Choosing a Driving Bit

I need to pick up a driving bit as my IVC harness has arrived and all I have handy are full cheek snaffles. Currently we are riding in a slow twist snaffle which has helped him learn to not lean on the bit which he was very good at in the regular snaffle. Dressage trainer and I are planning to put him back in the smooth snaffle soon as he is really progressing and doesn’t need the slow twist as much now.

In all of my riding history, I really have only used snaffles. For my driving lesson last year it looks like the trainer had a Liverpool of some sorts with some kind of port. He was fine in that too.

Any recommendations? His previous owner drove him with a snaffle as well.

Here was the bit from our lesson. I’ll be getting my trailer back this weekend and then we will be resuming lessons and cart shopping!

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Your fella is quite handsome! I’m using an eggbutt french link on one of my minis that was fussy and would lug/lean on the bit and he really likes it. It may well be a riding bit and not a driving bit but it is serving the purpose. It did not want anything with a half cheek because I’m always somehow getting myself hooked on half-cheeks, lol. Also, the french-link also doesn’t interfere with his palate which I’m sure he appreciates. I think you just have to try a few bits until the magic one comes along!

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You have the IVC Harness of My Dreams :heart_eyes: :thought_balloon:
Except mine will be mini-size & 2-tone :grin:

If your guy goes well in a snaffle, stick with that option.
Or, as you said, the Liverpool. Hard to see in your pic, but that appears to be a Butterfly with a straight mouth & low port.
ETA:
D’OH!
I was looking at the wrong pic :expressionless:
Yes, that is a Liverpool.

My mini has gone in a mullen mouth 1/2 cheek as long as I’ve had him (going on 6yrs).
I prefer the straight mouth as his palate is narrow & a snaffle seems too “poky”.
The French link @cayuse mentioned could work for him :thinking:
But I’m wanting to move him up to a Glory/Butterfly so I’ll have the option of more leverage as he progresses.

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You could call the trainer to ask what type Liverpool bit they used on him. The mouth in the photo is not clear. Besides the mouthpiece being a copper mixed metal, I can’t see if the center is squared or a rounded port. The port “appears” be leaning forward, not aligned with the sides.

I always prefer swivel sides, so rein is ""leading horse around turns. I have put rubber bit guards on our bits, so there is no lip pinching as the cheeks swivel.

You will want to measure his mouth width, so bit won’t rub or pinch him. Fjords often have very wide mouths, a 6 inch bit is not uncommon for them. You may also need to have the top rings flared out to not rub his molars when bridled. A welding shop, maybe your Farrier with a forge, could heat the bit and flare out those rings for you. Stainless steel needs heat to move or it can fracture.

Linda Evens has a used driving equipment consignment business. Perhaps she would have a used bit in the mouthpiece and size you want at a discount price. You can Google Bit-go-round, which I think is her business name.

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Yes, bit go round, she does have a few 6" bits in stock.

Bitting is a bit of a sore subject between Xander and I, never have I owned and equine with so many opinions on bits, and so few of them favorable! And of course I have a bit box that is the byproduct of over 5 decades of collecting bits, but go on and ask me how many of them were 6 in bits before he came along. So to say the last couple of years of bit experimentation has been a bit frustrating and challenging for my pocket book, (generally at $200 a pop) is to understate the problem!

But here’s a few things I’ve learned:

In general the snaffle or three link liverpools aren’t that great in my experience, there’s just something about how they move once you go past the smooth or rough cheek setting that makes them uncomfortable to the horse. I don’t know how to describe it but the shanks rotate in at the top. If you have a horse that goes correctly in that style mouthpiece, then I feel like that’s just something you can leave as a half cheek rather than go to a liverpool.

Fjords have a lot of tongue in their mouth and straight bar (smooth or rough) liverpools are generally pretty harsh. I’m not saying there aren’t moments that call for it, but it shouldn’t be the first thing out of your box!

