping and turning when he decides he’s in charge of the route.

This sounds like a mismatch of horse and rider, as the only real fix is not another bit but an educated fit rider.

The horse that I leased for several years would pop his shoulder and move toward the rail with weaker riders. That was me for awhile. I did not put up with his bullshit and would stop him, back him, just get him listening to me. Even as my leg got stronger though, he would still use it as an evasion tactic when there was some hard work to be done. I moved him from a loose ring snaffle to a full cheek snaffle. It cut down on the length of time that we argued because I could win faster with less torque. It did not stop him from trying. The only thing that lessened that was riding more frequently and lots of ground work. Another friend took over his lease in May when I got my horse. She found him so responsive that she tried him in a french link, he blew right past it and was back to his old ways. We put the full cheek back in and it helped immensely as they built their bond. This is a horse that you always have to carry a crop with even if you never need it. Some horses just need to know that you have the ability to make them do it even if you never employ it. I think a full cheek would be a good option to try as it’s not much of a change but could be the extra reminder that the owner needs. But the main solution should be more riding and more working with him. Alas, he may always be an adherent of Our Lady of the Open Gate.

You have 2 problems so you need 2 bits

The easiest answer is to use a gag with a second rein connected directly to the snaffle bit. NB: Gags should always be used this way but often people do not include the snaffle rein.

With this setup, you can ride off the snaffle rein. But when the horse gets strong the gag rein is there as a backup

Of course this is not a final solution, but it will help the rider get through the adjustment/learning phase.

Does she ride with a dressage whip? Once she gets her message across (probably needs your guidance here), she may just be able to show him the whip up near the shoulder when he goes to bulge out of the ring and not have to actually whack him with it much if she is too timid to do so alone.

This - if she’s only riding 2-3 times per month, why buy a young horse?

Wait until the fence is up, like somebody else suggested, I think.

He is going in a full cheek snaffle, which he was wearing with the previous owner. He went really well in it with prev owner and he continues to go well in it with me. He doesn’t seem to open his mouth when he does it. She carries a dressage whip when she rides and he sometimes responds to it and sometimes doesn’t. She might not ride that often but the horse gets ridden 4+ days per week between myself and her friend who is stronger than she is. The horse lives at her house so there’s not much i can say to prevent her from doing what she wants when I’m not there, so telling her not to ride- not an option. She does show an interest in riding more often, but we’ve had so much rain and she’s a weenie when it comes to temps under 50 degrees. I’m hopeful that it will only take a few more weeks to put up a fence, until then, she may just have to suffer through lunge line lessons to build her strength :wink:

Perhaps draw reins attached to the side (billets–>bit–>rider’s hands) might help keep him straight and help her prevent him from popping his shoulder out. Although if she doesn’t feel ready to wear spurs, she may not be ready to use draw reins.

Draft crosses are opinionated, strong horses (on average)–if she wants to work with him she needs to become an opinionated, strong rider. You cannot be a pansy with many draft crosses.
When I first got my draft cross, the first thing we did was learn how to behave on a lead–that meant stud chain and carrying a dressage whip to ensure we could start and stop appropriately when being led. This got revisited on occasion as needed.
As his fitness increased under saddle and he decided to start having opinions similar to the horse described in the OP, I switched him from a baucher to a pelham (same mouthpiece) for a few rides. I rode exclusively on the snaffle rein–until he tried to leave, at which point I sat him down hard with the curb rein. It didn’t take long to restore the “yes ma’am.”
I used the baucher 95% of the time, but if there were situations where I thought he’d take advantage (e.g. riding XC) he went in a pelham with the curb rein loose. Giving an inch with these strong guys is not an option.

I think if you put a stronger bit on him, he’ll just become better at going where he wants with his head sideways.

Is there a problem side and a non-problem side to the arena (like one side has a natural barrier already)? Or maybe she could at least get the fence up along one side first? Then she could ride some figures that don’t keep her along the problem side quite so much… A sort of modified figure eight where you change rein across a short diagonal each time you get to the problem side. Or riding on the quarter lines. Or doing a half volte reverse up and down the non-problem side. Even a three loop serpentine, maybe, easier to correct in only a few places rather than trying to keep a correction down a whole long side.

I do like the idea of lunge lessons for this case.

I’m afraid that even if you get him light off your leg for you, he’s still smart enough to know that he can ignore her leg. If she’s not wearing spurs, she can use a “pony club kick”–a lot of people seem to be afraid of a little “loss of harmony” now, when a short squabble now will result in a much better ride later. Maybe you can tell if that’s part of her problem, and encourage her to apply a good strong correction right away when she knows he already has a problem–it will be much easier on her legs to kick once, rather than try to “gently squeeze” for a whole side.

I was thinking pelham also.

And a triangle bit isn’t crazy harsh? I’ve always considered it to be a pretty darned strong bit.