California 13 year old Rocky Mtn. ridden in English headgear and Austrailian in Small Outdoor Arena or open pasture by novice.

Question: Regarding the Pelham Bit.  Does it need to be ridden in with a double bridle, or can I ride with a single?  Is the mouth piece a bar style or snaffle style.

Any other description of it would be greatly appreciated, there seems to be so many differnt mouth styles available.

My mare has a history of being ridden in Argentine snaffles, low port, and jointed/4" shanks. I was told she stayed in her gait nicely, but not since I've had her she doesn't whoa on my command or walk.  She paces and trots.

Thanks for any info you can add.

 From Panelist Erica

Pelham bits are designed to be a snaffle and a curb bit in one - especially useful in the mouths of horses that are not large enough for two bits. They are designed to be used with two reins, one connected to the snaffle ring and one connected to the curb ring, and a curb strap or chain attached in the appropriate place. 

I believe that pelhams only come in mullen mouth, but there may be some designed with a broken mouth. If your mare is no longer responding as she did, I would first be sure to check saddle fit, bit fit, teeth (have they been floated lately?), etc. If all of that checks out, then perhaps you will have to search out a better fitting bit. One bit does not fit all horses. Perhaps the bit was too much for her, or too little depending on what type of previous handling she has had. 

Your cues as well could be, and most likely are, very different from those she got from her
previous owner/handler. It may just take some time for you to play around and figure out what hand positions, rein pressure, and body language she responds best to. 

Good luck!
Erica Frei

From Panelist Carol

Sounds to me like the problem doesn't have much to do with the bit or what kind it is.  The big problem is that you and your mare are not communicating.  This could be a lack of basic training of the mare, or it could be that you are not delivering cues that she can understand.  

You didn't say if you are in Northern California or Southern California.  If you are in Northern California, I would strongly urge to look up my friend David Lichman in        Sacramento to get help.  He is on the web at .  In southern ca. I have that Beth Jennings is good but don't know her personally.  Anyway, you need some help and my impression of California is that there are several good trainers there.

Carol Camp Tosh

From Panelist Laura

The pelham bit is usually used with a single bridle but can be used with two sets of reins, one on the snaffle ring and one on the shank (curb) ring.  You can use this bit with one set of reins - either on the snaffle ring or on the shank.

The type of mouthpiece depends on what you buy it with.  You want to get whatever your horse will be most comfortable with.  Some horses like a jointed mouthpiece while some really like a ported bit.  Since your horse has been worked successfully in the bits you mentioned, I would recommend you buy one of those & use it with your horse.  Why go with a new bit if you know something else worked well with that horse?  You might want to call the person you bought the horse from & ask for more advice on working on her 
gait.  You also might want to talk to either a trainer or person knowledgeable with gaited horses in your area to see just what gait your horse is actually doing & how to correct it.  The correction could be as simple as asking your mare to raise her head up a little and tuck her nose (light collection).

As far as the lack of stop, is your curb chain adjusted correctly?  When you push the shanks back with your hand, do the shanks rotate all the way to point at the horse's neck or does the curb chain stop the shanks after you push them back a couple of inches?  You want to adjust the curb chain/strap so that you only have about 2 inches of free play in the rotation, otherwise you are not getting any curb action at all.  If you continue having problems with starting & stopping your horse, take some riding lessons to see what you 
can do to improve your riding abilities.  

Good luck with your horse.

From Panelist Theresa

If this were my mare, I would fully evaluate several areas. Since you are a novice, see if there is someone who can help you out.

Area 1) Saddle fit:  I would guess that there may be some pinching going on with your saddle near whither and shoulder area. This would definately affect the mares gaits. A horse that is getting pinched in the wither or shoulder will want to move forward to get away from the pain. The response often will be to move forward through the whoa or the walk. It would also cause the head of the horse to raise, and create a hollowing in the back just behind the shoulder area.

Diagnosis: After riding the horse, check the sweat marks on the horse. They should be evenly wet and allow airflow over the spine of the horse. It should not be more wet in front, or more wet in back. Also check the direction of wear on the hair of the horse. If you have an area that is "worn" or wooley looking and the rest of the back area is
smooth, that is an indicator that pinching may be going on. The most likely place to see that is in the dip right behind the wither, about 4 inches down. (where the shoulder blade moves back and forth while the horse is walking) .   Again, please have a competent horseman help you evaluate this on your horse, so you can make sure that this is not affecting the way in which your horse goes.

