The right bit

I’m thinking I need a new bit for my 17h jumper/eq gelding. He is a forward ride to the jump but easy to control. He isn’t the most balanced and leans on the bit when I ride him in his French link snaffle (schooling only) and when I put him in his eggbutt snaffle gag he is lighter and more balanced but becomes behind the vertical avoiding contact (I use double reins with this bit). I’ve also used a jointed Pelham with double reins but he still gets a bit heavy and low with that. What bits do you use or have used that you would recommend?

edit: I feel I need to clear some things up and better explain, I would not say he necessarily “lacks balance” in the snaffle but I would still say he leans into it. The snaffle is a D - ring French link.
Regarding him avoiding hand contact with the gag this is something he does even if I loop my reins at him to encourage him poking his nose out. He has a longer neck and he bends it towards the top and tucks his nose in because I believe he does not like the gag. I think the gag is becoming too harsh a bit for him and I want to try something less harsh for him that still gives me the control I need. I wouldn’t describe him to be a hot horse, just very powerful.
Thanks for all the schooling comments, I am working on it but right now I am really just looking for bit suggestions to make him more comfortable. If anything is unclear don’t hesitate to ask. TIA
ALSO he has been checked by a vet and dentist and been adjusted by a chiro recently.

I have no bit expertise here, my hunter came to me using a rubber Pelham. We tried a snaffle-jointed metal Pelham, a snaffle jointed rubber Pelham, and a rubber Mullen mouth Pelham. With all these bits, I found he was very heavy on the forehand and difficult to get into a frame—instead of accepting contact, he would lower his head, tuck into his chest, and keep pulling. I had read about the Neue Schule verbidend hunter D while researching bits, and it was described in a way that made it seem exactly what I was looking for. There are a few threads on the forum on this bit (e.g., this recent one…ule-verbindend) where others discuss it as well. I was skeptical and resisted buying it for a while because it is stupid expensive, but I “bit” the bullet a couple months ago and ordered from Dover after they confirmed that I could return it if I tried it and didn’t like it. Our problems with heaviness and dragging me around are much improved in this bit. It’s not a harsh bit at all, yet we still have brakes when he gets excited and a bit unpackaged on the back side of a jump. He also likes to dive-bomb toward the jump, getting heavier and stronger and basically dragging me on the forehand to the fence. This is obviously much more of a training and rider issue than a bit issue, but in the NS verdibend, when I do my job right as a rider, he no longer runs downhill through my hand to leave out two strides and take a Sydney-to-London distance at the fence.

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When it comes to horses that get heavy, my go to is returning to the basics, emphasizing transitions within and between gaits and perhaps a re-focus on conditioning the correct muscles; however, I am coming from a dressage background, so it is hard for me to relate whether you actually need a bit for better control in jumping. The two other bits you’ve mentioned that your horse is “more balanced” in act with greater leverage in which I would argue that your horse is actually not better balanced, but rather giving into the pressure that the bit has generated, especially when you say he has moved behind the bit. This is not what you want in the long-run and may actually further your current issues. Balance does not and will not be produced by the bit, as the bit only helps assist contact and does not influence the body in a way that generates a lifted back and greater weight/push/flexion from the hindend.

When I do look at trying a different bit is when a horse is exhibiting discomfort signs such as over chewing, gaping, twisting, going behind the bit, head tossing etc. I will also check physicals such as teeth and body alignment or pain issues. I’ve worked with a few horses successfully with these various issues and all of them involved some form of re-training. Not always because the initial training wasn’t sufficient, but sometimes because the horses developed tension along the training timeline and started developing the incorrect muscles and a negative mindset to contact. A few just needed further muscle development to be able to hold good balance for longer periods of time.

That being said, if you still feel the need to switch bits, I would ask your vet on what your horse’s mouth conformation is like, which may help narrow down some possibilities. What kind of ring does your french link snaffle have? If it is eggbutt, then a loose ring - french link could just help a little. I personally wouldn’t go to a bit with greater leverage, but that’s me.

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Schooling is always a better alternative to bitting up, but if you are looking for a shorter fix to help in the meantime - Loose ring elevator with whatever mouthpiece (maybe Dr. Bristol) for schooling - it’s a good alternative to the Cheltenham/traditional gag (loose ring elevator is also known as a ‘dutch gag’) but has the added flexibility of multiple rings for the adjustment of how severe you want the poll pressure/action. Start with a single rein on the big loose ring and see how that works. If you want a drop down in severity, you could also try the loop ring snaffle, the one that looks like a loose ring but has a loop at the top for the cheek piece and the bottom for the rein. You get the lift and leverage, but less severity of either variation of the afformentioned gag.

Also, the ‘dropping behind the bit’ to avoid pressure could be a little of the “too much hand, not enough leg” issue we all seem to face from time to time! Good luck!

I’ve been through about a million bits with my current horse. When we first got her I tried her in a full cheek waterford and wasn’t successful. She was super green and needed more transition work. Now, a year and a half later, I can jump her around in the full cheek waterford. We use a gag version for the shows. It’s a soft bit that they can’t grab onto, yet the full cheek gives me steering 😜 they make waterfords in several different options and they’re inexpensive if you’re experimenting. They’re also common so maybe you can borrow one before you buy? Good luck!