Waterfords, hanging cheeks and micklems?

I currently ride my 16hh sports horse in a two-ring French link continental gag, but I really don’t think it suits either of us. I switched to it last year on the recommendation of his previous owner, having had him in a loose ring French link snaffle for about 5 months, because I didn’t have quite enough stopping power when he got riled up (damn thoroughbreds). He’s always been one to toss his head up a lot, (not a head shaker) and after a year of lessons it still isn’t improving. Back, teeth, feet and everything else are fine and up to date. He’s a very sensitive boy, and I think perhaps the gag is just completely wrong for him. He stamps, shakes his head, opens his mouth, chews, chomps, flicks, leans… Everything. He doesn’t just do it with me so it’s unlikely to be a rider issue. I’ve tried him bitless and he just leant the entire time and wouldn’t come back to trot from canter.

My instructor has recommended a Waterford so he can’t lean/grab, and I also think a hanging cheek might be good if it sits quietly. He’s a very fussy and sensitive lad with anything around his mouth, has to be sedated to have his teeth rasped, etc etc.

I’ve found hanging cheek waterfords, wondering if they’re a possibility?

I’m also looking at getting a micklem for him because he’s so fussy around his head. I don’t use a flash or a drop currently because I don’t want to tie him in and when I’ve tried them previously he’s fought harder.

Also, if this makes any sense, he doesn’t fight my hands, he fights the bit itself? If that makes any sense at all ???

So basically, sorry for rambling, but does anyone know where I can get, unusual bits and/or have any advice on bits that might work? Also any advice on micklems would be great ?? Thanks!

EDIT I typed everything wrong! He’s a 5.5" to 6"! Not a 6" to 6.5"!!!

Also, I tried a high port Myler tonight. He seemed to like the fixed cheeks but because his jaw tapers the port was hitting him in the roof of the mouth when we jumped or picked up canter in a high outline.

Do you have a picture? I am having trouble imagining a 16hh TB needing a 6" bit much less a 6.5". A full check would also keep it still in his mouth with keepers if you can’t find a hanging check you want.

Those bits seem awfully large for a 16hh TB. My TB is a smidge smaller than that, with a very classic head, and she wears a 5" bit.

I’ve never been told that you need a larger waterford than any other bit. The one I have is the same size as all of my others. What was the justification behind the waterford needing to be bigger?

I have been told this about sizing as well but have not found it to be true. I think you must be measuring the bit in the wrong place, OP. It is just the mouthpiece that is included in the measurement. My guess is your horse would take 5.5 or even 5.25. Bits bigger than 5.75 are hard to come by and I’m not sure Ive seen one bigger than a 6.

I’ve never been told that you need a larger waterford than any other bit. The one I have is the same size as all of my others. What was the justification behind the waterford needing to be bigger?[/QUOTE]

They hang in the mouth like a U, not go straight across like a solid mouthpiece. So add a size to normal sizing, which is either a quarter or half an inch depending on manufacturer

First, I agree with the posters above. A 6.5 bit is massive. My massive, big headed 17/almost 17’1 wbxtb only uses a 5.5.

Second, I think you have a training rather than a bit issue. Your horse has learned to hang on the bit, even with the gag. You need to nut pull/allow him to pull. Instead, you need to bump him up with your legs into your hands and then release. It takes two to pull. If you don’t give him something to pull on, he won’t be able to do it.

Third, regarding bits, adding stronger bits is just going to compound the problem. The head shaking sounds like him trying to escape the uncomfortable pressure of the bit. You might instead consider trying a Mikmar bit that offers some tongue relief. I found that my horse, who was very fussy with a thicker one k and other similar bits responded very well to the MB 4, which is a snaffle that is slightly curved in the middle to take some of the pressure off his tongue. But there are a lot of different types available if you do your research. If you find you need a little more stopping power than a plain snaffle offers, some of them have hooks that allow you to add a little poll pressure.

I had a big draft cross with a huge head and he only took at 6" waterford, so, like everyone else, I think maybe the measurements are incorrect.

I also had issues with the same horse running through the bit and hanging on my hands, so I went up to a Gag bit and go nowhere. My trainer recommended dropping back down to a loose ring snaffle and add some remedial training to show him that he cannot hang on the bit because I won’t pull on the other end. In the end, it worked really well.

Just my two cents.

A horse like this that is fussy, I would suggest going a different direction and trying a mullen bit. My horse can’t stand having things move in her mouth.

You might try him in a double-jointed baucher bit (maybe that’s what you meant by “hanging cheek”?). Although the it’s the headstall that attaches to the upper cheek piece (not the reins).

I use a baucher with a miklem bridle on my TB mare. (And she’s 16 hands and takes a 5" bit, just for reference). The combination has helped her be much quieter with her mouth, but there’s also been a lot of training, mostly dressage, in the same period.

This is a nice website that discusses the different bits and their actions: http://www.sustainabledressage.net/tack/bridle.php

Good luck.

I also think 6.5 sounds crazy big. I have a big mouthed, fat lipped big warmblood and he only needs a 5.5. Finding larger bits can be tricky, there’s a draft horse website that carries a lot of them but not so much hunter types.

You should be in ok shape with the Micklem. It runs HUGE and kind of weird. Both my horses wear o/s bridles in all brands and the large horse micklem is on the smallest holes for the cheek pieces and I had to punch 2 holes for the nose straps. Yet the under the cheek piece and browban fit fine. I cannot imagine what a horse that would fit the holes of that flash would look like… a sausage head I guess!?

This is true. But good lucking finding a 5.75 waterford with D ends. I tried for YEARS! He just goes in a 5.5 and yeah it’s snug but I have little alternative. Bit guards help.


EVERYONE I WAS WRONG!! I typed it wrong! He’s a 5.5" to 6" not a 6.5"! I read the measurement on my gag wrong ??? (it’s written on the metal)

I agree with poltroon. Try a mullen mouth . Some horse do not like jointed bits period. The waterford will keep him from leaning but it also may have him not really accepting the bit for contact. I had much the same problem with my fella and he likes a jointed Tom Thumb pelham for jumping now without being too fussy. I went thru a lot of bits before I found something that he accepts.

This is the draft horse website I mentioned earlier


I’m jumping on the mullen wagon as well. I ride a TB that was fussy in the mouth and seemed to like the lack of movement in the solid piece. Mine is a low port hard rubber mullen with dee rings. Now…this is a bit some horse’s lean on so it may or may not work for you.

Where did you find the mullen with a low port in a D-ring? I’ve been looking for one and have not been able to find one for some reason.

A 6" waterford is indeed hard to find. I have one that I bought for my draft but did not use. V (or anyone that actually needs one of these) please let me know if you want it. I’m not using it for anything as my new horse is closer to a 5".

Thank you! That is so kind. I really need a 5.75 so I will let some other fat mouthed horse owner take you up on that offer sammicat!

I have one beris (http://www.thehorsebitshop.co.uk/product.php?xProd=653) and one bombers blue (http://www.bombers.co.za/bits-by-colour-code/sensitive-tongue-a-head-shakers/bomber-blue/product/2859-dee-bomber-blue.html).

Try a Michlam bridle. Works very well on my guy. This head stal keeps the bit nice ans still in the horses mouth. Given my horse has a moose shaped head the bridel actually is a much better fit too.

I never use a tie down (standing) but if you need too add another nose band. ( also true for a figure 8) Michlam straps are in the wrong place for tie down.