I have had my 5yr old OTTB for 1 month and we had our first starter trial yesterday (we got second place!). He has been off the track since March so still very much a greenie baby. One of the dressage comments was “try a different bit” but no mention of what or why. I can guess why - our transitions both up and down are very stressful and not smooth. Part of it is my issues with connection. He has a sensitive mouth and reacts if I pull or jolt. He has moments of great connection where I should be giving more, but often transitions from walk to trot by throwing his head up and getting hollow. Downward transitions are a bit easier but still not smooth. This was our first trial and my second ever so I was tense on the test but I’m hoping someone can give me a recc. Of what to try. He is currently in a double jointed eggbutt snaffle. He is very forward on the XC but good brain and responsive to slowing down but I don’t want to necessarily go any softer due to his forward nature and racing background. Maybe I can make him more comfortable though. I have a trainer but was hoping to get some outside perspective. Video of our test for reference. Thanks in advance!
When you get suggestions like that, they are indications of a genuine problem. They are however not necessarily the correct fix.
In this case the judge has seen that you have connection problems. It sounds like this is a combination of green horse and perhaps rider skill? You knew going in this wax a big hole in your training and now you have confirmation that it’s visible and a hindrance to competition.
The judge doesn’t know if horse is green, rider has inconsistent hands, or the bit is wrong. Commenting on gear is kinder and more diplomatic than saying things about the horse or riders skill.
The person to answer this question is your trainer. To what extent are your horses issues just being green, to what extent are they your problems with your hands, and to what extent are these two fundamental problems exacerbated by the wrong bit?
No bit change will magically fix a green horse and an unsteady rider.
I think you just need more time and experience, the bit seems fine. For a green 5 y/o that looked pretty darn good!
Also keep in mind that changing the bit for one phase doesn’t mean you have to change it for another…Sometimes a different bit is a huge help, more because a certain shape or size works better than because you need “more” bit – I had one that needed a very thin bit because his tongue was huge…tried the same (loose ring 3 piece, nothing harsh) on my second horse and he hated it; preferred a two-piece and thicker mouthpiece.
I agree with everyone else that good professional eyes on the ground (not the judge, who can only see that snapshot in time) are the best way to work on connection issues. That takes a long time anyway and the bit is only ONE small part of the puzzle - may be totally fine!
In any event “more” bit is almost certainly not the right answer now…
I watched the video and it is rather pixelated but the only glaring transition issue I saw was the left lead canter depart. That looked more like a balance issue than a bit issue. It looked more like you pulled that inside rein hard and kicked him into the canter in the corner and he was a bit upset and discombobulated. Most of the head tossing/shaking I saw looked like busy hands and a bit of balance issue. Due to the quality of the video, I could not see clearly what you were doing with your hands so I’m just going by what I was able to see of the horse.
The majority of racehorses go in a double jointed eggbutt so I would tend to think that the bit is not the issue but as others have said, it could be the judge being diplomatic or making a guess from the few minutes they see of you.
On a previous horse, I had a lot of judges comment to try a posting trot as I almost always sat the trot on that horse. The thinking was my sitting trot was making her tense and shortening her stride. I appreciated the comment but my trainer and I both knew that she just had a short stride (at 15.2HH, she could turn a one stride jump combination into a clear 2 stride - not stride and half, not chip in…two baby strides that made her happy).
So, to reiterate what others have stated - take the judges comment with a grain of salt (as you should take all our comments as well), they are only seeing a few minutes of your horse life in a tense environment.
Your hands need work, a lot of work. You have elbows, bend them and use them-then your hands will not go up and own in the rising trot., nor will they go up and down at the walk, when they need to go forward and back. At some point, you forget to carry your hands and the straight line between elbow and bit is broken.
Your transitions are rough because you do not organize. You need to think sit before canter, and hold the sit on a downward, til the trot is stabilized then you rise.
