View Full Version : Pelhams
26th Jul 1999, 03:37 PM
I've been reading Heather's book and wondered if changing my horse's bit to a Pelham might help... I'd better explain that Mish is an excitable young Anglo Arab with a good mouth, who will go nicely in a jointed loose-ring snaffle for most of the time - until he has a spook or a tantrum! (he has some behavioural problems from his upbringing, can get dangerous and has been labelled a problem horse). Then, the snaffle isn't enough and I don't have brakes - a bit worrying out on the roads (and we don't have any off-road riding round here). I've been riding him in a Waterford snaffle, which has given me the extra brakes, but he doesn't like it as much as the ordinary snaffle. In theory, if I try a Pelham on him (with 2 reins), I could ride him on the snaffle rein for most of the time, and keep the curb rein for when he gets 'difficult'. However, I've never fitted one before! If I try one on him, what sort should it be? There seem to be loads of different types these days. He's also got a small mouth, so the traditional thick vulcanite pelham bit wouldn't fit him comfortably. Any tips? And are there any pitfalls that I should watch out for?
26th Jul 1999, 03:48 PM
Riding him in a Pelham for extra 'brakes'is not a good idea. I never use the Pelham in this way, but only as an agent to relax the lower jaw. When used as brakes, it will compress the tongue and lower jaw between the mouthpiece and the curb chain, not acting with gentleness to release the reflex point in the lower jaw.
Regarding the type of Pelham, I never use a Vulcantite one, which as you rightly say is too thick, for any horse's mouth to be comfortable. Instead, I use a rubber covered one, that it, metal core with rubber covering, whch is not too thick, and my pure-bred Arabs have all loved, and most other breeds too.
If he is spooky and naughty, think of doing some Parelli type Natural Horsemanship work with him to ground his attention, rather than trying to use a stronger bit- (the Pelham only being a stronger bit when used with force. Which country do you live in?
All the best, Heather
26th Jul 1999, 09:28 PM
We switch bits around all the time. Generally we go in eggbutt or loose rings, but also have d-rings, kimberwickes and pelhams. The pelham we like to use is rubber coated and with the shortest shank (about an inch - you have to look for them). It can be very effective in training to use the pelham for a couple of rides and then switch back to the snaffle. Also some horses seem to like the unbroken bits better than others. Try them out - but remember not to make that the end all. The optimum is to have them go nicely on a snaffle all the time. My TB goes great on a snaffle thru spring and summer , but when the wind gets cold (and hits his butt) I switch to the kimberwicke with the rein on the snaffle setting until he settles down. Then I swap back unless we are riding hard on trail. We keep about 10 bridles set up all the time for 4 horses. That way you don't have to take them apart "just to change bits".
26th Jul 1999, 09:41 PM
Why should the horse HAVE to go in a snaffle, KB? Arabians and Arab crosses often have different shaped mouths, and never happily go in a snaffle. I know that lower level dressage insists that the horse must go in a snaffle, but I would say that this rule is the reason why so many horses never progress past novice level. So many horses put up resistance in the snaffle, and don't in the Pelham, or similar curb bit. Sure if they do go back in the snaffle happily after using the Pelham,this is fine, but if it doesn't happen, don't worry about it folks, unless you intend to stay stuck at Novice level dressage for the rest of your days that is!
26th Jul 1999, 11:40 PM
I guess I didn't state my point clearly. Sorry. What I was trying to say was that you should not move to a stonger bit and stay with it forever. The horse will only get a tougher mouth. Of course you have to fit a bit to the horse - I wasn't saying otherwise. I should have phrased it as to keep going back to the mildest bit the horse will work well with (whatever that may be) and not rely on stronger bits as the end all to training problems.
