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Waterford - gentle or not?

Hi all,
I have a coming 10 y/o Dutch WB gelding who I’ve had for a year but has had some unfortunate injuries. He is starting to trot in a few days after a partial lateral patellar ligament tear and rehabilitation. He is big and long but pretty light in the bridle. Before I got him I was told he had a hard mouth but I’ve found he goes quite well in a lozenge snaffle – nice and soft.

He sets his jaw in a regular single jointed snaffle, gets heavy and feels like a totally different horse. He didn’t love a French link but seems to appreciate a bit with more motion. I will hopefully in the near future do much more with him (maybe low hunters or something low key) and want something with a little more oomph than a big old 3 piece loose ring.

Is a Waterford soft or not? He was gelded late and is mouthy - loves to chew on chains and plays with the bit a little, so I wonder if he may like the Waterford. Or should I avoid something he could play with a little?

His flatwork improved so much over the past year, and I don’t want to toughen up that nice soft mouth I get with the lozenge snaffle. What are your experiences with Waterfords and horses like this?

Thank you!

I really liked the waterford for a horse that has a busy mouth or one that likes to lean on the bit. I think it has very little stopping power.


He goes well in a lozenge snaffle. What do you hope the Waterford can achieve that the snaffle cannot?


Well… a horse’s soft mouth has a lot more to do wth the riders hands than the bit.
As far as the Waterford it’s one of my favorite bits. I’ve used it on horses with shallow mouths where a traditional single joint snaffle annoyed them as I suspect the joint poked them in the roof of their mouth.
It all depends on the problem you are trying to solve and the horse and your hands. For a horse that feels heavy I would be inclined to try something sharper to get the horse to respect the hand aids but that can only be done by an educated hand.


I’m also a fan of the waterford. My horse that gets heavy goes really well in it. I can keep a really light contact. But on the other hand if he decides he’s feeling fresh and going to take off on me I can actually stop him. He’s one where he really fights me with a strong bit but I have no control with a soft bit. The waterford is the perfect compromise for us. I find a lot of horses like it. But a soft independent hand is a must or it can be severe.


It might be that he appreciates a somewhat thinner bit. (Hard to know for sure given the information in the OP). I suspect that the Waterford is thinner than the lozenge-link bit, and if that’s true, it might be that a thinner double-jointed bit would make the horse happy as well.

I’m a big fan for a waterford, when you have a horse that is sensitive to correction but hardmouthed. I’ve gotten a few that must have been corrected harshly for misbehaviors VIA the mouth before I got them - I don’t like that, I think it can make a horse very gunshy of contact, and often times they’ll act out and then anticipate being jerked in the mouth and that is just no fun for either rider or horse. It’s a very challenging combination to fix that takes a lot of time and care. I’ve had great luck using it on horses that have learned to grab the bit and run.

I don’t think it has much stopping power as people think it does, but it’s great because a horse can’t pull against it the way they can pull against a straight or even single link mouth piece.

I don’t think they are harsh when usedin good hands. I think if you are soft and don’t waterski on their mouths, it’s a good bit for a horse that is anxious about bits/contact but also dead to the mouth.

The only thing to be careful about is that a waterford shouldn’t be used for encouraging contact with the bit. IMHO perfectly fine for if you are hacking out, or conditioning or an XC/jump school, but if you are going to be schooling dressage I think it is an inappropriate bit as it doesn’t have immediate release from tension the way straight-bar and single joints do, but YMMV.


Depending on what you mean by “heavy”. A Waterford was a godsend for a mare I used to have - she would lay on a bit if she could, but she was never a puller, if that makes sense. The Waterford doesn’t have much in the way of stopping power, so if he’s heavy in the sense that he will run through your hand and potentially run away with you, this may not be the right choice. If he just lays on the bit and gets a little heavy in your hands, this could be a great option!

Based on your description, I might try a Pelham with a lozenge before a Waterford.

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Hi, thanks all for your replies and sorry for late update. He is not a leaner and does not have a hard mouth but when fresh or if frazzled at all he gets quite stiff, and the loose ring may not be enough at a horse show in the future (nor do I like the look of it at a show).
I tried him just walk/trot (cantering in 2 weeks) in the waterford. He was okay but not nearly as soft as in the loose ring. I feel like every time he’s been in a dee ring he sets his jaw, but goes great in loose rings. Is it possible he dislikes a fixed snaffle? If so, I guess he will just go in that forever!

