Unlimited access >

OTTB recommended bits for barrel racing

We recently got an ottb, and he has been restarted prior to us getting him. He does still need some things worked on . One main thing is his head placement is high , going to start him out with a running Martiangale (unless another recommendation? ) he has been rode in a full cheek snaffle, or a rubber lozenge bit by pervious owner . But we are going to use him for barrel racing, and I don’t want to just put him in my martha josey million dollar bit or my brittany possiz life savor bit until he is further along . What bit do you all recommend ? This is our first OTTB, and I want to make sure we keep going in the right direction with him . He is very willing and has a great mind . We are very lucky to have found him.

1 Like

Good on you for asking for alternatives! I’m just making some suggestions from experience, since I don’t know how you ride or your new horse (congratulations!). Personally I would keep this horse in one of the bits his former owner was using, or maybe a D-ring (since that’s what I have a few different models of) and just work on getting him softer and relaxed and bending with that at slower speeds, lots of walking and when he is getting better there, move up to the trot before working at the canter. His head will likely come down and relax as he loosens up and relaxes. A loose running martingale might help, but keep it loose so if he does drop his head it releases right away. You don’t want to depend on the martingale to do your hands job all the time.

Please take your time and be patient! A willing, great minded horse is worth it. You might not need either of the two bits you mentioned if you are patient.


All of this. :arrow_up:


A trainer once told me he uses a German martingale to help with lowering the head, but he emphasized that he won’t use it for more than 3 rides. It was just a passing comment, so I don’t know the reasons behind his philosophy, but I think he didn’t want the horse to be dependent on the martingale to keep the head low. It was only a temporary teaching aid.


I am curious what you mean by “head placement is high”. Is he hollow/inverted, or just has a naturally high head/neck set as compared to the typical quarter horse? Lateral work will do more for correcting inversion that bit, but if he is just naturally higher in front, then you need to adapt.

I agree with sticking to a snaffle. Curbs are good for brakes, but snaffles are clearer for turning cues.

I also agree that a german martingale can have a place in reshaping a horse’s habits.

1 Like

It’s to each his own on a lot of different things, but I personally do not like “gadgets” like a running Martingale. If you need to use something for a few rides to help your horse understand what you are asking, go ahead, but you don’t want the gadget to become a crutch.

The horse learns to travel with their head lower when they are using their body correctly.
You can’t teach them to use their body correctly with a gadget, IMO.

I’m also not a fan of the Million Dollar Bit either, but that’s just me. (I think there are way too many signals going on at once.)

It boils down to going completely back to basics. Restart him again, if you have to. Go slow. Muscles and muscle memory isn’t gained quickly - it takes time. Don’t even worry about the barrels until you can walk, trot, lope softly, with a moveable ribcage and a soft face.

Go ride with a reining trainer. Go ride with a dressage training. Go the people in your area that can help you put a good basic solid foundation on your horse. If you’ve built the foundation correctly, it’ll be easy to introduce the barrels. If you’ve done your homework and prepared your horse, you can literally go slow lope a barrel pattern on the first day. If you’ve shown them how to travel correctly and they understand where to put their feet (and you can control speed and direction), well, there you go.

And that’s true whether they are an OTTB, a QH, a Paint or any other breed. Basics are basics.


Yeah, you need to teach him to relax and respond to the bit and you body cues correctly. Using anything to “help” lower his carriage by tying his head down teaches him nothing except maybe to lean against it when turning. Don’t start there.

Pretty sure those Champions who advised and endorsed those bits don’t use them to introduce greenies to the skills required to eventually run the pattern. Know a couple of friends who were pretty successful Barrel Racers only used things like that in competition, they schooled in snaffles and rarely the whole pattern at speed. Like the Reiners do.

There should be some videos out there on starting Barrel horses, worth your time to look fir some. Slow and steady to start results in being able to haul a*s around the pattern later.

1 Like