Bit question

With my horses, I had to do lateral work at the walk and keep the entire ride at a walk. They will anticipate which spots you normally canter/gallop at so those are the points you want them to relax at the most. The idea is to not have a single place that is associated with a particular gait for a certain length of time. I agree with everything said by Equkelly.


I’m going to go back to my experience with my very hot OTTB. At one point I decided to do a classic 3 day with her. I was worried that the additional fitness work would make her harder to control ( perhaps I should say even harder) in dressage and stadium. Surprisingly the opposite happened. She became more relaxed and manageable. So maybe consider trot sets, interval training, sometimes doing a gallop and see what happens?

The old guys for whom I would fit up polo ponies would always say with the enthusiastic ones that I should push them in a forward gait until they didn’t want to be so hot, then do one more rep. Usually within a week of this the horses were much more amenable to listening and settling down.


simple answer: do not gallop him there anymore. take that big open field and do big serpentines. Do other patterns. Do equitation in that field. make it a Work field. It sounds to me like you’re cruisin for a bruisin…


Agree with this. I had a stretch of the hay field I used to gallop my gelding on frequently when he was younger. To this day, with him 22 years old now, I have to deal with jigging on that stretch. Work now to make galloping your choice, and your choice only. I wish I would have back then, but I was young and “knew everything”. :slight_smile:

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Bit suggestions; waterford, Mullen mouth 2 ring, or french link 2 ring.

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Somewhat counterintuitive, but have you tried a bitless bridle,or other form of hackamore?

I switched Belle to a bitless bridle because of (grey horse melanoma) tumors on her lips, and found (unintended side effect) that it was actully easier to contain her enthusiasm for “THIS is where we are SUPPOSED to gallop”


We’ve restarted a few off the track and started 4 homebreds. We use a lot of trail riding (ride ‘out’) experience and use the meyer bit with some nose action Myler 2Ring Combo Bit Comfort Snaffle Wide - currently coming up 30% off.
My daughter ends up being able to ride them out in a simple soft sidepull, or even just a lead rope on a halter bareback after they have learned some respect and confidence. This bit is also very handy to start cross country jumping and let them learn to rate. If you have good hands this is not used harshly.

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Update on this thread -
I spent the past two weeks trying out different options:

  • Running Martingale: not good, lots of head shaking. It was correctly fitted, but he tested its range and then seemed cranky about it. More head shaking than ever, even on a loose rein. I tried it twice, same reaction. Not using it again with him.
  • Kimberwicke: good. He chewed and respected the bit, which I was able to use very lightly. We didn’t do any fast canters or gallops, just lots of trot / canter transitions in the woods and across snowy fields. He offered his back and was bouncy, and not cranky - surprising.
  • 3 ring: light, good contact. Only tried once so far, will try again.

Thanks so much for your input! The weather has been very cold and quite icy, so not ideal. But we continue go out every day to stay fit and will try the German Martingale, too — just to see.

The first aid to riding is your brain, your actual thoughts. You say you like his energy and encourage it so let’s think about that. When you approach the spot where you go fast are you saying to yourself “100% NOT going to gallop now” or is it actually “Not going to gallop but we do both enjoy it so much”. That little mental open door is quickly picked up by your horse.

I was riding a horse that had real issues with his mouth due to previous pain and past experience. Any pressure, he would speed up and was hard to stop though he never went as fast as he often felt. I found the trick with him was to visualise hacking him quietly on a warm sunny day and just think about change in gaits. He responded very quickly and I came to really enjoy riding him because it was so interesting getting that mental link.


A question re. the 2- or 3-ring elevator bit:
the 2-ring will be more immediate in effect than the 3-ring, correct? When would one choose a 3-ring over the 2-ring elevator?

A 3 ring bit is more “harsh”/“pressure” than a 2 ring elevator. Think of it like a western shank bit. The longer the shank, the stronger the pressure applied to the pole when using it. I generally choose a 2 ring over a 3 ring for that reason.


I am agreeing with you and building on your post but I want to clarify that a 3 ring is stronger if the rein is on the lowest 3rd ring. It would be equal if the rein was on the 2nd ring.

IMO you really should use an elevator bit with 2 reins- one on the main ring and one on the lower ring so you have the option of riding off the top ring which has less leverage when the horse is behaving but the second rein gives you the option of more leverage and a stronger bit when necessary. However I know many people only use one rein on the lower ring.

For the elevator bits I have also seen people will add a curb strap for a little extra.

OP- I am really confused about your comments on the running martingale. A properly fitted running martingale should not come in play unless the horse is throwing his head to avoid the bit. It shouldn’t matter if the reins are loose or not. Pretty much if the horse has his head and neck where it belongs the running martingale is doing nothing. If he is throwing his head to avoid the bit then it will come in play and prevent that. If he is curling behind the bit or rooting it won’t help you either.

In general I will try a bit or new piece of equipment such as a running martingale, figure 8 noseband ect… a few times before I decide if they do or don’t like it. It sometimes takes both of us time to figure out how to properly use it and respond to it.

I personally like the Beval as a bit with a little bit of brakes but is not very harsh. I use one with a French link.

Thanks! I realize that what I wrote must have been too short to be properly descriptive — didn’t want to go on and on so I left it short, but since you asked I’ll try to describe the effect.