I would hope that they were using a judge that has not got a even a small "r;, because that is not a bit issue.
Your instructor has a lot of work to do.
I’ve seen some dramatic changes lately due to nothing more than a change of bit, however, I agree with the consensus so far that you don’t seem to have a bit issue. The elasticity in the contact should come from the elbow, but your elbows appear to alternate between floating and locked. There is also a lack of connection between your inside leg and outside rein. Once you get those things sorted your horse will be amazing!
No real comment other than I love your horse. Good luck to you!
OP I don’t think your hands are that bad-certainly not to warrant some of the harsher comments above. If you spend any time watching green OTTBs learn contact you see a lot like this video. It’s much easier to have soft following hands on a well trained experienced horse.
Ask your trainer for an honest assessment and go from there. And enjoy your lovely horse who looks happy to do his job.
I’m a rank amateur, but for what it’s worth, I think you just need more time and work on transitions and developing even contact. A month with a greenie is not much time to develop the strength and balance for the clean transitions and contact expected in a dressage test. I doubt the judge realized how green he was was, or how new your relationship was. It was hard to see with the video quality, but I thought your hands looked pretty soft and sympathetic for the horse. Your trainer will be best placed to give you that kind of feedback and any suggestions for improvement.
If you want to try a softer bit for just the dressage phase (you can keep using the current bit if it’s working for you in stadium & cross), I have been reading good reviews on the Sprenger Duo.
Okay, I spent the first 3 months of showing PRAYING I would get the Right lead :lol:
You are new at this, your horse is really new to this. It was a great start. The connection issues need time to develop, for both of you. Personally, I didn’t see a horse reacting to a bit. I saw a green horse trying his little heart out.
Your trainer will will work with you, I’m sure, at developing a softer, receiving hand that will encourage your guy to seek the connection.
Not to be snarky, but I happen to know many fantastic L graduates. At least two of whom have all the scores and letters for large R (one for S), but lack the finances and time away from their business to run off to the other side of the Country when they get the call that a spot has opened. Let’s not paint with that brush.
is there an eye roll emoji on COTH ? Her instructor is doing fine and I’m sure they’re both working hard and giving the horse the best support they can at this point in both of their training.
OP: I once had a judge tell me a D ring wasn’t really appropriate for a dressage test, to be honest money was tight at the time and it was the only double jointed snaffle I had. He went fine in it and I wanted to spend my money on horse show experience and lessos for both of us. That was my choice. I thanked the judge for the suggestion and kept riding. Borrow some bits if you want to try something new both don’t dwell on it.
For a judge to make that comment based on seeing you and your horse for a few minutes and knowing nothing more…well, that’s a comment you let go in one ear and right out the other…
I don’t care if it’s “more diplomatic” to say it’s a bit issue than a rider issue, that does nothing for the rider. If, as a judge, you think there is a connection issue, busy hands, stiff posture, and/or green tendencies of horse or rider, say so. I rather an honest comment. If it’s my hands, say it’s my hands! I’m looking for constructive feedback if I get any. That’s just my personal opinion, and most judges here are quite straight forward.
I mean you can experiment with bits to ensure your horse is going in the best bit for him/her.
I didn’t see anything incredibly offensive. If I did not read the background if think green horse and/or rider. First outings perhaps. Rider could use more elasticity and bend through the elbow. On the right path, but needs experience and polishing. That’s what you have time and a trainer for. Transitions take balance and strength to be done well. That takes time and work. Not everyone is going to come out and be fantastic straight away, they’re going to have flaws somewhere. Identify and work on them. You have to start somewhere. Overall the horse seems fairly calm for a green fellow, and I can appreciate that.
I’m sorry but I call bs on any judge who would do so.
If a judge want to say something, they should say so… and from all the scribing and shows I’ve done, no judge would make such comment without a real concern for the bit.
IMMHO, if the intend of the judge was to let the rider know there is something wrong with the riding in general and not the bit in particular, it is not kinder at all, it is just more confusing than anything.
