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Ask Sharon

Equipment

Dottie from Waipahu, Hawaii, writes:

Dear Sharon,

I am a beginner rider and recently attended you clinic in Hawaii as a spectator. I learned a lot and enjoyed meeting you and Donna Irvin. I am purchasing a new bit and want to know how to transition my horse, Lady, into her new bit. Thanks!

Dear Dottie,

It was a pleasure to have you at the clinic. Thank you for taking the time to attend. Remember that you will use both direct control “training and tuning equipment” and indirect or leverage bits during all phases of your riding. I like to say my horses are forever in the direct control snaffles, but not always.

When transitioning your horse to a direct control or shank bridle, I suggest beginning with the transition type bits. The Tender Touch, the Pelham or even the 3x3 Gag are options. Horses will sometimes have a preference between the three-piece type mouthpieces or the solid small port mouthpiece bits. The part of the process that creates the most resistance for the horse is the addition of the curb pressure. I generally introduce a leather curb first, with a neutral or even slightly loose fit.

A critical part of the biting process is your horse’s dental health and your ability as a rider to sequence your cues to assist the horse with his ability to respond without resistance. I want to remind you that reins are the last things that you activate. If you pull on the reins before you prepare your horse for the stop, for instance, you will get resistance. 

Additionally, I like to do general riding in new equipment before I ask for any precision activity in the arena. The horse needs time to adjust to the new equipment. We hope to see you next year as a participant in our Hawaiian Performance Horsemanship Clinic.

Take care and ride safe,

Sharon