Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Damage Control

This video is not for those with weak stomachs. 
A fellow blogger sent it in, with the question, what do I do now?
She had been riding the horse with a mechanical hackamore, but wanted to advance her horsemanship beyond it.
The bits weren't working out at all, and then the vet found this...

His advice? Use whatever works.
Thanks, vet.

First of all, let's think about how this horse got where he is today.
I do believe he was a rope horse.
This doesn't necessarily have anything to do with that horrific injury, but the roping reins might.
Also, many rope horses are trained to rope and only rope.
They are one-leaded, their life involves standing tied, warming up and blasting out of the box.
The tie downs used for "balance" (don't get me going), create a horse who travels hollowed out and pulling with his front feet instead of with a rounded back and pushing with his hind legs.
This is WHY you see so many high-headed rope horses, complete with an over developed muscle along the bottom of the neck and none along the crest. The head set and neck are not a reason to need a tie-down as we are often led to believe, pushing against the tie-down creates the whole mess.
Not all rope horses are trained this way, the barn I keep my horses at has a roping trainer who makes an all around broke horse, then teaches it to rope.
All his horses know both leads, spin and stop. They go out on the trail. They don't wear tie-downs. He's got ropers flying in from all over the country to buy his horses and some absolutely gorgeous stock in training, so I'm thinking he's taking the right approach.

I'm not going to jump to the conclusion the horse with a damaged tongue was abused. It's tempting to go there, but probably not what happened. Not intentionally anyway.

I knew a young woman who had a nice all-around gelding she showed in IBHA. She had the horse for several years, loved him to death, took excellent care of him and showed primarily in halter, Western Pleasure, Horsemanship and so on.

One night she was doing a tune up on her trail work. She was riding in a snaffle and roping reins.She hopped down to change a few of her obstacles, leaving her good gelding standing in the middle of the arena, waiting patiently for her as he always did.

He lowered his head to the ground, the roping reins slid over his ears and he put a foot through them. He jumped back, but the rein was so short it yanked on his mouth and he panicked. By the time his owner got him undone the snaffle had severed his tongue. Not just cut it, but ripped it in two.

No one beat him or ripped at him with a big old western bit (a favorite reason from folks who know nothing about our bits). He was in an egg butt snaffle. The most damage I have ever seen done to  horses tongues has been with broken or chain mouthpieces.

If a horse in a shanked, broken mouthpiece bit and a tie-down, trips at a full run and piles into the dirt, he will try to regain his balance by slinging his head. He will be stopped by the tie-down and fall with the bit cranked across his tongue.  I've seen some pretty serious wounds happen to tongues this way. Then there's your basic, tie the horse with the bridle reins approach. My guess is this is the primary way these accidents happen.

From what I was told, he is afraid of ropes, so I'm going with an arena accident. A roper is not going to make a horse afraid of ropes through abuse or any other means, that would kind of defeat the purpose. You know, of roping stuff. But, if a horse ends up with a scarred tongue and a fear of ropes, no matter how it came about, it's a good way to end up being sent down the road.

So, our reader now has a tough, stiff riding horse with a severely damaged tongue. What should she do?

If she was going to trail ride, I'd say stay with the mechanical hackamore. I don't care for them, but a tool is only as dangerous as the hands using it.

The thing is, she wants to do lateral work, develop her hands and feel and get her horse working the way a good horse should. She's very aware this won't happen in a mechanical hackamore.

Personally, I don't think he should ever carry a bit again. I think the damage to his tongue is too severe for him to ever be comfortable in a bit, it could even be excruciating, which means dangerous.

So what's next?

Go all Parelli and ride him with a rope halter?

If that's what you want, go for it, you'll have lots of company. I'm more of a traditionalist. I want to actually do stuff, like ride.

So I did a little research and found some alternatives for this horse.

Here's what I came up with. I've used some of these tools and others I haven't tried...

Go Nekked - Let's get real here. Stacey did not start this horse bridleless. Riding like this is not for the faint of heart.

Neck rope - This is the step between bridle and bridleless. Again, not a method I suggest for most riders.

Tack rein: When I was a little horseless child in Boise Idaho, I ran with a kid named Tammy McClure. I do believe she's a pleasure horse trainer now. Anyway, she had horses and rode with a riding group, Ehcapa ( where they rode in the Rose Bowl Parade, jumped, did drills, and just about anything else you can think of bareback and bridleless. They all rode with a tack rein, a leather strap with studs in it that hung around the horse's neck.