27th Jul 1999, 01:56 PM
Any bit is only as strong, or as mild, as the hands that use it. The Pelham, used correctly, is never a strong bit. The snaffle can be far more painful to the horse, in fact. Try getting a snaffle, with a pair of reins attached, and place it round your raised forearm, and get a friend to pull back gently. Resist slightly with your arm as the horse would when pressure is applied in this way. Now get the friend to pull back more strongly, then get him or her to saw left and right, the way that many dressage riders do. I am not saying that you do this KB, in any way, but just to show what it feels like to the horse when the snaffle is used to try to get the head down. The Pelham, or similar curb action bit, can achieve this with no force applied, so how would you class the snaffle as a milder bit?
27th Jul 1999, 08:11 PM
If you can't get hold of a rubber Pelham- make sure it isn't the squidgy variety that doesn't have a metal core, and which can make them chew through it!- let me know, and I will get one for you.
28th Jul 1999, 04:46 AM
Thanks for your advice Heather and KB. Heather, I forgot to say that the idea of putting him in a Pelham isn't just about brakes! Although he goes quite nicely in a loose ring jointed snaffle (copper, by the way), he could go better and doesn't relax his jaw as much as he might. I get the feeling he could be happier in his mouth (his teeth have been checked). As for the brakes, well, it's not usually so much about bolting off or throwing tantrums (he rarely does that now), as something to remind him that he's being ridden and should behave himself, before the fireworks start (I can usually feel the explosion coming). Without socking him in the jaw, I think that used gently, a different bit action might help focus his attention back on me before I really have to apply the 'brakes'. I don't like fights and try to avoid them! We've done loads of work from the ground to get his attention and respect (joining up repeatedly, long-reining, voice training and loose schooling) but in his view, what goes on from the ground, doesn't necessarily relate to what goes when he's ridden... He is by the way, a hand-reared orphan with a very mixed-up view of himself and the world, alternating between extreme over-confidence and highly-strung nervousness - but hey, this time last year, all we could do safely was walk. He's cantering and jumping now, and hasn't really tried to kill me since April! Anyway, I'll see if I can get hold of a rubber pelham and try him with it. If he doesn't get on with it - and he'll tell me very clearly if it doesn't suit him - it'll be back to the snaffle. I'll let you know how we get on.
29th Jul 1999, 07:50 AM
I think that the notion that a pelham or curb is harsher than a snaffle lies in the fact that a curb or hybred such as a pelham act on leverage.
Hanging on a wall you cant say the severity of hte bit, it all has to do with which horse and who's hands the reins are in.
For the most part I like to use the standard thick eggbutt snaffle for all my training. I like this bit because for TRAINING I know the horse will relax in his mouth. BUT I am also not a novice rider. I can effectivly use the rest of my body if the horse gets out of hand so to speak.
For my small students I will put a slightly thinner mouth piece if the horse is a good snaffle horse... or even say a kimberwick with the high rein setting and a VERY slack curb, just because I'd rather the horse be more respectful of a small rider who's leg doesn't even reach off the flap of the saddle. I am more concerned with the student not learning to be heavy in the hands than if the horse is properly using his back/hindquarters etc.
For a beginner riding in the double reins of a pelham maybe a bit confusing! AHHH so much leather! And riding the pelham on one rein of the other is like using either a straight out snaffle or a full out curb. And using one of those bit converters for a pelham (that attach a single rein to both bit rings) is sort of like using a kimberwick, don't you think?
What about a hackamore? I have a few school horses that go GREAT in a hack. They are very relaxed in the mouth/jaw and neck in them, yet the kids have excellent control...as you said, BRAKES (very important to tiny tots!)and the school horses are not being pulled on in the mouth.
30th Jul 1999, 12:04 PM
I like the hackamore too, Kiersten, as many horses will go very happily and lightly in them, but they are every bit as severe and more so in uneducated hands, as any form of curb bit, indeed, Alix Etherington, the leading expert on bits in the UK, whose father owns the bit manufacturers Abbey and John Dewsbury here in England, would not manufacture me even a milder one that I had designed, because she knows of several incidents where the horse has sustained a broken jaw as a result of misuse of the hackamore.
As you say, any bit is only as mild as the hands that use it, but knowledge of how to use a curb, whether it is a Pelham, or Kimblewick as we call them here, is the key. The curb should never be used with leverage, and when the rider knows how to activate the reflex point in the lower jaw, it will achieve instant relaxation with no force whatsover applied.
