pony in a far too strong bit

  • We have the chance to purchase a new pony for one of my children, He is a standard kids pony but a talented little thing, likes to jump and i was warned he is "snappy" and "sharp" What I have noticed is that this pony is in a pelham plus chain and I dont feel it needs it at all. I have tried moving down to a snaffle and no issue with me at all - but I'm not a child. What do I need to watch out for? Is there any situations I should try in between bit? Or Do you think he will go fine in the snaffle?

     Horse Lover - California, USA

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  • I feel that a snaffle is the bit of choice for most situations, especially when starting a horse or when dealing with a "problem" horse. Of course, the rider must be educated in its use.

    The snaffle bit should be thought of as a means of communication rather than control. However, in certain situations, control may take on higher priority. For example, if the horse tries to run away with the rider, the rider may have to take more direct control and pull one rein sideways (not back) while lessening tension on the opposite rein. This should redirect the horse's movement into a turn. Then, it is just a matter of controlling the turn, making it smaller and smaller until the horse stops. Then, of course, tension should be released as a reward. If riding in an arena, the horse can be turned into the fence or wall with this method. Again, when the horse stops, the tension should be released.

    If the horse is merely going faster than desired a similar method could be used to turn the horse around and continue riding. If it increases speed too much again, simply turn back the other way. This can be repeated until the horse decides there is no need to rush since it is going nowhere anyway.

    These methods should be practiced before they are needed. It is very hard to get a rider to pull only one rein in a runaway situation if the rider has never done it before.

    A better method of slowing a horse is to take, then give on the reins while saying: "Eeaassyy, eeaassyy...." This works best at a walk and canter when timed with the movement of the horse's head.

    The rider's hands should be following the motion of the horse's head anyway. I always try to teach a rider to follow the motion of the horse's head while maintaining a one to two ounce contact which should remain constant under normal conditions rather the increasing and decreasing.

    Then, when wanting to slow the horse, simply take a little extra as the head comes back making sure the movement is smooth. Then, give as the horse's head goes forward while trying not to release all contact. The taking indicates to the horse that you want it to go slower while the giving allows the horse nothing to fight against. It also requires the horse to maintain its own balance rather than getting the rider to hold it up while it leans on the bit. Again, this should be practiced before needed, particularly in the walk.

    All these methods depend more on influencing the horse's movement rather than on strength. Of course, if the horse is kept relaxed and directed subtly, they should seldom be needed.

    All riders should also be taught how to quickly and easily switch from one to two hand riding and learn not to depend on holding the saddle for stability.

    Don Matschull, www.quietriding.com