Junior Cowhorse Bit -- wrong choice for this horse?

Let me preface this by saying that bits are not my forte – I know a good bit about the ones I’ve personally used with my barrel racers and jumpers, and would love to learn more, but I’m a bit in the dark when faced with something new.

I’ve just started working with a horse whose owner has been riding him in a junior cowhorse bit. He’s a bit high strung, very high energy, and has a long way to go before he settles, learns to steer properly, and quit throwing tantrums where he throws his head in the air, bolts, and then tries to buck his rider into a fence. The upsides are that he’s incredibly responsive from the ground and moves like a dream – his bucks feel like another horse’s lope.

Personally, I’ve found that even as a pretty light-handed rider, curb bits tend to get a horse like him even more riled up, and my instinct is to start with some form of snaffle bit that will still give me some pretty serious brakes if i need them, such as a dr. bristol (i’m not sure of the western equivalent). What are y’all’s thoughts regarding bitting him? He’s currently a western horse, and although I’d like to see how he handles jumping in the future i prefer to work in a nice secure barrel saddle until we get past the antics.

I should also add that his owner is VERY heavy handed – something i’m working on with her. Because she gets very scared on him she’s taken to hanging on his mouth, which has now become quite hard.

I would put him in a snaffle bit until he steers properly and gets a little more broke. Since his owner has heavy hands, I would put him in a smooth mouth. However, if you think that isn’t enough, I would put him in a medium twist double jointed snaffle. I like the Reinsman ones.
You could try both and see which one he does better in. You may find that if you start with the twisted one, you can get him soft enough and then move to the smooth snaffle. I suggest that you use a somewhat snug curb strap with a snaffle bit to help prevent it being pulled through the mouth. I know this is controversial, but its not going to hurt if you use it. Like you said, his owner rides him with heavy hands, and the curb strap will give the bit some stability. Once he becomes more broke, you could easily move him back into the cowhorse bit if you wanted to.

Kind of depends on the situation. While I do believe you should have enough training in your horse that you can control them at all times in a basic snaffle, that may or may not be the first bit you go to when you start the retraining process.

Sometimes you can go to a “harsher” bit to get their attention (with good hands, of course) and then can work your way lighter. Again, just kinda depends on the individual horse.

A Jr. Cowhorse (with a dogbone center) is one of my favorite bits. It’s nicely balanced, with low leverage, and you can direct rein.

Now of course one thing to address – has his teeth been checked? Chiro? Saddle fit? Are there any physical problems that could be causing his behavioral problems?

A Jr Cowhorse also has a little bit of gag action, which tells the horse to raise it’s head. You might be better off trying something like an Argentine. It’s just a simple shank bit with a broken mouthpiece. It can also be used as a snaffle/direct rein by attaching the reins to the post near the mouth. I’d recommend a double jointed one.

Ideally you should go back to a regular snaffle of some sort, but if more leverage is need to be safe, I think the Argentine might be better than the JC. But it sounds like this horse needs some serious retraining.

I should also add that his owner is VERY heavy handed – something i’m working on with her. Because she gets very scared on him she’s taken to hanging on his mouth, which has now become quite hard.[/QUOTE]

If the owner can work on developing a strong independent seat, that will give him/her the confidence needed to let go of the horse’s mouth.

That in turn will help solve the bit issue.

Posted by cloudy18:

A Jr Cowhorse also has a little bit of gag action, which tells the horse to raise it’s head.

Interesting. I’ve never heard anyone say this before.

In my mind, that small amount of gag action simply gives the horse a “warning” before the bit fully engages.

There seems to be a very similar purchase length on an Argentine (and maybe lightly longer shank) than compared to a jr. cowhorse. That purchase length is going to apply poll pressure in both cases. The Jr.Cowhorse just gives more of a “warning” before it gets there.



Maybe a Jr Cowhorse isn’t a true gag. But I would think bc of its design it still puts upward pressure on the corners of the mouth, which tells the horse to raise its head. It’s also getting poll pressure, telling it to lower it’s head. An Argentine might be less confusing. I do see what you mean by it giving a warning or presignal though. IMO the gag action is pretty slight in a JC, so it might come down to horse’s preference.

That article seems to be talking about a different type of gag bit that being discussed here. Personally I think a bit like this and a bit like this are very different in terms of the message they send to the horse. Both still “gag” bits by definition because that mouthpiece can slide, but different actions.

Yes a Jr Cowhorse is still a gag bit since the mouthpiece can slide, but of course there is minimal gag action.

For more reading pleasure, here’s an article about the Loomis gag bit. In this trainer’s opinion on this type of gag bit, you NEVER cue both reins at the same time. You either work on suppling the right side of the left side, but not meant to do both at the same time.