I have preoven this time and time again when taking lecture demonstrations and clinics here and abroad, and am often presented with horses whose mouths have been abused in the snaffle, leaving the bars and corners of the mouths devoid of sensitivity. The riders all have resorted to sawing the horse's head down into place, because that is often what they have been taught to do.
I can transform the horse's way of going in a couple of minutes, and have done it hundreds of times in public, so have proven that it works. What is more, I can put the rider back on board and teach them in minutes to acheive the relaxation, of the jaw, and then to back it up with th leg, so that the horse connects 'through'.
More often than not, the bit I will use to achiev this is the rubber Pelham, with only an elastic curb chain of the variety used by show ponies. You then have a mullen mouth bit, with no nutcracker action, and an elastic curb, which in the case of most horses will easily activate the reflex point. It is therefore a very mild bit indeed, and one in which the horse yields very easily, even with a comparatively inexperienced rider on board.
The snaffle bit is not the mild intsrument that everyone thinks it is. The fatter the bit, the less damage that it will do, but often the less the horse will respond to it, making many riders use force to achieve the desired head carriage, which results in the front end being reeled in and the rider developing biceps like a prize fighter. I had two students here from a well known continental Grand Prix riders yard last year.
The first had been told by him to take up weight training, as her arms weren't strong enough tp hold the horses head in, the other had been told to take up a contact until she felt her arms were going to break, until the horse gave in and yielded. Not all will. These are the ones that I get to work with when they are standing up on end and going over backwards, or ones atht i am asked to assess for the International League for the Protection of Horses, where they sometimes get £20000 dressage horses who have been so brutalised that you can't even get on their backs.
Show riders how to use a mild curb with finesse, as my old trainer used to call it, and the horse will work willingly. Check out the review of my book by a rider from Florida on amazon.co.uk, who describes the transformation in her eighteen year old horse after putting him in the Pelham.I have instances like this on a weekly basis. Most often, you can put the horse back in the snaffle once he has easily understood the release of the lower jaw.
30th Jul 1999, 06:19 PM
Hackamores... I saw an interesting one for sale yesterday with six-inch long shanks that would stop a charging elephant. I actually quite like riding in a hackamore, but the ones on the market in the UK all seem to be unnecessarily harsh. I think I have pretty light hands, but I'd rather not have that degree of potential severity. When my mare cut her mouth in the field, I made her a hackamore, although it was more like a Western bosal, I suppose. Amazing what you can do with a short length of hosepipe, clothes line, some vetwrap, a spur strap and a headpiece. The result was a very gentle-acting bitless bridle which she responded to beautifully (she is very well-mannered anyway). Although I'd be happy riding my 'problem' gelding in something like that in the school, I wouldn't dare hack out in it.
I've managed to find a rubber pelham for him now - and yes, it does have the metal insert down the middle. Thanks for your offer though, Heather. I'm planning to try it out this weekend (as soon as I can locate that second pair of reins that I know is somwhere among my stuff...). I have ridden with two reins before, by the way!
31st Jul 1999, 12:47 AM
I don't know about rubber. I mean.. I honestly put one in my mouth one time... it just didn't 'taste' (texture) to good. Seems like it would dry the mouth out (I have seen the white soft plastic mouth pieces, but this was the traditional black rubber)
What about the horse chewing pieces off. I had a student who came to me in a bit like this, the horse had 'chomped' hunks out, and it didn't seem to smooth for the mouth anymore.
The hackamore I use has short shanks and I have put a sheepskin fuzzy over the nose and curb chain, with the curb chain lose so that if you 'touch/use/activate' the rein 'normally' the curb chain really doesn't come into play, only if you move them slightly more.
If the pelham/kimberwicke is 'ok', as good as, or better than a 'normal' snaffle for correct Training of the horse (not talking about small children or beginners just riding), then why don't the 'masters' of classical riding (the SRS, Cadre Noir, various individual trainers etc) advocate the use of them?
