A bit about bits
Although good schooling will help you to slow down and control a strong
pony it won’t happen overnight. In the mean time you want to get out and about hacking, jumping and riding cross country
and a different bit might just give you the control you’re looking for. It’s important to remember ‘different’. No one bit is the same. They all have different
actions – on the bars, corners, poll, chin groove and tongue. All ponies are different too. What works well for one
can be a complete disaster for another! Remember that a bit is only as severe as the hands on the end of the reins. A rubber
snaffle can be severe if you’re always tugging on it: a pelham mild if you never need to squeeze.
Before changing bits remember to check your pony’s teeth, his saddle and
the rest of his tack. Sometimes a sharp edge on a tooth, a lump in the underside of a saddle or a rough edge on your bit can
be enough to cause him to misbehave. Ask your vet to routinely check his teeth when you have the annual injections done -
when you clean your tack run your hand over your bridle and the underneath of your saddle - and these things will never become
Everybody has to learn sometimes and
unsteady hands can’t always be avoided. Using rubber or plastic mouth pieces can make life more comfortable for a pony
while the rider learns to get control of his own body as well as his pony’s!
It’s common for ponies
to behave beautifully in a ménage or enclosed area only to transform into a devil when they hit grass! Something stronger
than their ordinary snaffle is needed. Here are just a few ideas on the type of bit that might help.
Remember that a bit is only as severe as the hands on the end of the reins.
|1. Forward going/ strong
pony – young rider
Young riders have small hands and more than one rein is not an option. A Dutch
Gag (bubble bit) or a Kimblewick are the obvious choice for a strong pony.
Snaffles work in the corners of the mouth and a single joint works by squeezing
the tongue when you use both reins together. Any snaffle with rings above and/or below the mouthpiece will work on the top
of the pony’s head (the poll). A snaffle can have any number of joints too – the more joints there are the less
your pony can lean. These three actions combined work well on ponies that put their heads down and tank. If they open their
mouths then a flash or drop noseband can be used too.
A Dutch gag (bubble
bit or three ring gag) can be ridden with two reins but it’s more common to see them used with one rein on
any ring or with leather roundings which join the top and one of the lower rings together so one rein can still be used. Roundings
can be useful but do reduce the amount of poll pressure so the stopping power is less effective. Using a single rein on the
lower ring increases poll pressure but the further away the reins are from the mouthpiece the less effective the steering!
If the Dutch gag isn’t enough try a hanging snaffle which has the poll pressure and the steering – combined with
a solid side piece to help stop the bit sliding through the pony’s mouth. Hanging snaffles have an added bonus too!
If your pony goes well in one – you can use them in a dressage test.
Kimblewicks are great for ponies. They are a scaled down version of a pelham that are perfect for
young riders and ponies as only one rein is needed. They work on the bars of the mouth (gums and lower jaw), the poll and
the chin groove. These three actions work well on ponies that lift their heads up or poke their noses forward and try to run
off. When you pull on the reins the bit presses down on the poll, the lower jaw, and the back of the chin bringing the ponies
head down and back towards their body.
|Dutch Gag (also called Bubble Bit or Three Ring Gag)
Dutch Gag (Bubble Bit or Three Ring Gag) - Use for
No. 1 - Forward Going/Strong Ponies
Kimblewick - Use for No. 1 - Forward
2. Napping/ lack of steering
This is common with ponies and young horses. Often a pony will open his mouth to
avoid pressure from the bit so use a flash or a drop noseband to help get more control. They also stop
the bit sliding through his mouth as you’re trying to turn!
Rubber or leather bit guards can have more of an effect than you might think. These can sit under
or over your noseband and will put pressure against your pony's face when you use the opposite rein. Remember though - you
can’t use them in a dressage test – although you can use a variety of snaffles with cheeks.
Napping is often more about turning than it is about good brakes. This is where
the snaffles with cheeks come in. These come in various varieties; some only have half-cheeks
( the top half) but there are two main types. The Full Cheek snaffle has two ‘arms’ that are
fixed to eggbutt rings. The Fulmer snaffle has two arms that are fixed to the mouthpiece of the bit and a loose ring attached
to the outside. The arms on these bits are usually round and thin – special loops can be bought that thread onto your
cheek pieces. The arms are slotted into them and this stops the bit swivelling in the pony’s mouth.
The arms/ cheeks
of either bit put pressure against your pony's face when you use the opposite rein. Don’t forget you need to use your
legs and body to turn too. Your pony won’t turn just because you've turned his head. He needs to turn his body too.
Keep your contact even in both reins, look where you want to go, turn your body in that direction and push him round with
your outside leg.
Fixed rings are ideal
for ponies that are fussy in their mouths; those that shake their heads or tip their heads up when you ask them to stop or
turn. Loose rings are perfect for ponies that lean down on a bit – the loose ring means the mouth piece
of the bit never stays still. He can’t lean on anything if it’s not solid.
Snaffles with cheeks or fulmers have the added bonus that the mouthpiece can come in a variety of
metals and with multiple links. The more links you have the less your pony can lean on it. The added movement in it also means
he’ll move it around with his tongue and that will stop him setting his jaw.
|Half Cheek Snaffle
Half Cheek Snaffle - Use for No. 2 - Napping/Lack
|Full Cheek Snaffle
Full Cheek Snaffle -
Use for No. 2 - Napping/Lack of Steering
Fulmer Snaffle - Use for No. 2 - Napping/Lack of Steering
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