Pennsylvania 11 year old gelding of  unknown ,  but gaited breeding ridden in 4 " shank 3 pc. jointed bit and endurance saddle in ring , pasture , trails by experienced rider.

Question: ahab [ my horse ] is a very intense gelding,  not a lazy bone in his body, there in lies the problem.  He wants to go fast, and will if given the chance.  I am thinking of changing his bit ,  but have never used any ported bit on any horse before,  until this bit ( 3 piece jointed with a copper roller).  I have only used snaffles. Sometimes I have to be hard on his mouth with this bit, he does not seem to mind it, but it is a bit disconcerting to me as a rider. I can control him , but it gets to a point that I must do 1/2 halts to refocus his attention on the bit.
Please let me know if you feel that a ported bit , or another bit may help us .  I do not know what bit the previous owner used ,  and there is no way to find that out.

Thank you , 

From Panelist Liz

Hi Ray,

 I do understand that being strong like this can be a problem but it sure sounds that you still have some control being able to do a half halt and getting him to respond. This is what I have found with the 3 piece jointed bit you are using on a horse like this. 

They can push right through them and then when you have to apply more pressure it can get pretty hard on a mouth. In this case A ported bit is not your only option but a solid mouth piece of some kind instead of a jointed one could be the answer here. This may keep him from pushing through the broken mouth piece and bring him back off the bit and give some more support in the mouth. Before going to a port maybe try a mullen mouth piece that is solid but has tongue release too.  If this is not the answer then give a low port a try. 

If he does get to a point though that you can't get him refocused with a half halt any more then it may be time to go back to a small pen and refresh some basic training to respond to aids and signals from the ground and from his back.


From Panelist Stella
Its not so much that you want to refocus the horse's attention to the bit, as it is to refocus attention to YOU as the rider. The bit is simply YOUR tool for communication and control. Whenever you ride, the horse's attention should be to you for all decision-making as to speed and type gait, as well as direction and path you are taking. It sounds as if you're allowing the horse to make many of the decisions as long as they are agreeable to you, and when they are not, trying to regain control.

While for some horses, a broken mouthpiece may affect their head and neck position to induce a longer stride, perhaps making it more conducive for it to want to move out more, it may help to switch to some sort of solid mouth mild curb, perhaps with a roller, even low port. However, you will wind up with the same problem if you do not change your methodology in control.Starting in your ring(and being consistent everywhere else from there), go back to the walk. Do not allow your horse to not only come out of the gait 
you put him in, but not even one step faster -or slower -within that gait UNLESS YOU tell him to. This means that you also will need to focus your attention and awareness to even the most minute changes, and act gently but immediately. It is very important to be absolutely consistent with this, to establish new habits, not only for the horse, but yourself - eventually it will become "second nature" to you both. Yes, it is good to reward the horse 
with a release, and even a pat on the neck and/or kind soft word. You may want to start the first dozen or so sessions at the walk in the ring, even if you go to the trail later; keep the first sessions mostly at the walk, then gradually include some faster gaits, but do not do so until you both "get it right" -re-establish communication, respect and control, at the 
walk. While he may initially somewhat resent the "change" in authority, ultimately it will  help your horse relax more. 

You may find that one reason your horse is so "intense" is because he's not really sure what to expect from you, if your "leadership" is inconsistent and the boundaries not clear 
to him. HOrses prefer clearcut consistency, knowing what is always expected, being creatures of habit - and being able to rely on their "leader" to be one at all times is comforting to their survival instinct. But do follow through with your exercises, taking your time and remaining consistent; it takes just as much discipline or more on the part of the rider as it does to establish the same in the horse.


From Panelist Carol

Hi Ray,

I think absolutely that putting a more severe bit on your horse is the WRONG thing to do.  I can't count the number of times that a horse has run away with me in a full curb.  what he needs is training to respond to a cue to slow down.  John Lyons, Pat Parelli and others have lots of material on this; it is too lengthy of a process to describe  here and there is more than one good way to do it.  

A more severe bit may slow your horse down temporarily but what you have on your hands is a lack of control and that is what needs to be dealt with through proper training.  Don't hesitate to go back to the basics to get what the horse needs.

Carol Camp Tosh

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