If you’ve got a really soft fjord who has issues with tongue pressure, it’s probably worth investing in a Bowman UTR

If your pony likes a bowman UTR but still needs a bit more bit as it were, then good luck finding a Conrad Liverpool!

At some point you may find yourself in a clinic with a well-known dutch driver/rider and you may find out that your horse actually needs a very specific and uncommon custom bit made by a crotchety old Hungarian who only makes them when he feels like getting around to it and you should probably find a German to order it since his German is better than his English. This will be extra devastating when you find out that this is the bit your fjord has waited for all his life! #truestory

At the very least, you probably want a forward arch Mullen mouth, this seems to give them about the most amount of relief. And if you have that with a two slot Liverpool then you can generally get the job done on smoother rough cheek, first or second slot. Fortunately that’s about the cheapest option out there so it might be a good place to start.

If competing is ever an option and you have a second slot horse, you may just want to go ahead and invest in a three-slot bit because nobody wants to go in the ring on a dead man’s slot!

Xan does marathon and cones in the Bowman UTR and he is currently fairly happy in wilson rings plus a forward arch Mullen for dressage schools. One day it will be a Pivot Conrad plus wilson rings, but … Crochety Hungarian. In the meantime I’ll try the Bowman with the Wilson rings as well.

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Thanks for the bitgoround recommendation! This is great. We’ve been riding in 5.5 inch bits; I think we could at least stand to try a 6 inch? He doesn’t protest but I think the 5.5 could be a hair too small.

@DMK - I had the Bowman Victory 45-Degree Liverpool Horse bookmarked from IVC’s site when I was reading though their bit guides as something to start with. For the price tag though, I want to make darn sure I get the size right.

This story sounds hysterical!

I was at a DAP clinic a few weeks ago, and the bit box was rummaged through about 10 minutes into my first lesson. A unique combination of 4" rings (to create a Wilson style bit) and this custom liverpool bit (Conrad style mouthpiece but it pivots/rotates at the center of the port) was put together for my pony. I’ve never actually seen him respond so quickly, correctly… and happily… to any bit like he did with this combo!

The clinician let me use the bit combination for the several days of the clinic and he just got softer, straighter, more correct… It was amazing! But for some reason he was VERY insistent that I returned the bit to him before the last day! It probably didn’t have had anything to do with the fact that I had threatened to sneak off in the dark of night with it! :rofl:

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Yeah, it might be worth investing in one of those mouthpiece measuring things, they are cheap insurance.

Also if you see a Bowman bit you like, and they have it in the size you need, I would not waste too much time before purchasing it. Apparently he is really focusing on the quarter horse and saddlebred bits these days, which tend to go for more money so not as much focus or attention is being paid to the driving bits… I’m not saying Myrna laughed at my request for a 6" 3-slot Conrad Bowman but that’s because she’s had some practice holding it in!

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Driving Essentials has a Conrad Liverpool in a 6 inch width, for $295. It does have a 3 slot shank, but you could get it shortened to only 2 slots.

We measure using a new pencil, thru the mouth. Put one end against the left outside of lip, then make a mark on pencil on the right side. Don’t push against the lips in getting the width, some horses have thick lips and need that actual extra little space. Measure the pencil from end to your mark to get the bit width needed.

I do suggest borrowing such a bit if possible!! Having attended a lot of clinics, sometimes “the magic bit” loses the magic after a week or 10 days of use. The new places it touches no longer respond like back on the first day. It really HURTS when you spend a lot of money and bit doesn’t work now. Other folks like DMK do see good effects, feel actual changes, so they are going to invest in the new bit.

I borrowed a bit from the clinician at one clinic, saw and felt the change, but not a bit I wanted to own. Put the regular bit back on for the last day and got all good answers from horse! So just the few days was all she needed to “see things my way” and we both were happy as we headed home. She stayed good at home after the clinic, the learning stuck.

