Thursday, May 13, 2010

Two Bits, Four Bits, Six Bits, a Dollar (or a whole lot more)!

I am at a crossroads and I'm not sure which way to turn! Maybe you, or someone you know, might have some advice for me. I sure would appreciate some input!

Pippin is not comfortable in all of the bits I've tried so far. He constantly mouths the bit and often gets his tongue over it. When I bought him they had been using a half spoon snaffle. I had this bit already, but he mouthed it all of the time. So, I bought a Boucher snaffle, having heard that mouthy horses tend to quiet down with the bit. Not so. His driving bridle came with a fixed cheek Liverpool bit with a straight bar. I attached the reins on the large ring, thus having little or no curb action, and the bar was on the smooth side. He was very busy with the bit. One of my trainers suggested a Kimberwick. I bought one the right size (despite having 2 that were too small) and he continued to mouth the bit excessively. Another trainer has now suggested a Glory bit, which relieves tongue pressure. I tried a friend's Glory bit and the mouthing may have decreased a little, but he still got his tongue over the bit at least 4 times in a 60-minute lesson. I could try some sort of noseband to force him to keep his mouth closed. His driving bridle's cavesson is rather tight as Pippin's face is a bit larger than the average horse, so he may tend to be less busy in that than when I ride in a bridle that doesn't even have a noseband. It goes against my nature to 'quiet' Pippin's mouth by tying it shut!

When I got Pippin he had an abscessed tooth. He has had that tooth removed. He had to have several fillings. He has no wolf teeth. His teeth have been floated and at some point in his life he had another molar removed. Obviously, his mouth has not always been in the best of health and probably has caused him a great deal of pain. Little wonder that he dislikes having a hunk of metal in there.

Yesterday I noticed that he has a small sore at the corner of his mouth. We had an especially trying day on Sunday and evidently in some of our maneuvering, the bit pinched him. Another reason to consider bitless!

So, it seems that going bitless is the obvious answer. And....I'm really, really close to picking up the phone to order either a Nurtural bitless driving bridle or the bitless bridle by Dr. Cook. Both of these bridles operate on the same principle, working by by putting pressure on the opposite cheek and poll when you pull on the rein, causing the horse to move away from the pressure. There may be slight differences in other functions of the bridles. (Maybe Sydney at Bitless horse: Science VS Tradition can further enlighten me! Hint...hint...hint!) Other bitless systems that I am aware of include sidepulls, hackamores and bosals. Are there others that I don't know about?

So, why haven't I called to order the solution for my dear Pippin? When I start looking at bitless driving I find very few positive comments. Most people seem to think that more control is needed in driving and that control comes from the bit. What are your reactions? What are your thoughts? Help!


  1. I'm finding the same issue with Sonny Bunz. My "solution"? Halter and lead. We ride in halter and lead (and usually bareback because I am too lazy/ pressed for time to pull out the saddle and tack him up!)

    I say, forget what "everyone else" says, and take Pippin bitless. Let him show the doubting Thomases that you can indeed drive like that! ;) Might just inspire another horse out there to be more comfortable too :)

  2. I don't have anything to contribute personally, but you might check this blog:

    Looks like Sydney might have some good input for you?

  3. Eeek! Sorry, Cyndi... I just realized I missed the part in your post about Sydney. Duh. :)

    In any case, I'll look forward to hearing more about your journey as I'm thinking about going bitless with Ellsworth as I'm saddle training him.

  4. When I first started reading I thought, "bitless". I really think there are some horses out there that a bit just doesn't work for. I rode out a colt last spring and finally took the bit out of hi mouth completely and started working him off side pulls. I had total control for such a young horse - so when people argue about 'control' issues I have a tendancy to block them out.

    Ever see a wreck with a driving horse when they have a bit? I've seen some nasty ones and having or not having a bit isn't going to stop that if it's going to happen.

    Just be sure to make the complete transition from bit to bitless and be confident in your horses ability to respond. Good luck!

  5. Thanks for your feedback, all of you.
    I am going to order a bitless driving bridle, with the optional conversion kit to allow me to use it as a bridle without blinkers. One of the manufacturers offers a 30 day trial period (haven't had a chance to talk with the other yet). So, I'll get it some time in early June and I'll have a chance to test it out. Pippin is pretty reliable with voice commands, so we'll probably be just fine!


What thoughts do you have?

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