Bits to Stop Rooting?!?

Hey all looking for some input on bits. My horse has been rooting really badly lately, I have been working with my coach to improve his rooting which has helped, but not enough. It has came to the point where is almost not fun anymore to ride him. His normal bit is a D ring french link but currently using a waterford( excuse my spelling), it has helped but not too much. Can anybody recommend bit that works well for this? Anybody been in this situation before? Also we are hunters/jumpers so no western bit suggestions please and thanks. :slight_smile:

The problem with most bits that will “stop rooting” is that you need a really educated hand to use them, or else you can cause other problems.

It is generally not a bit issue. It is a throughness and acceptance of aids issue. I suggest a simple bit, something like a silicon mullen mouth, then work through the body issues producing the rooting.

Agreed, not fun.

You say he has been rooting really badly lately - so it’s a recent problem? I would look at ruling our physical issues before jumping to a new bit. Rooting can be pain related.

If pain or other physical issues are ruled out, I would tend to a training solution, rather than a bit.

If you have light hands then your horse would have nothing to root against. Rooting has little to do with the bit itself and will keep happening no matter what bit you change-until you loosen up the grip on the reins

Or he’s trying to keep tne weight off his back end because his hocks hurt…and, no, they don’t limp if both hurt.

Its a classic sign of arthritic changes in the hocks. After X rays to confirm, there are some good, effective options like Adequan, Legend and IA injections.

Most, if not all, horses experience degradation of joint function/arthritic changes as the years and miles build up and it shows up as performance issues like rooting, leaning, sucking back and canter depart/lead change problems.

Hint, don’t skip the X rays or you could waste money treating what isn’t wrong with no improvement.

On the other hand, if there is no physical issue, and you are a balanced rider with good hands, and your horse has simply developed a habit that works for him, and continues to work for him because he is stronger than you are, the classic bit fix is a simple pulley gag snaffle, with two reins. Soft simple snaffle mouthpiece, which works just like regular snaffle, as long as the horse does not go to root and tow you DOWN. If he does that, the action of the bit changes, with the pulley rein automatically changing the action of the bit onto the corners of the mouth to raise the head, instead of allowing him to put the pressure on the bars, where he can tow from. The rider does nothing different, just holds the two reins like a Pelham configuration, with the pulley rein held as the curb rein. When the horse finds that he can no longer pull from his bars, he no long can engage in this habit The habit usually extinguishes itself in a few weeks or months, and you can go back to using a regular snaffle again.

Training that encourages the horse to tow includes race training (so it is often seen in OTTBS), and trainers who do a lot of pulling on the reins to gain a “head set” that they think is key to success. It is not key to success of course, but some people seem to think it is. Make sure you have not developed this habit in your horse due to this sort of riding and training. Always ride soft in the hands, do not pull. If you are pulling on the reins, you have already lost the battle. The horse should carry his own balance, and go forward from the leg. Your hand should be passive, quiet and soft and giving, always. Use your hand to cue direction and pace changes. Release pressure immediately after the cue. Do not pull, or hold pressure. To tow, a horse has to have something to tow against. Don’t be that thing. If the horse is towing, he is heavy on his forehand and not correctly engaged from behind. As the previous poster wrote, this can be due to hind end issues, problems, unsoundness. Or previous incorrect training or training goals.

Good luck with your horse. Ride forward from your leg, with an engaged horse who carries his own balance, and does not lean or balance himself on your hand. It is not your job to hold your horse up, it is his job.

I 'm tired of everyone blaming OTTBs for all sorts of things. Most exercise riders use their seats and weights to ride their horses. Pulling on a horse when riding in an exercise saddle, is a good exercise in losing a battle.

When riders don’t ride their horses up and forward, and use the reins as speed and gait contol, the horse learns to pull back., and/or hang. Physical problems excluded a heavy in the hand horse is a horse not being ridden forward. This is not an easy to explain thing on a website, but needs to be taught by an instructor who understands the principles.