1st Aug 1999, 08:54 PM
I have had few horses who object to the taste of rubber, and find more who dislike the very bland taste of plastic bits or have a tendency to chew the latter. I use a rubber covered bit with a metal core. I do not have trouble with horses chewing them, and if I did, I would not be stupid enough to persevere with making a horse go in anything that it was patently uncomfortable in, or was developing bad habits in.
If the pelham/kimberwicke is 'ok', as good as, or better than a 'normal' snaffle for correct Training of the horse (not talking about small children or beginners just riding), then why don't the 'masters' of classical riding the SRS, Cadre Noir, various individual trainers etc) advocate the use
I am often asked to work with difficult or problem horses (nearly always caused by problem riders) and have found methods that work very quickly, and without force.I have personally seen some riding at the Cadre that left a lot to be desired in any case! (One of the top instructor riders there riding a horse which was lame behind, for a full 45 minutes without noticing, was one incident that springs to mind!)
I first discovered the use of the Pelham through my Oliveira trained instructor, who used it as a remedial and every day bit, as opposed to the double bridle which was the 'icing on the cake' bridle, for competition work and displays.
I would not advocate any method that I had not tried out and proven on perhaps several hundred different horses. As a very experienced instructor, by the sound of it, Kiersten has the right to question me, and also. I have no answers, other than if the methods didn't work, I wouldn't be asked to give clinics all around the world, and I doubt whether my book would be the best seller that it is.If Kiersten has methods that work better than mine, and can back them up with many case histories, I am very happy to listen and learn.
I personally don't care whether the Classical masters reccommended anything or not. I don't reccommend, as Pluvinel's ( and he was considered to be one of the humane ones) engravings appear to, in La Maneige Royal tying a horse up to pillars, and then flailing it with whips that weren't far off the cat o nine tails in severity, in order to teach piaffe or levade. Take a look at Grisone's work, and others in his ilk. Humane? not in my book. Even Baucher, of whom I am generally an admirer, taught completely unnatural things to the horse like cantering backwards on three legs.
So don't become blinkered by academic writing, or follow like sheep, just because this or that master says you should do it. I have had the opportunity to watch, and interview in my capacity as a journalist, most of the top trainers and riders today, and there are some whose answers I would follow, and others whose methods I find totally unacceptable from the horse's point of view.
Open your minds, and your eyes. If it works,but is unothodox, but produces so called 'Classical' results don't knock it. Listen, as I do, to the horse, because he, above all, is my ultimate judge.
2nd Aug 1999, 03:17 PM
Well said, Heather! By the way, my horse seems to like the rubber pelham. As Kiersten says, rubber tastes pretty foul, but M seemed to love it. His mouth was more relaxed and wetter than it normally is with the snaffles and he seemed more inclined to drop his head and come into an outline. So far, so good, at least for schooling. I'm definitely going to persist with it and see how we get on.
2nd Aug 1999, 10:43 PM
Glad it is working for your horse. Perhaps rubber doesn't taste so bad to a horse- after all, I am not sure that our tastes are the same- I am not particularly partial to grass or hay myself!
I'm a bit confused! (pardon the pun!) My horse works in a snaffle but, with only 4 months' riding experience behind me, I can say that she is seldom "on the bit". She tosses her head, lowers her head - in fact, does everything possible to avoid contact. Hacking out is fine - she goes like clockwork - but when I try to school her - oops! - she wants to goe her own way! She seems to resent any rein contact and is insensitive to leg commands. I have had her checked out - her teeth could do with rasping, which wll be done shortly, - bit there seems to be nothing amiss to make her perform the way she does in the memege. Last week she bolted off with me on her back - notso scary for a non-panicker - but why won't she do as she is told? My instructor tells me to be more definite with my commands but the school has been closed for a doretnight so I have ridden without her advice. Should she ride in a Pelham? Should I re-inforce my leg aids with a gentlwe tickle with a whip? I really don't want to spoil my new horse, I have her for life, and will never part with her, whatever...
vBulletin® v3.8.4, Copyright ©2000-2013, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.