Kentucky 4 year old Racking Horse with 2 years pro training. ridden in wonder bit
and  western - synthetic saddle in round pen by intermediate rider.

Question: The prior owner is an excellent horseman and trained her from a baby.  He used no bit or a wonder bit.  I currently use the wonder bit but she wants to bolt or go very fast.  I have been advised to use a walking horse bit that is firmer.  She responds well to me except when she gets excited (other horses around) and then I can't hold her back.  

The prior owner did not have this problem.  I have only had her two months which I realize is not enough time for her to get to know me.  But I do need more control.  She is extremely energetic.  Can you please recommend a bit (the wonder bit is all she has ever known).  Also in the round pen she stops on voice command but around other horses she wants to be in the lead which is where I can barely hold her back.  Thank you!!

From Panelist Liz


I agree that a wonderbit may not give a horse enough support and can push right through them if a horse takes that notion. So maybe a bit with more support and control may help but a more sever bit or longer shank bit may not be the answer here. You may want to try just a solid mouth piece instead of a broken one . 

The other side of this is that a horse can get behind a bit just as well and keep on going with no control t. so in reading this, maybe some more time needs to be spent in the ring not necessarily in a round pen and getting some lessons to help you both hook up more . Also learning a one rein stop should  be learned so you know it if you need it.


From Panelist Steve

Horses that want to be front runners will always want to be front runners unless  you spend a lot of time and effort to train them otherwise. This will take a lot of time, sweat and tears on everyone's part, including those you ride with. I have found, over the years,  to just sit back and enjoy the ride.

A more severe bit is NOT the answer. There is no horse in the world that can be stopped in a curb but not stopped in a Wonder Bit. This horse will just get more adrenaline from the pain in her mouth, and make everything rearing and bucking.

People who want a plug should buy a plug. Over time you will come to enjoy this horse's energy. It is the only kind of horse that interests me anymore.

Stephen B. Chasko

From Panelist Carol


       I'm not trying to be a wise crack, but bits don't stop horses from going faster.  Sometimes a more severe bit will put a "band-aid" on the real problem and you will see better results, but more often than not, the horse becomes more agitated and tries to go even faster because she's uncomfortable.   

The answer to your problem lies in establishing a relationship of respect with your horse.  Are you completely comfortable cantering and stopping in an arena?  How 'bout on a trail without lots of other horses and excitement?  

Do you have control of your horse's hindquarters?  This is where the "engine" is, and the end that you need to focus your control, not the face.  Once you establish control over the hindquarters, stopping or slowing the horse is easy.  Sounds to me like her previous owner had some savvy and I bet that he would be happy to help you establish respect and control.  Happy riding!

Carol Camp Tosh

From Panelist Stella

I dont think you need to change the bit so much, since she went so well with it, but more so your own riding. There are 2 general reasons horses start running off: 

1)When they are fairly dominant horses, and have learned they can also intimidate and dominate their riders, and make some of the decisions;

2)when a rider stays in the horse's mouth too much, is "riding off the head," doesnt give enough (or any)release, and to get relief from constant pressure, starts boring into the bit(like when we put pressure against a toothache to relieve it!)

This circumstance likely started with #1...likely you gave her little inadvertant "cues" to the fact that she knew more than you, and got away with a few little things you may not have even thought twice about...but was a big deal to her, made her realize she could go on to "bigger and better things!" And of course, horses are herd animals, and a dominant one's ego "feels a need" to be out front!

While its likely best that a novice own a "middle of the herd" in pecking order....horses at the bottom tend to be wimpy,not so willing to try new things, shy more at new obstacles...need a bolder, "protective" rider (with lots of patience, and good riding skills)...the dominant horse requires the rider be assertive, insist on remaining the dominant in EVERY interaction, no matter how insignificant...but is usually the horse that boldly and 
willingly tries new things almost immediately, hardly ever shies at anything, learns very quickly once you have their trust...but not necessarily before. YOu have to "prove" yourself worthy of that, by being  very consistent in always giving "permission" for any of their behavior. The really smart dominant horse(and they must be smart to get that rank!) will keep you on your toes, and if you're not, and you 'miss something," he/she won't trust you. Remember that for a horse, trust is about your ability to "protect" them, putting their survival in your hands, so its a big issue for horses. A dominant horse will "test" you far more stringently than one lower on the pecking order.

Just remember that this includes the relationship and communication in all circumstances, including on the ground; and it is much more about your mental attitude, your ability to be aware of every iota of your interaction, and to ACT without hesitation, more so than about your equitation. You need to "win" this horse on a mental level....changing bits will not change that. You need to set up a strategy to win...

First, dont ride in company for awhile, and go to simple basics: pay attention to everything from catching,crossties-grooming; start in a roundpen or lunging, and already here, do not allow her to get away with things...she'll likely try. Ride in a small area; start with simple things like:standing still when mounting;not moving til YOU ask; staying at a walk..and at a consistant cadence, not speeding up or slowing down without you telling her to do so; if she makes any such decision herself, IMMEDIATELY correct her....let her know you are AWARE she made even a subtle decision on her own: she isnt allowed to make any, you as the dominant being in the relationship, has all final decisions. NOne of this means any kind of punishment, other than stopping the horse from doing whatever it chose to do 
on its own; it is important you do this "mid the first step/move"(before the hand gets into the cookiejar)...not after she's already gotten away with alittle(that only motivates to try again for a bigger piece of pie).

While its always a good idea to "go back to simple basics" in any retraining situation, its especially important in this type situation...because you set it up to win, make it simple enough to put the odds greatly in your favor, so you CAN develop the greater self-confidence YOU need, and help erase the  fears from your head. Its one's own fears that often are the obstacles of being able to stay in control of a horse, delay our actions and reactions when we need them the most. Remeber that a dominant horse is a confident 
one, and thats good; but we must match them on that point to stay in control.


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