Thanks guys.

This may sound counter-intuitive, but you might think about trying a nathe, or my favorite version of it: the Herm Sprenger Duo. I ride both of my horses in one, and at this point the majority of the horses in my barn go in one. I have an older TB who hates metal bits and LOVES his duo, and a stereotypical WB who is big and can be heavy and likes to go on his forehand. Some of that was his trim and shoeing, which I’ve corrected, but after trying all sorts of bits, including a waterford and a French link, we’ve settled on a Duo because he is soft in it but willing to seek the contact. So, when he gets stiff in his neck and jaw I can kick him into the bridle and he is much happier to stretch into the contact and loosen his back.

Just a thought- horses of all sorts seem to really like this bit. I use loose rings because I have a jumper and an event horse and they prefer that, but nathes and duos come in dee and a full cheek versions, too.

There’s no such thing as a hard mouth, total myth horses develop calluses as one old wife’s tale still floating around would have you believe. There is such a thing as hard hands complicated by a lack of understanding of the art of bitting, fitting them properly as well as understanding each horse has different needs and preferences. I don’t think horses are " sensitive" either, think they lack the training to understand whats expected of them and tense up or are uncomfortable with an ill fitting bit trying to spit it out, not play with it (especially thicker mouthpieces we think are " soft"). Some get fussy as an evasion because they have learned that works with many riders.

My experience with fussy horses is most don’t like too many moving parts, gets them nervous. Put a Mullen on them or an unjointed snaffle with a port and many will settle right down. Not all of course, each is an individual. Some react better with a copper or blued steel/sweet iron mouthpiece instead of stainless. And some bits are badly made-pitted, lopsided or gave unfinished or nit buffed out welds. Balance any bit with the center in your fingertips. If it leans one way or another, return it or throw it out. Run your fingers along the mouth and side pieces , feel rough anywhere? Pitch it. Do it in the tack store before buying anything or after taking it out of the box before putting it in a horse, send it back if it flunks these simple 5 to 10 second tests.

Nobody teaches this stuff anymore…


Centaur have introduced a line of bits with sweet iron and brass roller disks - very like Bombers, but at a way less painful price point. I’ve been using the two-ring on a jumper I am riding, who is dead broke but strong, very mouthy, and always needs something to think about, and he goes so beautifully in it that my trainer now flats him in it, too. Might be worth a try for $35 - there’s a pelham and a D-ring for the hunters.

My horse can get fresh after jumps every once in a while, so I switched him to a waterford, which has helped a ton. Gives me enough ‘oomph’ when I need it, but I can also be very soft in it. He flats best in a Happy Mouth, but if he plays that bit isn’t enough for me to get him back.

I usually flat at home in the Happy Mouth, jump in the waterford and show in the waterford. The combination works well for us.

Have you tried a hackamore? You might be pleasantly surprised. You can start with one that has a bit of leverage and go from there to more or less. Many, “mouth” problems are eliminated once you take the bit out of the mouth. Ha.

Hackamore doesnt solve the problem if you want to show the horse in any class where acceptance of all aids is part of what the judge expects to see. Including acceptance and proper response to the bit. Of course there’s Jumpers but…most average riders on average horses find if they want to move up to more serious levels with spread fences on twisting courses, they don’t allow precise navigation.

I love loose rings for ‘leaners’, they’re not able to grab and hang on it as well as a fixed bit. I suggest trying a Myler, they changed my ride with my horse completely! You can try different levels of the bits, I think I have him in a level 2 loose ring snaffle, and it’s amazing. My horse has a very shallow pallet and it’s perfect for that type of mouth, and he can’t lean on it or get hard towards it. Worth a try!

You can get the waterford in a loose ring style if you think that would make a difference.

My OTTB goes beautifully in the ring in a double jointed loose ring. Most of the time he hacks out fine that way as well. If I know I’m going to do a fair amount of cantering/galloping he does better in a loose ring waterford. If he is hunting he needs a rope gag waterford. I use two reins and only occasionally do I need the gag…but I sure am happy when I use it and he answers with “Yes Ma’am.”