Cross Post ---- Working Equitation - Switching from riding two handed to one; bit choice/techniques etc

Original post

Short version! Dressage is the basis for Working Equitation and is primarily what I ride with my fjord gelding. He is 5 and is early in his training but coming along nicely; we plan to start showing next year in the introductory trials.

I have been riding him two handed in a full cheek slow twist snaffle. I would like to start working to get us riding one handed as it lends itself better to the Ease of Handling trial of WE where there are obstacles. The third trial is a Speed trial with obstacles.

Obstacle examples:

I am hoping to get some advice on transition off a snaffle to a bit that lends itself to one handed riding. My dressage trainer is admittedly not well versed in this area so any insight, bit recommendations, resources etc around this would be wonderful!

The video that got me interested:

Rewatching, she isn’t riding one handed the whole time, but her horse is response to both ways.

I am familiar with WE as it’s pretty popular in the Phoenix area south of me. I did western dressage on my last horse (RIP, Wally) and it was an easy segue to learn the WE obstacles on him. While I rode him in a couple of WE clinics, I never got the chance to compete him. :cry:

Anyway… to transition to riding one-handed… For WE you don’t need to have a horse that neck reins like a horse in the western show pen. But your horse will need to understand how to collect, move laterally (for instance, side pass a few steps) and also circle with one hand. Bottom line: It’s all about your horse being schooled to respond well to your leg and seat aids, absent cues from a direct rein.

For bits, I’d forego the inappropriately named “western snaffle” or “Tom Thumb snaffle.” I hate those bits! Instead, when I’m moving a horse from a snaffle to a curb, I go to a short shanked bit with a broken mouthpiece, where the center link is a dogbone shape or a little copper roller. They allow the green horse to mouth the bit without being afraid of it, yet help enforce the concept of neck reining. And I use a plain, flat leather curb strap. After that, as the horse’s training progresses, eventually I can go to a short shank, low port mullen curb or a short shank, low port correction bit, depending on the horse. But that’s months down the road.

Have fun, enjoy something new and good luck with Working Equitation. It’s really something different with lots of unique challenges for a well-schooled horse and rider. :+1:

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Thank you! Im sorry to hear you never got to compete your last horse :frowning_face:

Something like this?

When I did ride/show western, it was all on well trained horses so I have little experience on the training side to neck reining/bit choice.

We are doing really well with seat/leg cues; moving shoulders and haunches, shoulder in and walk and trot, some shoulder cues at the canter, side passing etc. None of it is perfect, but he is figuring out what cues mean what really nicely.

I am really looking forward to training towards WE especially now that it is starting to get a little traction locally. My guy enjoys changing things up a lot and it is the perfect combo of dressage and things to do! Next week we have a cow sorting outing and I am SO curious to see what he thinks of all that. :cow:

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We have just started with WE, and so far have done everything two handed in his snaffle, only changing to one hand when required to use regular working hand. You don’t have to use a curb, at least at lower levels.

We are now transitioning my boy, and best advice I was given was to stay with the mouthpiece you have and find that in a shanked version, if he’s comfortable with what’s in his mouth, why change it?

I am so glad to have a trainer to lead me through riding one handed, not at all how I thought you did it, definitely advise taking some lessons, so you don’t both end up confused and angry with each other.

This is a time that having a trainer with 100’s of bits about is a godsend, you can try a bunch before you have to buy.


I rode Western as a kid, developed an excellent neck rein on the horse. As an adult it’s mostly dressage foundation. My experience as an adult is that neck rein is actually mostly seat and leg aids. I found that when my seat and leg aids became consistent enough, horse would turn on a loose rein, on an outside rein, or on a neck rein if she doesn’t have a strong opinion otherwise in which case all bets are off and you need inside rein :).

I just found the transition happening with our regular snaffle. My cue to turn is to look in the direction of intended travel which automatically makes my torso rotate and my outside thigh press the horse. When I’m schooling actual dressage most of the direction changes come off this with reins directing balance, lateral or longitudinal flexion as needed, and outside rein moderating the degree of turn. So most of the hands free turn develops inherently with dressage schooling. It may not be 100 per cent a neck rein for Western purposes but its really functional for WE which is dressage based.


You can teach a horse to neck rein in any bit.


Of course you can. And you can successfully compete in WE in a snaffle (or a bosal), although that can get tougher as you go up the levels, depending on your horse.

However, the OP specifically asked this:

So this was what I was responding to.

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I am surprised your dressage coach can’t help you with riding one handed. The skill will develop if you learn to ride inside leg to outside rein and develop self carriage. They may just have never thought about it that way, but I bet their horses would work off the leg and outside rein on its own. One easy way to work towards the ability to ride one handed, is to ride with your hands consistently together, so the horse starts to learn to associate rein pressure (or removal of rein pressure) with turning, rather than off bit pressure.


I was responding to the same. No need to switch bits just to be able to ride 1 handed. I didn’t know if OP was aware of that since many western horses are not shown in a snaffle.


Why do you feel you need to switch bits to ride your horse one-handed?

You can one-hand in a snaffle.
Heck, you can one-hand in a halter.
The bit or headgear they have on their head is irrelevant. Your neck reining comes from your seat and legs first, and then if needed, you lay the rein on their neck. The bit isn’t engaged at any point so that’s why the headgear doesn’t matter.

If anything, I would argue to STAY in a snaffle bit because then your step #3 [if the horse has not responded to seat/legs, and has not responded to the neck rein], is then you pick up on your direct rein to help the horse if they did not understand the first 2 chances at the cue that you gave them.


I’m well aware you can neck rein in a snaffle. We are working on that currently and he is doing quite well taking the seat and leg cues. I’m asking about the transition because it’s out of my wheel house and if/when we would get there, I’d like to know more than I do now.

Personally, I hate anything with twisted wire mouthpiece and I usually won’t use it. (Never say never, but it’s pretty rare.) I also, in general, don’t like snaffles or bits with a single joint. If my bit has a broken mouthpiece (snaffle or otherwise), it usually got a dog-bone center or similar.

That’s what works for my hands and my horses, and I feel I get softer responses from them. I don’t like the nutcracker effect of a single joint, and I don’t like the harshness of any twist.

So with that said, my choice of a transition bit is something that has a similar mouthpiece as my snaffle but just adds a short shank to introduce them to shank pressure.

This is one of my go-to snaffle bits.

So therefore, something like this is my go-to for the next step. I can still pick up on one direct rein if I need to, because of the action of the bit.

But not to sound like a broken record, but if he’s going well in the snaffle, there really wouldn’t be a reason to switch him. Is your reasoning just because that’s what a person is supposed to do? Bump up their bit as you go? Looking at your EOH website you posted, I see most of the riders going in bosals and snaffles so I assume there aren’t any show rules on headgear.

FYI: a slow twist isn’t the same as a twisted wire.

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