I was so jealous I could spit. she was so amazingly cool it just killed me. Every once in a while I got to ride with her, all we had was the tack rein. It was awesome. The only reference I could find to the tack rein is here
I don't remember actual tacks in the rein. They were more like a round stud, or the dots on an old style western bridle and it was a simple leather strap.

Anyway, I haven't used one since way back then, but we were little kids tearing around and I had no experience at all. The horses were fine and nobody I'm wanting to rig one up. 

Grass hackamore: Also known as a loping hackamore, this is pretty much a bosal that works like a snaffle. Very gentle, very light, don't plan on much whoa, because there isn't any.Cutters often use them on their youngsters and there, they are an effective tool. They guide right to left without breaking the focus or frightening a young horse.

Bosal : One of my favorite training tools, it has taken me quite a few years to get a solid handle on it. The bosal works off the nose. The reins are attached under the chin. Steering and stopping are done mostly off weight aids and guiding the nose. I put my youngsters in a snaffle for a year or two before I go to the bosal. My personal philosophy is to get the shoulders with the snaffle and then the nose with the hackamore (bosal). The bosal works the opposite of a ring snaffle, with the pressure pushing against the outside of the face instead of pulling the inside. This gets them neck reining even though you're still riding two handed.

Sidepull: I have started many colts in a sidepull, the rein action is similar to a snaffle, and I have a little more oomph than in just a halter. It also works off the nose as well as the sides of the face. As long as the rider doesn't hang on a horse's face, this is a good tool. It consists of a headstall with a noseband made of leather, rope, or braided rawhide. The side pull has rings or loops on the sides of the noseband to connect the reins. Some sidepulls are simply a rope halter with rings tied into it. The reins apply direct contact to the side of the noseband giving considerable turning control but limited stopping.
I haven't used a an Indian hackamore, but I see the logic, it's close to a bitless bridle. If I wanted to mess around with one, I would try this one.

Scrawbrigs: This is an English version of the bitless bridle and I know nothing about it.These act on the nose and chin. The reins are attached to a strap which runs under the chin, and tightens when pressure is applied to the reins. Better brakes, but not very sensitive in the steering department.

Crosspull: The Crosspull is the official name for Dr. Cook's bitless bridle.This bridle acts by tightening at key pressure points on the horses head, dispersing pressure over the largest possible area. Unlike all other bitless bridles, this one pushes the horse into a turn, rather than pulling, which is how a bosal works. This would create a good base for neck reining. When pressure is applied to one rein, it is transferred to the opposite side of the horse's head. The most common one is the Dr Cook's, however there is also the Nurtural and the IV Horse Super Pro among others. Again, I only know about them by reading, studying, and not needing to try one for my particular purposes.

English Hackamore: A short shanked mechanical hackamore with lots of padding, it still has communication issues. Nope, haven't used this, if  I'm going to use a mechanical hackamore I'll buy one stateside.

German Hackamore: Same thing, longer shanks, much like our American ones. 
Meroth: The Meroth bridle is a crosspull that works on the chin groove. There is a nose band, but the majority of the pressure will come from underneath. Haven't tried it....

So how would I approach working a horse like this one, and which bitless bridle would I use? First off, I would get all my pity, angst and endless love under control by taking him out to graze and weeping softly into his mane. 

Then I would train him exactly the same way I would any other rope horse that I was transitioning over to a new discipline. I would start him over like he was a dewy eyed three-year-old. My only acknowledgement to his past would be going bitless. 

Before I go any farther I have a blanket statement to make about any piece of equipment we put on a horse's  head or around his neck, for that matter. None of them are natural. All of them can be painful or painless, DEPENDING ON THE HAND THAT IS GUIDING THEM. Please read my last sentence over and over until it is branded deep into your brain.

I may not be able to stop a runaway with a sidepull, but it doesn't mean I won't rub him bloody trying. The sidepull is not designed to stop a horse and it can sure as hell hurt one -- if I am frantically yanking on it trying to stop. I can tear a horse to pieces with a spade bit, but I won't ride my horse in one until she has had the five to seven years of education it takes for her to know how to use it. If she's not a good candidate for a spade, she won't ever go in one.

Please don't let a sales ad or company spokesman talk you into a piece of equipment. Buy after educating yourself and truly understanding what your purchasing.

Another big pool of quicksand to duck is thinking the lighter the piece of equipment you use, the better horseman it makes you. 

