Question: My horse tends to get very strong while we are jumping. I have a twisted D ring but I just feel as though i cannot stop him. Do you have any suggestions for a bit that is not too harsh, yet will help me slow him down? My trainer told me to look into a D ring with hooks but they are all very expensive.
Also, I read some other answers to similar questions like mine, and all the answers state that it is all the riders fault. I would just like you to know that I am a very good rider and I am never harsh on my horses. I just simply cannot find an appropriate bit, and am looking for suggestions. Your help is appreciated!! Thanks! Olivia
Answer from April Reeves: Hello Olivia. Thanks for asking me this question, as I will be honest and keep it real, but it may not be what you want to hear. I urge you to consider my answer, as it is the only way you will fix your problem.
My first suggestion: consider another coach and get the softest bit you can find. I kid you not, and this is why:
When a rider comes to me with a problem like your having over fences, it has nothing to do with bits and everything to do with lack of a good foundation on a horse (and rider). You won’t solve the problem with a harsher bit: it will only slow down the horse for a few days until that bit also becomes useless, as his mouth gets tougher and tougher and he gets stronger and stronger (ie: his brain). I’m not being mean: I’m just keeping it real.
A twisted D ring is used only for a short time, like a lesson per month, to get the horse’s brain back, and in my lifetime I have only known about 5 horses that could even handle that style of “re-training”. Any twisted mouthpiece is not a daily bit. Ever. It takes sensitive, experienced hands to not damage and destroy what you started with.
It’s important to step back and ask why the horse gets strong in the first place. It’s not a bit issue: a new bit won’t solve it. It’s the training. Somewhere in his training he has missed some very vital steps. You can either ignore this and get a harsher bit and keep your problems, or you, as the good rider you say you are, can learn how to solve problems through patient and consistent work. I do question your trainer. Anyone worth paying for should have the basic sense to discover the solution, not increase the bit. It’s inexcusable. Since you are a good rider, read on.
Your horse has gone from grade 2 to grade 12 somewhere in his work, missing all the important stuff in the middle. It’s your job to go back to grade 2, take the time you need, and fill in the blanks.
Put the mildest bit on him you can find (French link), before you start this work. You will not be jumping high for a few weeks or even a month, but the end result will give you more reward than finding a new bit in the store every few weeks. It will make you a better rider and horseman.
I have helped hundreds of jumping students with this problem so I urge you to work through this.
First, consider WHY the horse does this? Often it’s anxiety that builds up over time from not having the “tools” to be able to do what you are asking him to do, easily and confidently. Yes, he can get over a jump, but that’s not a healthy picture. Horses rush fences because they are not equipped to “think” and assess the challenges you continually put in front of them. In order for a horse to jump calmly and clearly, he needs the luxury of time and SLOW, patient work to build up his confidence and his body. Many horses that are jumped too soon, too fast and too high also suffer pain somewhere, and are looking to get it over with as soon as possible. I have not yet seen a jumper without some pain somewhere. It’s chronic: horses can jump: but it doesn’t mean they should be, especially all the time as some do.
The first thing you are going to do is to allow your horse to teach himself, so that you don’t have to do all the thinking for you both. Teach him to think. This is where confidence is built. When you micro-manage a horse through every step, you take away his ability to think and you create anxiety that leads to dozens of behavioral problems like what you are discovering now: plus if you ever change your aids even slightly or ask just a little different one day because you are tired or cranky, you set up a pattern of fear in a horse because they lose faith in your ability to make good choices for the horse’s survival.
Once you add a harder bit to the equation you will likely get a worse response than what you are currently dealing with.
However, before I go into great lengths to explain what and how to get your horse soft and responsive, I first want to know from you if this is something you want to know. It takes me hours to write these pieces and I want to know it’s something you are interested in. From your question it seems you only need a bit recommendation, but everyone is telling you it’s training. Should you still feel it’s just a bit, let me know. I’m sincerely interested in helping you – it’s good to see a happy horse and rider team, especially when the horse is light and soft over fences.
You may want to go over some of my jumping articles and see if something clicks with you. I’ll post the links to them here for you to consider. Otherwise, I hope you and your horse sort it out without any more pain to the horse. When horses have problems, they are trying to tell you something. Listen carefully.
This last article was a horse very similar to yours Olivia. She did the work and had interesting things to say after.
Hope these links help Olivia. If you need or want further information please don’t hesitate to contact me!
June 16 Response:
Olivia: Thank you very much! You were very helpful and the articles are very similar to my problem. I will continue to focus on the basics and collecting my horse. I will also get a soft bit. Would you suggest a happy mouth rubber D ring?
April: I’m glad it helped!
As for bits, I’m not an advocate of rubber bits. Yes, they are soft, but they are also somewhat ineffective in a short time. They work on babies just learning what a bit is about, but very few horses can spend their lives in them.
I use two styles: a french link and a french link with a roller in the middle. The basic french link has a little dog bone in the middle (I like the flat dog bone) and the other roller french link has a roller instead of the dog bone. It’s my favorite bit and works well on almost any horse, but it’s hard to find. What I will do is post this on my blog along with a photo of the french link roller. That way you will be able to see the bits and make an informed choice. Give me a day or so: I have to shoot the photos! But I will do that for you and probably hundreds of others that would like to see the difference. You can order the roller bit from most tack stores, but you need to bring in the photo of the bit for them, as most people won’t know what you’re talking about! It’s unusual. But highly effective. It has link joints that no other bit has: I believe it contributes to it’s effectiveness.
Thanks Olivia, and let me know how it goes. If you need anything just ask.