SSH Age: 7, we have had , 2 weeks was Professionaly Trained. Ridden in various headgear in a western saddle in indoor and outdoor arenas, field, no hills by two riders--one novice and one advanced

Question: This spotted saddle horse came with a gag bit called a "Wonder Bit" which didn't fit on his bridle right... it is impossible to shorten the headstall enough to raise the bit into the corner of his mouth, so we never used it. His previous owner used only that bit, as did the first owner who raised him from a foal.  We have tried both a kimberwicke curb bit and a full cheek snaffle bit with him.  He seems to do fine in both.  I was told however that the gag bit would help him set his head and help him get into his gait.  We are working on the gait, and are now able to get him into a slow gait more than half the time, so it's coming along (he would rather trot).  I was just wondering if a gag bit actually would help with his gait.  Would it?  Also, he has no shoes.  Next time the farrier is out we plan to shoe him.  Is it true that heavier shoes in the back will help him gait better?  And what about toe length?  Thank you.

From Panelists Laura

If the horse is very comfortable with the wonder bit and works well in it, 
you might as well use it.  I've found that this bit encourages the horse to 
raise his front end a little which can help with gait work.  You can either 
get a smaller headstall or punch some holes in your current headstall so you 
can adjust it to fit your horse.  The curb chain rides a lot higher on the 
horses jawline than most bits (this is okay), just adjust it so you have a 
few inches of loose play on the bit (amount of distance the small shanks move 
before the curb stops the movement). 

If your horse is trotty, putting a little more weight on the hind feet will 
probably help him.  If you aren't riding on rocky surfaces, you could leave 
the front feet short & bare and just put a wide-web keg shoe on the hind 
feet.  Usually, you go with a lower angle (don't get carried away) on the 
back feet. 


From Panelists Nancy

Answer:  Forget the gag bit.  Your kimberwicke will probably do or you 
snaffle.  Once my horses are working well in a plain snaffle, I like to go 
with a loose shank curb with a snaffle mouthpiece, such as a Tom Thumb.  One 
with short shanks.  While you're working on teaching him to gait, don't allow 
him to trot.  Right now, if you do both, he will probably become confused. 
If you are riding on fairly soft ground, he really doesn't need to be shod. 
Keep the toes short and be sure the farrier leaves enough heel so he won't be 
walking on the bulbs of his heels.  Forget any fancy shoeing.  Remember, 
horses gait very well out in the pasture while barefoot.  They can also do it 
with you on their back and barefoot.  It's up to you to let them know what 
you want.  Reward them for gaiting when you ask for it and avoid the trot for 
a while.  You have a start already, so work from there and be sure and let 
the horse know he is doing what you want.  Don't ask for too much at a time 
or too much speed at this point.

Nancy Cade


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