There was a boarder at my first barn who liked to ride in the arena while I was giving lessons or showing a horse to clients. He wanted to be a trainer, actually, he wanted my job. He would ride around, doing exercises he had learned from his John Lyons video, riding his gelding in a rope halter with a lead rope, then eventually, taking off the halter and riding him bridleless.

It was all very impressive and to an educated horseman, extremely moronic behavior. I gritted my teeth and waited him out with a smile. My bosses were becoming infatuated with his deep understanding of horses. Lucky for me, the day his horse decided to come undone he was in the arena with the boss's son and their stud. The Lyons aficionado not only had no way to stop his
horse, but it had never been trained to understand who was actually in charge during a crisis. The wreck was astounding and educational, nobody got hurt and the wannabe was considered a total boob from that day forward. No horses were hurt, but there was a cracked elbow, lots of bruises and some torn out gates and fencing. Even riding a horse with nothing on his head can get him hurt if the rider is a dumbass. 

Just to be clear, I'm sure Mr. Lyons would have had a heart attack if he had witnessed this misinterpretation of his methods.

I haven't ever tried a crosspull bridle. I looked at them when they first became the rage. The first time I saw one was at a Horse Rescue I was trying to volunteer at. A brand new, never had a lesson, but adopted an angry, half-broke, three-quarter starved horse went by with a crosspull. She came back to the barn ten minutes later, at high speed, screaming and pulling on the angry horse's bridle with everything she had. 

The next time I saw her she was riding with a curb. Her horse was still angry (my guess is he was desperately wishing he had never been "rescued") but she could stop him.

Personally, I would start with a sidepull and move into a bosal, then stay there. I might play with the Indian hackamore. My reasons are pretty simple. I work off the nose and the other types get control from either the jaw or the entire head. The sidepull would educate my horse's shoulders and the bosal would educate the nose.

Anyway, I would start my rope horse with a side pull and lots of long trotting. I would ride two handed, and think about keeping a steady pace and turning lots and lots of gentle corners. Doing esses in the arena, thinking about hand and leg position, and cuing with your seat and calf will take you a long way towards beginning collection and flexing.

I would not try to stop my horse, or even slow him down, if he wanted to go, well then, we would go. the way to control your speed is with the size of your arena. Your horse will go much slower in a round pen than a rodeo arena.

I talk about all of this stuff in my colt training posts BTW.

My stops would come from my seat and a whoa, I wouldn't ask my horse to stop until he really, really wanted to. Again, my approach is somewhere in my past posts.

Active posting and keeping a horse forward though a turn will get him to pick up his back and flex at the poll. Trotting esses and zig-zags have done more to improve my horses frame than anything else I've ever done. 

Trotting is great for building muscle and balance, on horse and rider both. If you don't know how to post correctly, now is the time to learn.

I would squeeze my hands and release them in rhythm with my trot on our straightaways, along with a gentle squeeze and release from my calves. I'd be seeking a little flexion, not even asking really, just feeling around for it.

Where I would first feel some lift and flex would be through a turn. I'll relax my hands and my legs as a reward...

The give and take will never give my horse something to set against. He might flail around with his head, looking for his tiedown, but I'll be patient. Eventually he'll feel me and begin to work with me.

The rest...well that's your adventure, so get on with it.


  1. A topic very meaningful to me and often highly misunderstood. I use a sidepull on both my horses, and I'm a big fan. For lessons, it avoids my horses getting the bit banged around in the mouth by inexperienced hands. So many people are mildly alarmed by riding without a bit. They are concerned that they won't have any control. In my opinion, whatever's on the horse's head isn't going to stop a horse determined to ignore the rider and run like hell. I think training and trust and experience does that. As for stopping, yes it's true that a side pull doesn't give you as much brakes, but that's why I train riders to stop with their weight and a vocal cue and a lift of the reins. If they have to haul on the reins to stop, I want to know why - what are they doing with their knees and seat that the horse isn't getting the stop cue?

    I'm so glad though, that you wrote a caution about any of these pieces of tack being potentially dangerous. I'm still studying how a sidepull should fit. I'm experimenting with wrapping the noseband so it doesn't rub the hide off the face. I'm trying to explain to riders the difference between firmly pointing the nose in the right direction and yanking the crap out of him and basically being a jerk. Literally.

    So, fellow blogger (Cindy!) I'm where you're at, working on lateral and fine tuning and collection. I do ride in a loose ring snaffle as well but I've found the sidepull to be a really great tool. (And good for you for looking for what's right for that nice horse of yours!) And go ride. Ride a lot.

    Around here we joke that I just have to keep my horses a step ahead of my students! My horses are brilliant with beginners, I just want them to be capable of way more than what the majority of their riders need -- for my sake and for the horses'.