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So true about the temporary effects of the new bit! I’ve starred in that movie a few times! But typically buying that bit was considerably cheaper than bits these days. Fortunately part of the “fix”, adding Wilson rings, was super cheap (Amazon, 4" stainless steel rings and some zip ties for safety) and I think that part might be most of the answer, but I’m not gonna lie, I WANT that Conrad pivot bit in the worst way.

I knew about the Driving Essentials Conrad, but I am just about done with $300 oops-that-didn’t-work bit purcha$e$, so I kept trolling European and UK sites for a less expensive version. No luck, but crochety Hungarian is actually a bargain comparatively speaking so I may get my preferred bit for less than $300+!

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@DMK @goodhors

Im thinking we should be in a 6 :thinking:

Poor guy is dealing with a vaccine induced fever now since Thursday and must have thought I was going to give him more medicine with the bit measure. Once he figured out it wasn’t medicine I had to pry it out.

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I did a bit of stress shopping today with Charlie’s fever. I found a few 6” bits

For driving:
Liverpool Snaffle for $25 off bitgoround - figured for the price might as well pick it up

For riding:

  • Basic loose ring snaffle
  • Full cheek slow twist (current but but too small)
  • Stubben Steeltec EZ Control Loose Ring Snaffle @DMK I saw you had recommended that on another post and it seems to have great reviews online. Got it in a 6 and 20% off through Facebook marketplace. Seemed like the best I was going to get on that one!

Im excited to see what Charlie thinks :slightly_smiling_face:

The ez control is about the only snaffle type bit that Xan likes, probably because it acts more like a mullen mouth than a 3 link. He doesn’t mind the neue schule verbindend as part of the full bridle but I learned the hard way he has strong opinions about it as a stand alone bit!

Good luck!

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None of our horses like the broken mouth curb bits. Too much movement with each side “doing it’s own thing” as you ask things with the reins. We drive Multiples, but they don’t like them out on the long lines or the short time they get driven as singles in training.

Kind if funny, with all the mouthpieces available, we use solid mouthpieces with various ports the most. I have a variety of 6 inch mouths, Liverpool sides, they ARE hard to find! All have swivel sides, may have little differences that a particular horse may prefer. Two like loose jaw mouthpieces to play with, others never play with their mouthpiece. BUT keeping horse going even, balanced, seem much easier for us with a solid mouthpiece. . We may do some changes as horses develop, gain knowledge, but often end up back with the basic low port mouth.

We do have two that really like what I call a Sweetwater mouth that husband had to make for them. Trainer had the bit, both horses REALLY liked it at her house, went well with it for her. But like DMK, we could not pry it out of her hands!! Ha ha None to be found among sale choices. Not willing to spend for cutom made times 2 bits. So I got a couple draft bits, which husband reworked, changing the mouthpieces into the desired shape and widths. He is a blacksmith, very good with metals. They look “store bought”, horses are happy.

Mouthpiece is flat over the bars, rising into a wide medium low port for tongue relief. It was a Sweetwater mouth way back in my Western riding days. Fell out of favor with other designs gaining popularity since. I do not like the arch and mullen mouthpieces, that go across bars at an angle, not fully supported by the bars for comfort.

I am not a big snaffle bit user, except as a step during training. We find that we can get good contact, self carriage, NO HANGING ON YOUR HANDS, better and faster with the curb bits. Their heads are TOO big to be holding them up! I want us “talking” thru the reins, touching thru contact. Horse reaching for that contact if reins give slack, “bridling up”, driving from behind, but no heavier contact, if reins are taken up. Guess it is a leftover from our Western riding pasts! Ha ha No aching arms when finished driving.

I’ve never had a horse hang on the bit like Charlie does, granted he’s young, he’s a fjord, and learning everything from scratch. Switching from the regular snaffle to the slow twist made a world of difference, I had never felt that much difference from a bit switch until then. My dressage trainer likes to say that it should feel like youre holding a loaf of bread in your hands, and for a while our bread was made of lead! He’s really starting to get the idea of finding contact with the bit and stay on it though. Still a long ways to go but the progress with that in the last year is huge at the walk, trot, and canter.

