7 year old Paso Fino with Professional training, ridden in side pull and dressage saddle by Intermediate to advanced level rider.

Question: I have had my Paso Fino gelding almost two years, and I really don't have what I'd call a "problem" with him...just a question. I've ridden my horse many places, with a side-pull for almost two years, without any problems. I bought him a "Paso Fino" bit, that is a bit with copper rollers and a small spade in the middle. He did not like this bit. Since he is a gaited horse, who holds his head up, I would like to know if I can start him in
a mild, full cheek snaffle bit. Or what would you suggest as to the kind of bit he should be started in? He was trained to the cart as a two yr. old, and I'd eventually like to drive him with a driving snaffle in his mouth.
Thanks, Betty  

From Panelist Lee
Rather than go to the Paso Fino bit, or the regular full cheek snaffle, you might try a solid mouth Kimberwicke with a low port, and remove the chain -- making it a ported snaffle.   I know of several Pasos that have made the transition better to this bit than to any type of jointed snaffle or Paso spoon bit, when changed from bitless headgear.  You could also do the transition to the bit gradually, letting him carry it under the sidepull for a while before riding him in it alone .... two sets of reins at first, one to the sidepull, one to the bit, to gradually ease him into the feel of the bit in his mouth as a communication tool.

Good luck with your horse.

Lee Ziegler

From Panelist Liz

Hi Betty,

If you are not having any problems with this horse and he is doing so well I would stick with his side pull or bosal. You certainly can show him in a bosal as well. One thing that you make think about before starting a PF in bit is that in many cases we see theses horses brio really start to come out which can make for more horse than you may want if you are happy with the way he is now. You can certainly drive him in a side pull as well.

If you are really sure you want to go to a bit then slow is the way. I would certainly start with something mild such as a snaffle to start and would start by letting him carry the bit for a while first. This means use your side- pull for signals and let him get used to just holding a bit in his mouth. Then go to a four rein situation where you are just lightly using some engagement of the bit for signaling. Slowly working away from the side pull. When he is comfortable with the bit then drop the side-pull for signals. This can take some time
so go slow and do not push. Be sure the bit you use fits his mouth well and find one that he is happy with. A PF bit with a small spade is one that should be used with care and in many cases does not work in every mouth . I would start with something much milder for training and the spade would be one for a finished in bit horse.

Good luck and have fun

From Panelist Stella

You have already used the sidepull to do the work that a snaffle does: be "starting headgear." It is time to go to some type of curb...every breed and discipline goes to some type of curb for finishing. At this point, the snaffle may eventually cause him to drop his head and/or jut his nose out.If he is "set" in carrying his neck and head well already, and the height is appropriate, you may simply not need to use a spoon(spade)mouthpiece. If he were overflexing, a broken mouthpiece would be appropriate; otherwise, even a mullen mouth or small open port may work better. I'd stay with short shanks, upper and lower, unless you need more flex from the poll, in which case either a longer upper shank, or ones where the bridlekeepers are smaller and more square in shape, so that the bridle is carried forward by them when pressure is applied to the bit. The big round bridlekeepers on the 
upper shanks of many western bits do not carry the bridle forward to apply poll pressure, unless a thick bridle with tight attachments is used. Many people dont pay attention to the design of this portion of a bit, but they should..it does make a difference, for better or worse.

One thing you can use the snaffle for-or better yet, a rubber "jetera," which is simply a piece of rope covered in surgical tubing, with rings and ringquards like a snaffle...is to first INTRODUCE your horse to just wearing a bit! That may be the only problem...you didnt mention if you had given the horse a few sessions in just the stall,letting him"experiment" with the feel, and action in the mouth; and later riding, in conjunction with the sidepull, but not using...that should then be done gradually. If you did not, then maybe it wasnt the KIND of bit, but just something new introduced suddenly...remember horses ARE creatures of habit.

If you find that on the Paso bit you purchased (which is for a "medium" average neckset, neither really high or low), that the bridlekeepers are small and square, and applying too much poll pressure -this can be governed by the curb chain: more open curb chain, more poll pressure- tighter increases lift from chin and decreases pressure, as the curb chain limits degree to which the upper shanks can roll forward. If you feel that you must 
tighten the chain way too much to eliminate poll pressure, simply attach snaps(as used on "quickchange" bridles)to the bridle...they will allow the upper shanks of the bit to roll forward without taking the bridle down onto the poll. If none of these changes seem to make an improvement, you likely do have to go to another bit.

Paso bits do come in a variety of mouthpieces; one thing I do like about them over many american made curbs is that the shanks are hinged, can work independently of each other(depending in degree of hinge), and also can be used to illicit poll and chin pressure without disturbing the mouthpiece whatsoever(you dont get in there!)if a light hand is used...only stronger pressure will move the mouthpiece, so you have a great variety of how you can use the bit, especially for very very mild contact, much milder than many american bits.

One thing you do want to look at on a spoon though, is how the mouthpiece lays into the shanks. One where the spoon is parallel to the shanks, with a flat spoon, is milder than one where the spoon is curved down alot, or is set so that it sits higher to form an angle with the lay of the shanks... since the lay tells the horse how to carry its head while the mouthpiece just "lays there" - the latter being more so for "stargazers."


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