    (I have a mechanical hackamore too but I consider it to be the equivalent of a long shanked curb, and I don't think the horses are ready for it. Or me for that matter.)

    Okay, time for me to save this blog post in my "training" file and go long trot a horse, and keep working on my squeeze-lift-release process!

  2. Thank you Mugs, If it is okay with you I am going to print this off and stick it in my little folder of "things I'm learning". That way I can read it, read it, read it until I have every line memorized. Then I will saddle up and ride it, ride it, ride it. Then I will hit those colt training posts as well and do the same. I learn so much from archive's of your blog. I'm am so thankful for them.

    Thanks to another blogger (Louisa) I now have a pretty nice side pull to learn with. The nose band is wrapped which I like as well.

    I will give you an update on my horse, Trax, in case you care. We have spent the last month (at least) working on downward transitions using voice commands and seat. I am desperately trying to learn how to keep my hands out of his face, and he being the most awesome horse that he is tries so hard to understand what I am asking. He is coming along slowly but surely, as am I. We have, for the most part gotten over his fear of ropes, enough to work a rope gate, and drag a heavy log with out him losing his mind if the rope touches him.

    I will say that it is a journey, but personally I couldn't ask for a better horse to go through it with.

    Thanks again for answering my question Mugs.

  3. Or another option, a friend of mine makes nosebands that work similar to riding in a rope halter. My mares love them, work well in them, and it saves their mouths from my heavy hands. (I am getting better as I work through my fear of getting my neck broke again)

    I get a lot of funny looks riding my horses bitless like that, but they work for us. Of course, I also get funny looks for riding my horse in easy boots, but I'm not worried.

    If anyone is interested in what I'm talking about with nosebands, check out my friends facebook page.

  4. I'd never used anything bitless until I started riding a mare that hadn't been ridden in years. She'd been broke to go english and western but was terribly anxious under saddle. Stories I'd been told pointed to the former trainer being heavy handed with the bit. So we started over without one.

    It let me teach her that she could go without getting popped in the mouth and that whoa didn't equal a jerk to stop.

    My next step was to strip down my english bridle so she could carry a bit while still being ridden in the sidepull.

    Eventually yes, we moved back to the snaffle but the inbetween time let us each learn to trust the other not to do something unfair.

    Tools are only as good as the person using them. Whether they are equine tools or carpentry tools.

  5. I have been using an Indian hackmore for a couple years now, and I like them. I have a horse who just doesn't like bits (he's got some scarring in the corners of his mouth, possibly from an ill-fitting bit in the past), but he does great bitless. I don't plan on showing, and mostly just do arena work and trail riding, so I don't really care if he ever goes in a bit again.

    The Indian hackmore behaves similar to a snaffle, and you can get a little extra "whoa" with the tightening around the jaw (I've seen ones with knots in the noseband for even more whoa, but mine don't have them). I also have a side-pull, and can switch between the two fairly seamlessly (my bf prefers the sidepull, since he's doesn't quite have the finesse for the Indian hackmore).

    I will say the using the Indian hackmores have made me a much better horse-woman. I have to be better/smarter than my horse now, instead of just being able to overpower him.

    Just my two cents.

  6. I like have been using this bitless option.

  7. Hi, I don't usually chime in but I do read here quite a bit and thought I might be able to help. The first horse that I bought, and still have, has a very similar injury to her tongue. I couldn't tell from the video how similar but my mare's is a lateral gash about half way through. Due to being a total idiot when I first bought her I was pretty unaware of this until I had her teeth done. I've had a couple different vets tell me a couple different things on how they thought it occurred (one thought someone had tried to tie her tongue, another thought she had gotten twine wrapped around it and then stepped on the twine etc.) Anyway, I will say, that for my mare and where her mark is I am able to use a bit but she isn't one that can get cranked around and I have to be very, very mindful on my bit choice. The gash on that gelding's tongue may not be in a location to allow that though. My mare goes best in a really "flexible" bits. So I started with an O-ring French link, and she's now riding comfortably in a jointed curb with a 1" square port. I can tell you she isn't uncomfortable with a bit in and she definitely isn't in any kind of pain, although, again the location of the gash is probably different from this geldings. As to bitless options I can give an opintion on the Dr. Cook/Crosspull. I knew someone who used a knock-off one on a horse that had quite a few issues. I ended up putting some miles on that horse but when I tried that contraption on the horse, he almost went up and over. The mechanics of that particular version made no sense to me and the best place for the particular piece of equipment would have been the garbage. The only other horse I knew to go well in one was a dead head old western pleasure Arab that probably would have gone quietly in anything you put on his face.