Im really excited to see his thoughts on these new ones and am definitely going to be keeping an eye open for used 6’s. I’ve not really played around with bits so this will be a good learning experience.

Back when I first started riding dressage I went to a clinic with Betsy Steiner. Aside from being one of those really good dressage clinicians she’s also ridden many Fjords over the years, so talk about a clinic tailored to my needs (it was awesome).

I’m barely schooling first level at this point… The first phrase out of her mouth was, “oh wow, you’re in a snaffle, not a full bridle!” Said more in a tone of mad respect, not judginess.

I made it another 8 months in a snaffle then switched to the full. I found once we started lateral and collected work I literally could not stop his “go to” response when things got hard, and that response was to add a little more downhill forward to the equation. He wasn’t being evil, all horses try to answer new questions by trying the things that are easiest for them first, but thanks to that neck he was getting away with it to an extent. Cue full bridle. Thanks to that change now he CAN carry himself and he is much lighter in the hand. I still think spending time in the snaffle was useful but we didn’t really see fast progress until he met my best friend, Mr Curb Chain!

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Gorgeous fjordie!

Leaning on the bit seems to be a bit common for a fjordie. I ride my mare (also fjord) in a myler tilted port … I think it’s an mb36 maybe, which works well for her and reminds her not to lean as it relieves tongue pressure when she stops leaning. When driving, I use a Conrad bit which is a similar concept to her myler.

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Young horses do seem to want the rider or driver to hold their heads up. I would believe the Fjord build of short muscular neck, often a thick throatlatch, can make it more difficult to get light on your hands, lifting the front end to reach forward.

We have also had a lot of learning to get thru in developing our horses. That “natural” head carriage just is not there when they go out on the long lines! It takes a good while before horse figures out the desired headset is the most comfortable one. Husband says he just doesn’t look at heads and necks while getting gaits consistant on the lines. Too much like watching a "“drinky bird” toy with head going up and down! First they travel with noses on the ground, snake hunting, then sky watching for evil finches going by. Eventually horse does “get it” starts traveling with a level neck, giving to the bit a little.

As DMK said, Mr Curb Chain on curb bit makes a huge difference in horse figuring he needs to start putting nose more vertically, because bit with chain is more comfortable that way. None of our bits have the angled or swivel mouthpieces. Getting vertical is not too difficult for them as they build muscling, learn “how to go” in travel. Fjords have such a different conformation to work with than ours, that other ideas, bits, can work better to reach your goals. Having Clinicians familiar with the Fjord breed and training issues has to be a huge help! We see similar issues with Haflingers, shorter necks, thicker throatlatches, lots of body to try lifting the front for advancing the levels, without horse hanging on your arms.

Snaffles have their place, but for us it is a short term thing. And call me a softy, but I am unwilling to go to a twist mouthpiece. Sharper edges on tender bars makes me cringe. It may be a snaffle, spoken of as the KINDEST bit. Yet bit is NOT NICE if mouths are not smooth. If horse NEEDS that harsh mouthpiece for control, just change to a curb bit! I hate someone looking down on my curb bit with rough cheek rein setting, while telling me “My horse only needs a snaffle, so light mouthed!” Then I see the amazing, thin, double-twisted wire “snaffle” and wish I could put it on the person! They have no clue what is going on in the horse mouth.

Getting off my soapbox here, bitting is a trigger for me! Sorry.

Bit shopping can be fun! I have way too many. But not much of a driving horse market locally for my too small bits. Buying bits in bundles to get the one I want, has created this surplus. Probably should list them on FB fo someone else to enjoy.

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I used to show Quarter Horses and the amount of these types of bits I saw in that world was awful. People would custom make ones that looked legal without seeing the whole thing, but we’re wire thin.

Trainer wants to go back to the plain snaffle since he has been laying off having me hold him up. I’ll talk to her about about something with a curb and see what her thoughts are!

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