I agree with NancyM.

I had a young horse who developed this habit and it got to the point that he injured my ribs at a horseshow from how hard and violently he was rooting. It didn’t look as awful as it felt when I replayed the videos, and he would root “out” more than down (though the overall motion was still down). It was his “thing” he could get away with and he did it whenever he was pissed or anxious about something. Giving him a sharp jerk or smacking him with the crop when he did it (my usual go-tos) did nothing other than make him think it was a game. Also, he was as soft and light in the hands as a horse can possibly be…except when he rooted. That meant I couldn’t go to a stronger bit because 99% of each ride I needed something soft enough that he would be willing to lean on it and not curl behind it. The show where he injured my ribs went really well in general and he jumped around the jumper ring like a million bucks…it was just that he rooted down 3 or 4 times around the corner in each round and that was enough to do me in!

I eventually put him in a soft bit with a curb chain. Similar to what NancyM said about a gag, the curb chain was enough that he would hit that when he slammed his head down. Using that for about 6 months pretty much fixed the problem (which I think partly stemmed from some weakness in his hind end that we were addressing via bodywork and conditioning). After that first 6 months I went back to a french link snaffle for daily and show riding, and just put the bit with the curb chain on for day 1 of shows or clinics.

I agree with other posters that rooting can have roots (ha ha) in weakness or soreness. But I also think that once a horse figures out it can get away with it relatively unscathed, it can become a habit that’s tough to fix.

Once pain issues have been ruled out, I am also a fan of the gag. I have a very large, very downhill mare - she moves off the leg well and is a very good (albeit hot) girl. She tries very hard to carry herself but her default is to be heavy and on the forehand. We do lots of transitions, poles and lateral work, which helps tremendously, but she is built like a wheelbarrow and an occasional tune up with a snaffle mouth, cheltenham gag works wonders. Once she realizes she can’t bear down and lean on me, and starts to softly pat the ground again, we go back to her regular bit. It does take two to pull and rooting/leaning is a training issue but I believe there is nothing wrong with carefully using a corrective tool sometimes. My mare would much rather me half halt her gag rein a few times than argue constantly with her. Maybe that makes me less of a horseman in some people’s eyes, but it keeps our rides less stressful on the both of us.

I do, however, highly recommend having a vet check out the hind end before switching up bits. If this is a new issue, it can surely be a sign of things getting creaky. When one of my geldings, who is normally very soft and light, starts rooting or leaning on me, it’s normally because his hock arthritis is acting up and putting the gag on him would not be the correct thing to do.

Its always been an issue with the horse getting lazy and behind the leg- an evasion to having to carry themselves, so they ask you to carry them. It’s also very impolite.

The front of the teeter-totter goes down, back end goes up.

Add leg and the horse should be just fine.

[QUOTE=ladyj79;8582351]It is generally not a bit issue. It is a throughness and acceptance of aids issue. I suggest a simple bit, something like a silicon mullen mouth, then work through the body issues producing the rooting.

Agreed, not fun.[/QUOTE]

More than that - rooting is typically a sign of discomfort. In my experience, time and time again, it is almost always saddle fit or hocks. Like Findeight said, rooting is very frequently linked to sore hocks, which cause other issues - sore stifles, sore SI issues, before you know it, sore necks, sore front limbs…

Please do not “bit up” this horse in the effort to silence him. The only way horses can communicate that they are in pain is by misbehavior. X-ray his hocks and get a saddle fitter out ASAP.

Spurs and a crop.

I am another gag bit fan. My mare was very heavy on her forehand, in part because of her thick neck. I tried almost every bit (think bit of the month club) until a very well known eventing trainer recommended a gag bit. Obviously, a bit can’t substitute for training, but I found that when she starts to get low and heavy the gag really gets her off her forehand quickly, especially when she realizes that she is pulling against herself. I can ride her on the buckle most of the time now.