The judge should know if a rider has inconsistent hands. That’s their job to see it.
As for the bit, sometime, the judge can see if it’s too low/high in the mouth or too narrow/wide. I’ve had a judge who spoke with a rider at the end of the test just last weekend about that… Curb too wide and dangling down… It was fixed the next day.
To the OP, from your video, your ride isn’t that bad. Lot’s of stuff to work on but nothing worrisome.
Regarding the bit; you ride in a very common bit but maybe it is too wide/narrow or ill fitted? Or the judge saw gaping and extra chewing? Maybe you could try something a little more « framing », like a full cheek or a D-bit.
But from a car behind a 3 planks fence… I don’t see how a good bit assessment was done. And you need to take into consideration the judge’s experience. Not all low level shows will hire very experienced judges… So one that tells you to change your bit in order to fix a riding problem… Not so sure. So a grain of salt is to be taken with this one I think.
Where I agree with Scribbler is that it is up to you and your trainer to evaluate this situation. Is there something wrong? Is there something we need to change? Are we on the right path to success?
As of my advice! : Slow down your posting (control it better should I say - you are going as fast and quick as your horse which isn’t right), learn to have more supple elbows, don’t nag with your hands/fingers, and aim at a lower « frame » for now so your horse opens up at the withers/shoulders and begins to round its back.
You are not pushing him through enough so he’s quick and choppy at part and his canter, when slowed down, gets 4 beaty/lateral because the slowing down comes from the reins. It needs to take longer steps and be forward through. Not slow or fast.
When I started dressage last year, my new trainer pointed out how thin my bits are. I use a lozenge eggbutt for my OTTB mare, but in comparison to some other “stronger” bits in my collection, it is rather thin. If your horse is sensitive to the bit as you say (“He has a sensitive mouth and reacts if I pull or jolt. He has moments of great connection where I should be giving more, but often transitions from walk to trot by throwing his head up and getting hollow”), try a fatter bit, or wrap it in latex.
The “need” for her to use her head for transitions is currently our biggest battle, and is pretty common for OTTBs. Your trainer should be able to give you the tools to work through this.
First, for a relatively green rider in dressage and a green OTTB, I thought that you did a good job. You remembered your test, which is half of the battle. You do need to work on your ring geometry. When you do a free walk, your horses’ poll needs to be lower than his withers. The only glaring error was the left lead canter depart. Put him in shoulder fore, before you ask, so that he is prepared for the transition. Remember to ride forward into downward, as well as upward transitions.
Second, have you ever had body work done on your horse? My OTTB mare was extremely locked up in her body, when she came off of the track. It took several body work sessions to get her loosened up. To me, your guy looks tight in his body. During the video of his test, look at his tail. If it is swinging, equally, back and forth, then his back is relaxed. Your horse does not have a tail swing. Find someone who does PEMF work, as well as being trained to unlock the Fascia.
As far as changing bits, I found that my new horse (who had terrible head tossing issues when I got him) goes better in a Mylar #1 Comfort Snaffle. I had tried a lozenge bit, but he did not care for it. A single jointed snaffle has a nut cracker effect on the bars of the mouth, which can cause some discomfort in some horses. I believe that your Trainer should be the one to help you figure the biting issue out.
Finally, please do not be so hard on yourself? I feel that some of the other posters have been a bit harsh. You are just learning and Dressage is a lifetime journey. Have your instructor work on the softness in your elbow, wrist to reins. Try using your reins, as if you are driving your horse. This will help you feel the contact better. Good luck with your horse. I think that he is quite a nice boy.
Not a bad test for a green bean and New to rider. I do think I see what the judge was touching on. He looks a bit stuck. He doesn’t have a top line either so that indicates this the isn’t new. I like how he was reaching at the walk but he’s not really connected most of the time but still being a good boy.
