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Bitting Cheat Sheet #3- Bits for Strong Horses Jumping

Posted by Anita Marchesani on Sep 08, 2014

There are a few questions that I get asked time and time again, so here' s a series of "cheat sheets" for you to give you a place to start. Please keen in mind, that these suggestions are general, and do not take into account the details of your exact situation. Use them as a guide, read the product descriptions of the bits listed, and consider them as they might apply to your particular issues and training that you are also undertaking.

Cheat Sheet #3- Bits for Strong Horses Jumping

Now of course the reasons for your horse leaning or pulling when jumping can be many and varied, so you need to take into account things like:
• Have I recently increased the workload or difficulty of work?
• Is my horse fit and strong enough for the work being asked?
• Is my horse pain free in both mouth and back?
• Is my horse educated enough to understand your rein aids clearly?
• Are you allowing your horse to travel at an adequate speed for him to have the power to jump in a balanced way, or is he pulling to try and get more power?

Sometimes though, a change of bit can help you through a training bump. If you are using a fixed cheek snaffle, such as an eggbutt or full cheek, then the first thing for you to try is to change to a loose ring. The reasons for this I covered in an earlier blog post, which you can read here.

If you have tried that, not it's not quite enough, here are a few specific styles of bits that I recommend to help the rider a little with a horse that can be strong when jumping, either cross country or showjumping.  As with any training issue, be sure to seek the advice of your coach when changing your bit to tackle a "control" issue.

The Neue Schule Verbindend
The Verbindend is one of Bit Bank's top sellers- it's available in the snaffle (as in the link above), as well as in pony sizes and as a bridoon. It's a double jointed bit that is shaped to sit more like a single join in the mouth, applying more concentrated pressure at the bars, while being shaped to suit those horse with a fatter tongue. It has helped a lot of riders sit the horse a little lighter in the hand, and can be that little bit of extra help you need, particularly if you want to lift his head rather than lower it before a fence.

The Pelham
The pelham is a leverage bit, as as such makes your rein aids stronger as well as asking for the head to lower.  It's a "mechanical advantage" for the rider and needs to be used with some thought.  Very commonly do I hear that a rider changed from a snaffle (where the horse was very strong, so the rider had a lot of weight in the hand) to a Pelham- and they got more stopping power for sure, but the horse then refused to go forwards.  This is simply a matter of the rider needing to adapt to what is now in their hands, and the weight they are used to.  You should have less in the hand in the pelham than you would in your snaffle, as your horse is feeling 2-3 times what you have in your hand.  For more detailed explanation on the pelham, see my previous blog post.

The Verbindend and a Vulcanite Pelham

The Universal
Not as strong as the pelham, but a good step up from a snaffle still is the Universal cheek.  Looks like a dutch gag, but is nowhere near as strong or as unforgiving, and with less loss of directional control as your reins are more in a direct line to the mouthpiece.  The loose lever cheeks gives the rider more play, and the leverage is milder, so while it makes your rein aids stronger there is not a huge amount of force being applied to lower the head.  A very handy tool, and a lot of our clients have used this bit temporarily to re-school, and then returned to their snaffle.

The Running Gag
The true gag is a running gag, and can be with either loose rings (Balding), eggbutt (Cheltenham) or full cheek (Nelson) cheek pieces, each with slightly different benefits. The main action of the running gag is to play more on the corners of the lips and pull upwards with pressure, asking for a "head raising" action.  So, if your horse tends to pull down and burrow in, the action of the running gag may help you lift the head before a fence.  This bit is not for novice riders, and you must have a good balanced, independent seat.

The NS Universal and the NS Nelson Gag