Area 2) Bitting:
Description of pelham:
Pelham bit is a combination of the snaffle and curb bit. It is a mild bit yet with good bearing surface for effective control. 

Uses:The pelham bit does not offer the independent use of the shanks, and would place a great deal of pressure on the bars of the mouth, without the give that the gaited horses rely on. The curb portion of this bit is primarily to set the head and give leverage for the whoa.  If using a pelham, I would guess that the mare will either have her head set  "pretty and low", and trots, or will raise the head and begin to pace.   It is difficult to obtain the pace, and then break it up using a pelham bit.   The snaffle portion of the mouthpiece in a pelham would be used primarily to give direction to the horse, while the curb section of the pelham would aid in head set and stopping of the horse (using the shank as the leverage point).

My opinion of types of bits to use: 
I would prefer to see this horse go with a softer bit that does not require the rider to use two sets of reins. (the snaffle and curb rein) as this rider is still a novice/beginner rider.  I would go with a multipurpose type of gaited bit with a small shank (3-5"). This could include a wonder bit, a gag snaffle type of bit, or a sliding shank bit with a jointed

Area 3) Shoeing- check with a gaited horse farrier who understands balancing a foot. Make sure your horse is balanced and angled correctly for the type of horse you have. IF his feet are not right, it will be difficult for him to maintain a gait for a long time.

Area 4) As you ride- evaluate your body position (have someone tape you from each side, the front and behind). Are you leaning too forward? Are your legs too tight against the horses side forcing him forward? Are your knees clinching on him??? this could affect your gait and if clinching and leaning forward with high hands could ask for a pace. Have a professional evaluate your riding  and possibly take lessons with your horse.

In closure, I would attend these areas, prior to worrying about the gaiting issue. I feel that attending these will very porobably resolve the gait issues for you.


From Panelist Lee

The Pelham is a sort of "compromise" bit, which can work as a curb, or a snaffle (no leverage) but never both at the same time the way a real bit and bradoon can.  You don't have to ride with two reins in a Pelham, but if you only use one you have to make a choice as to whether to use it as a non-leverage (snaffle) or a leverage bit -- if you put the rein on the top ring it works without leverage, if you put it on the lower one, it works as a curb.  However, with two reins you can use the bit either as a snaffle, or a curb, depending in which is most appropriate for the work you are doing with your horse.  (I am not very fond of the "converter" strap which allows you to use both snaffle and curb ring at the same time, on one rein.  This merely turns the bit into a very short shanked curb and loses the snaffle effect entirely.)

There are a number of mouth styles available in a Pelham -- from the western, Monte Foreman type which has a port with a roller, to a  mullen (looks like a curved sausage) to a regular ported type (similar to a weymouth curb) to the jointed or "argentine" type, which if used with the curb rein can be much more severe than the unbroken mouthpiece types.  If your mare was used to an Argentine snaffle, she was ridden in a pretty severe bit (this is a shanked, broken mouth bit which has a nutcracker effect on the horse's mouth.)

However, the bit does not seem to be the main issue here.  It sounds as if your mare needs some basic retraining on stopping and walking slowly.  If you are going to do this, do it in an enclosed area (round pen, small arena) and start with the snaffle rein on the Pelham (if you choose to use one) for this.  Since she has no brakes, it doesn't matter what she does as an intermediate gait, she is not really  ready to move beyond a walk until she learns basic control under saddle.

Think of her as a completely green horse, and start only at the slow walk while teaching her to respond to seat and rein aids, to stop, and turn and stop again when you ask.  This may take some time, but only when she understands that when you sit deep in the saddle and breathe out she is to stop, when you sit up and squeeze/release with your legs she is to walk, and when you look to the right she is to turn that direction, can you start working on her gait issues.  It may be a long process to get her to understand that she is to do what you want, when you want it, in the way of speed and control, but without this foundation no bit alone will resolve her training issues.

Good luck.

Lee Ziegler

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