Some of that is rider (isn’t it always) but you could try a different Dressage bit. See if he likes a loose ring…or d-ring with a similar mouth piece. Or try a soft rubber bit…sometimes it’s surprising what they like.
But in the end, take the comments. Talk to your trainer and keep working on things. Perhaps you don’t need an equipment change and just need more time! He looks like a fun horse and I bet you will have s good time with him.
eta: and trust me…your test was better than mine on my green bean. We almost left the ring on the first canter and he was not connected at ALL. Too busy trying to look out of the ring. I threw good riding out the window and was just trying to wrangle him around to stay in the ring and do the pattern. I was still thrilled with him because he wasn’t being bad…just green. So just keep working on things. It just takes time!
To make you feel better…here was my test (you would have scored better than us). I did not get a comment about bits because clearly my boy is green! And I didn’t think about changing equipment because we do have good work at home. It takes a while before you get that in the ring. And I reverted to my show jumper self as his back was sooooo tight…I did not want to sit up and sit down! https://youtu.be/mng0PocBp2A
Some great advice given so far, and I hope you come back to respond(I see you only have 1 post). You’re doing fantastic by taking the lead into trying to figure out what needs to be changed/addapted and improved on. All of us have things we need to improve on and koodos to you for being out there and learning. I think there is some great advice posted and a lot of it I won’t retype because it’s already been said. Go through the feedback and see what you think will work for you and perhaps bring any questions you might have with your trainer and see how to move forward to improve everything.
Riding a young horse is not for the faint of heart, especially when it comes to eventing. Dressage is an art and is IMO one of the hardest disciplines out there. Keep your chin up and bite down and push forward and go kick some butts in the show ring.
New horse to you… five year old… off the track…
I open the video, and see a lovely test for the pair’s experience, and a nice rider and horse… any “issues” I saw with the test, were “issues” that are very common struggles for riders/horses with the same level of experience.
Judge is neither familiar with you, your horse, or your program. If you are working with a trainer and that trainer is helping you, I might share the information with them but would not be dumping my apple-cart upside down or worrying too much about the comment. Not all judges are familiar with OTTBs, not all are familiar with green horses… You could certainly try and see if it makes a difference, but it might just be normal fussiness that comes in the nascent stages of training for contact. There have been times a comment I received from the judge was tremendously helpful, and times it was very off-base and deconstructive.
That being said perhaps the judge is interpreting the horse’s fussiness with the contact as fussiness with the bit. It could be possible. You certainly could play around… but stick with what works for you. The bit you mentioned is normally my go-to, so other bits I might try if you go that route are: boucher (both single and double jointed), Herm Sprenger d-ring and loose rings, and a soft rubber bit. Check out his palette and see if he needs dental work as well.
I am with BFNE; the last test I had with a 5 y/o OTTB was not anywhere near that quiet - these things just take time - his inconsistency with the contact is just something that requires lots of training and work and patience.
There was nothing “struggles-wise” in your test that I would say is out of the ordinary. The struggles you mentioned having (going above the bit in upward transitions, fussiness, sticky) are all quite common with greenbeans, especially OTTBs learning to accept contact for the first time. One thing I can say, make sure you are not losing impulsion prior to asking for the upward transition - especially at the canter - fight the urge to bring them back and then ask them to canter… often they flip up their head or lose the contact because they are underpowered and the lack of impulsion means they have a harder time striking off a clean transition.
Some things I think will help: have a chiro out for his RH. I think he is battling some residual track weakness there. Work on lots of long and low, with ample praise. If you are comfortable with it, one thing I have done with several of my OTTBs is teach them to lunge in side-reins one or two times a week: side-reins are far more exact in timing than a human will ever be, and I have found they learn quite quickly to accept contact from side-reins which can then transition into undersaddle.
And also, update us with more videos as you two progress. You look like a lovely, quiet rider and your TB is a nice mover that shows lots of promise. Good luck