Horsemanship Jr. - Preliminary Skills - Chapter Two continued

in #bit4 years ago (edited)


Halters are used when you are leading or grooming your horse.

Bridles are for riding as they give the rider more control over the horse. Bridles can be fitted with ‘bits’ and we will begin to examine the Curb bit, the Snaffle bit, and the Hackamore - used in place of a bit. You will see below the ways in which a bit is used to control the horse.

NOTE: The bit has many parts to it. It is not just the metal bar (mouthpiece) that goes in the horse’s mouth. Besides the bits discussed here, there are many more types of bits on the market.

A Bridle fit with a Curb bit:

The Curb bit is attached to two shanks, which are metal sidepieces. It will be explained below how these two shanks allow the rider to exert pressure several places on the horse’s head. The horse feels this pressure over the entire shank area. The longer the shank, the more pressure is exerted.

These two shanks have a ring at the top of each shank and the headstall and curb chain (or curb strap) of the bridle are attached to these rings.

These shanks also have a ring at the bottom of each shank and the reins are attached to these rings. It is important to understand that these shanks act as levers. When the rider pulls up and back on the reins, the shanks exert force or pressure. This force or pressure is called leverage. Here is how this leverage or pressure is felt by the horse:
First, the horse will feel pressure under the chin from the curb strap (or curb chain) of the bridle.

Second, the horse will feel pressure on the roof of the mouth or the tongue, depending on the type of mouthpiece. A straight mouthpiece will exert pressure on the roof of the mouth. A mouthpiece with a joint in the middle will exert pressure on the tongue.

Third, the horse will feel pressure on his poll (the highest point on the top of the head). This pressure will be from the crownpiece of the bridle headstall.

The rider has greater control over the horse because of the bit, but it is not necessary to pull too forcefully as the shank will provide the pressure as above to alert the horse. The horse knows that the rider wants something from him, and this will be a perfect time to teach the horse a command. This is part of the communication and understanding that will develop between the rider and horse.

If your horse has not experienced a bit, it can be difficult for the horse to accept. Give your horse plenty of time and plenty of trials and let him know you are not in any hurry. Do not have too heavy a hand on your reins. Remember the shanks will exert pressure and you want to make sure the horse is not frightened or hurt by the bit.

A Bridle fit with a Snaffle bit:

On the Snaffle bit the rein connects directly to the mouth of the horse. So that if you pull on the rein there is direct pressure on the corner of the lips, the bars (1) of the mouth, and the tongue. This is direct pressure on the mouth of the horse.

A single joint is the most common mouthpiece for the snaffle. A jointed Snaffle bit lets you talk to one side of the horse’s mouth.

There are No shanks on the snaffle bit.

There is a possibility of the bars (1) in the horse’s mouth being damaged with the Snaffle bit. If this is a problem with your horse, you can switch to the Hackamore.

A Bridle fit with a Hackamore:

A Hackamore can be used in place of a bit on the bridle.

The Hackamore goes around the horse’s nose and is used to control the horse without placing a bit in its mouth.

The Hackamore makes contact with the lower jaw. It will not damage that area. This will be a great alternative if the bars in a horse’s mouth have been damaged by the snaffle bit.

Bits can cause pain and damage to a horse’s mouth if they are used too harshly. Constantly check your horse’s mouth to make sure the bit is not causing damage. Also watch your horse as he reacts to your pressure commands. Your horse understands not only commands, but also kindness. Remember he wants to understand and please you, but he can’t when he is frightened or in pain.

If you are riding someone’s older horse, they may not use a bit. The horse is so well trained he doesn’t need it.

  1. The bars of the mouth (smooth areas with no teeth) are found behind the canine teeth.
    Following are all the teeth in a horse’s mouth
    The incisor front teeth form a curved area in the front of the mouth – 5 uppers 5 lowers
    Behind the incisors, one on each side, are the canine teeth – 1 upper each side – 1 lower each side.
    Behind the canines are the bars of the mouth which are smooth areas with no teeth.
    Behind the bars are the rear molars

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