Snaffles ... if they raise the head why do we use them on youngsters?

Bay Mare

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Ok, this might not come out right so bear with me :) I'm pretty crap on the actions of bits, it seems to go in one ear, circulates a bit, I think that I've got it then it flies out the other side, lost until I sit down and think about it again ;)

If the action of the snaffle is to raise the head then why do we tend to start youngsters in a snaffle when what we are looking for initially, outline wise, is for them to lengthen and stretch DOWN.

I know that Heather Moffett uses the pelham quite a lot, especially remedially, and having tried it have found that Saff seems to quite like it too. It's not a huge difference to be honest but she's certainly less likely to lift her head up. I use double reins with the pelham and don't use a lot of curb.

If anyone can fill in my blanks I'd much appreciate it :)
 

Mehitabel

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because every bit does *something*, in a nutshell.

to work properly in a pelham, a horse needs to have the muscle and training to carry itself in a more collected outline, the knowledge to reach into a contact despite poll and curb pressure - the bit acts on the mouth, curb and poll and that is too much for a baby to comprehend. a snaffle only acts on the mouth, it is a simple bit without confusing action and pressure on other parts of the head.

personally, i don't like using pelhams. i think they need a rider as skilled and knowledgeable as heather to get the best use out of them, mostly, and i've found that most horses who seem to go sweetly in one are sitting behind the contact and looking pretty but not using themselves.
 
I use curbs, gags, and snaffles. And I have one horse who loves the Miracle Bit. I may've ridden horses on occasion in other bits, but not enough to study the effects.

I used to ride huntseat and dressage- I used loose ring jointed snaffles for dressage, and full-cheeks for jumping. However, after I switched trainers and sports, I was taught the necessity for women and children to use a stronger bit with good hands- I have been caught in a situation once, and seen many other people in many similar situations, where the horse will spook, bolt, or become severely irritated about something, and be happy to put up with a snaffle pulling on the face if they can succeed in doing what they want to do- horses can easily ignore a snaffle. To be honest, there are VERY VERY few women who are strong enough to influence an out-of-control or ill-trained horse with a snaffle. It's dangerous.

Needless to say, I only use a snaffle when first bitting my colts- an eggbutt, to be exact. The reason that you don't really have to worry about the possiblity of a snaffle raising a head is that most colts will either try to evade the bit or drop their heads for a few bucks, or at the very minimum, toss their head around trying to get used to the chunk of metal! The idea is to simply adjust them to the concept of a bit, and for them to learn that the bit is simply an aid, not a punishment or source of pain and/or discomfort. You really just want to use the mildest and most comfortable bit when you first introduce a bit.

After the horse is broke, I switch to either a gag or a curb. But you know, I don't really look into the mechanics and effects of each bit when deciding which bit to use with my horses- I simply see what fits my horse, and of those, which bit he seems happiest with and under which he works best.
 

Tangle

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OK - I'm confused :eek:! I can't get my head around why a snaffle asks a horse to raise it's head :confused:

My (overly simplistic) understanding was:
curbs = poll pressure = please lower head
gags = gag action = please raise head
snaffle = bar &/ tongue &/ cheek action = directional information

What am I missing?
 

Skyhuntress

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I'm with you Tangle. I have NEVER found that snaffles make the horse raise their heads.. When I start youngsters, the majority of them get started in a KK, french link. I've seen a variety of people who start their horses in simple snaffles or eggbutts with absolutely no problems of headraising. I would think that it would be the exact opposite because it IS a gentler bit. I cant' imagine putting gags or pelhams in my babies mouths
 

Shiny McShine

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My answer to this question is based on how I train my youngsters and how I use the snaffle bit.

Firstly the snaffle bit should and will raise the horse's head only if the horse is mouthed and educated to accept the bridle correctly, if the rider is using their hands correctly and in certain circumstances.

It should only act to raise the horses head when the rein is actively used either in the half halt, the transition to halt, or where the rider lifts their hands to lift the horse's head carraige. If you have ever tried using a curb rein only to half halt, halt or lift a horses head you will find that the horse will roll the nose in and lower the poll, this is the difference in the functioning and action of a snaffle and a curb.

It will not act to raise the horses head if you are using a passive rein, ie. riding a correctly trained horse on a correctly administered contact, and obviously if you give the rein and allow the horse to stretch it's neck down as you would with a young horse or during a warm up, then the bit is very far from active and so it is not asking the horse to raise it's head at all.

This is why the snaffle bit can be problematic for a lot of riders and they end up switching bits, because they don't understand the action of the bit and spend a lot of time with active reins, and don't allow a contact or relaxation of the mouth.

Why do we need to raise the horses head at all? As I understand, when asking the horse to "come together" as we do in a half halt or when we want the horse to halt altogether, while the horse should do most of this from the loins, hindquarters and back, the raising of the neck (which is also a shortening of the neck in a correctly mouthed and trained horse) is necessary to rebalance the horse and to encourage them to use the scalenus muscles of the neck which is part of correct collection.

So why use a snaffle on a young horse? A snaffle is neccesary for balancing the horse in the above way and until the horse has mastered self carraige the snaffle should remain a part of the training as the curb alone is not able to achieve this balancing effect.

Lastly, the snaffle is essential for intially training the horse to flex laterally, only a jointed bit can achieve this in my opinion.
 

laura jeanne

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Bay Mare said:
Ok, this might not come out right so bear with me :) I'm pretty crap on the actions of bits, it seems to go in one ear, circulates a bit, I think that I've got it then it flies out the other side, lost until I sit down and think about it again ;)
Sorry don't know anything about bits, but I saw this in a cartoon where the husband says to the wife: "If things weren't meant to go in one ear and out the other, God would have given us only one ear."

sorry!!
 

Mehitabel

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Tangle said:
OK - I'm confused :eek:! I can't get my head around why a snaffle asks a horse to raise it's head :confused:

My (overly simplistic) understanding was:
curbs = poll pressure = please lower head
gags = gag action = please raise head
snaffle = bar &/ tongue &/ cheek action = directional information

What am I missing?
it's more that we ask a horse to yield to pressure - so you're right, the curb bits act on the poll (head down) and curb groove (nose in) and a true gag (cheltenham) lifts the bit in the mouth (head up sharpish). a snaffle doesn't have the same magnitude of effect as the gag, in any way, but it's a ddiffernt kind of pressure to the curb. really, the raising action is more as shiny says, when the horse is established and you are specifically asking for it, and as part of a double bridle when it is contrasted to the curb action.
 

Tangle

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Thanks - think I understand :)

Now it's come up I've got a recollection of being told to "lift" my hands when riding a horse that tended to come behind the bit - I think I'm getting old: the memory needs jogging :eek:
 
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