The way I was taught to fit a martingale is to allow the rings to reach the withers when tacking up, so that they do not come into play unless the horse throws up his head. With this specific horse being so sensitive in the mouth I noticed, even when hand walking him prior to mounting that he noticed the tiny bit of extra weight on the reins that comes from the martingale rings and straps. He is the kind of horse that watches you as you tack up, with curiosity, smells everything and looks at new things (such as new bell boots) while being entirely mellow and sweet. But he IS sensitive. So once I mounted and we walked off on a long rein, he threw up his head to see what new thing there was added to our regular tack. Once he threw up his head the martingale did its job and stopped his head. Then he started snorting and shaking his head, then throwing up his head again and again. All on the long rein. He also stopped and backed up, and turned his head to see. I have known many horses who couldn’t care less about martingales, but this boy feels it, tests it, and hates having ‘something’ there. I rode him twice in it, we had the same behavior twice, and it was markedly different to, say, trying out the Kimberwicke, which is also new to him.

I might add that he is the kind of TB that requires the littlest, lightest aids, no spurs or crop ever. When I was researching his pedigree and came to Dr. Fager I learned that he, too, detested the crop, even the presence of it. My boy is downright outraged by it. And again, the majority of horses isn’t this sensitive. Well, he is and I can’t blame him for it, but rather want to work with his nature.

Absolutely! Agreed. We have been trying the 3-ring in the past few days, with the reins attached to the second ring. It allows me to use very light rein aids throughout, but due to the footing we haven’t been cantering or galloping. So that’s still to be seen (and the original reason for trying out new bits and tack).

If he is that sensitive, and you do think a running martingale will eventually work, what about acclimating him to the new weight with an irish martingale, or some other equivalent weight that doesn’t interfere with his head. After he is used to that, perhaps then you can add the running martingale, and that change won’t be as dramatic to him?

Just a thought.


As someone who has owned a sensitive horse and spent too much time pussy footing around her - I suggest you get him accepting of the aids, spurs and crop included. Put your leg on and leave it there, carry the crop and let him figure it out. He’s got to be a “big boy” about some things, and quit throwing tantrums over silly things like two rings on the reins.

Sensitive is fun. Overly sensitive is not.


Another update on the bits:

After several weeks of good use of the 3-ring, we used the double-bridle today. Because this horse’s background is hunter/jumper, he knew Pelham and Kimberwicke bits, but he was entirely new to the double. I special-ordered a rubber Weymouth, already had a double-broken rubber Bradoon, and off we went on our trails and fields.As @Jackie_Cochran suggested in her earlier post on this thread, there are some horses who accept the double-bridle better than any other bit. Same with my guy, he felt content and focused, and was very, very soft/light in contact. Since it was his first time, I didn’t ride with the Weymouth at all, but left it completely loose. The rein contact was only in the Bradoon, but what a huge difference. It felt like a different horse. No head shaking, no over-eager snorting. Just calm focus. A glorious afternoon.

We will explore this more in the coming weeks and see how it develops. Thanks for the suggestion.


I have a hypothesis that the horses use the second bit as a valid “second opinion” even when there is no contact with it. It is like they have a question about the contact or an aid, consult the second bit with their tongue, see the agreement and all their questions are answered, yes their rider DID mean what they “said” with the reins.

Since you are going to continue with the double bridle you may well get to that truly delightful place where the horse “talks” to you by manipulating the bits a little bit with their tongues. I have had many interesting “conversations” with the horse when using a double bridle that I never had when I used a single bit in their mouths.


The difference in acceptance of the double bridle is so marked with this horse that it’s worth thinking about just a little longer: he comes from a hunter/jumper barn. He was guaranteed never ridden in a double bridle in his entire life, but knows Pelhams and Kimberwicke bits. When I started working with him, before buying him, he stood out because of his natural athleticism, as well as the immense lack of basic training: he didn’t know a proper halt, nor a rein back. He had no proper lateral movement training. Being so sensitive, he learned quickly. Now, using a double bridle with him for our conditioning winter work, often in the snow, across fields and trails, he feels like another creature. More balanced, more attentive, never leaning onto the bit, as he did only two weeks ago still, but instead chewing it and playing with it. I have left the curb rein loose all these rides, allowing him to simply get a feel for the additional bit in his mouth without engaging it. And the head shaking has stopped, and the acceptance of the Bradoon snaffle has improved so drastically that our rides are now… a joy. Sounds warm and fuzzy, haha. I have ridden many dressage horses of different training levels in double bridles, but never introduced one to a hunter/jumper type from scratch. This has been eye-opening with him. It’s a fit.


For decades the British fox hunting riders mostly used a double bridle while following the hounds. In fact several hunt seat show classes over there require a double bridle if you want to place. (The British developed the loose ring “Show Pelham” for horses with a small “smile”, whose snaffle ring is attached to the mouthpiece sort of like a Fulmer ring is, and one really needs a bradoon hanger to keep the snaffle ring from flopping around. At a distance it looks enough like a double to fool people but it most certainly does not FEEL like a double bridle in their mouths.)

I read a lot about horse problems here, and often the answer is obvious, these riders really, really need to try a double bridle on their horse. Whenever I read about snaffle/Pelham bits of ever increasing severity I wonder why people rarely think about the double bridle because it has been used by centuries by advanced riders to control hot, hot, hot horses who disagree with their riders sometimes.

I am so glad it worked out so well for you and your horse. Isn’t it amazing how good a horse can get when it finally can understand what their rider is saying with the bits even if you never use the curb rein. I have had horses cheer up considerably when introduced to the double bridle because now they can understand me and my aids.

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