  8. I haven't posted here in a coon's age, as I've been horseless for almost two decades and really don't consider my opinions or experience relevant to today's horsemen and women. However...

    I had a 16.3 probably standardbred gelding that moved ilke a good hunter. But he was afraid of bits or all kinds, so I tried what used to be called a jumping hackmore. Really, it was just like a thick round noseband that hooked to the sidepieces of any English bridle, and had D-rings for the reins. He went like a champ in this. He was quite a gentlemean, so runaways were not an issue, but I could stop him from a dead gallop, flex and bend him, and collect him in this. We won many blues and championships at AHSA B- and A-rated shows with this back in the day. The only concession I made was to ask the judge at the beginning of the show if I could use a non-mechanical hackmore, since a couple of the circuit judges would not pin, or even judge, a horse in a hackmore.

    After a couple of years I started riding him in a rubber snaffle and he still performed like a champ. But we always went back to the hackmore for trail riding, swimming, or just farting around in general.

  9. I do ride my elderly Highland bitless , first in a Dr Cooks then in an indian bosal. In the dr cooks he would occasionally run thropugh the bridle when asked to stop. But with the indian bosal he doesn't & was spot on from the first attempt. He has a snaffle bit when we are on the roads as over here in England insurance companies tend to refuse to pay out if anything happens when your horse is ridden out bitless, but he has never been totally happy in his mouth, possibly because of his fat tongue & small mouth which leads to him having a mouthfull when he's got the bit in.As we're both ancient now , he's 20 & I'm 67 we mainly hack out, but do go for a play in the manage to see just how clever he is & he is way too clever for his own good.After 17 yrs we've finally something he feels really comfy in.

  10. I do ride my elderly Highland bitless , first in a Dr Cooks then in an indian bosal. In the dr cooks he would occasionally run thropugh the bridle when asked to stop. But with the indian bosal he doesn't & was spot on from the first attempt. He has a snaffle bit when we are on the roads as over here in England insurance companies tend to refuse to pay out if anything happens when your horse is ridden out bitless, but he has never been totally happy in his mouth, possibly because of his fat tongue & small mouth which leads to him having a mouthfull when he's got the bit in.As we're both ancient now , he's 20 & I'm 67 we mainly hack out, but do go for a play in the manage to see just how clever he is & he is way too clever for his own good.After 17 yrs we've finally something he feels really comfy in.

  11. I'm a big fan of the jumping hackamore, too. Simple, but my horse is pretty happy in it. Interestingly, he stops and backs better in it than with a bit, with minimal pressure.

    If he gets it in his head that he doesn't want to stop, I haven't found that it persuades him any better, nor any worse, than a regular bit. Luckily, in general his favorite gait is "whoa". :)

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  13. Better link than the one I attempted before:

    Years ago at college the stables had gotten in a few new horses from "out west". The instructor was doing an "introduction to tack" or something, and pulled out the tongue of one of the new horses while discussing bits and bitting. (It was a long time ago, I don't really remember all the details). The tongue though, I remember. It looked exactly like that shown in the video. The instructor was pretty surprised at it, but said he thought it might have been abuse, though he didn't know the horse's history.

    I'll never forget that.

  14. @ the 3rd anon comment. I know exactly what you are saying in reference to where the bit sits in their mouths. I have noticed that certain bits miss that spot completely...unless it is really yanked on.
    I have been using a Mylar comfort snaffle on him, which doesn't have quite the break in the middle that a regular snaffle does. It seems to be better for him than any other bit I have ever used, but he doesn't love it either. I have the side pull now and will use that for now, until I can get him retrained.

  15. I'm with you, Heidi - even the harshest bit in the world is just a suggestion if the horse is going to bolt.

    However, I think it all depends on what works for a particular horse. My mom's Peruvian was used to being ridden on a tight rein in a fairly long-shanked curb bit - and no, he was never a show horse, just a trail horse. A trail horse ridden in a fairly long-shanked curb bit who didn't neck rein at all. We put him in a crosspull, and he's a completely different horse. While he has always been a prince (unless he's feeling naughty, or has a beginner on his back that he can mess with:), he was so much more relaxed, and a lot more surefooted, now that he could carry himself more comfortably. And, for the record, he collects himself when you ask for gait. Seeing how well it worked on him, I decided to try my idiotic old man horse in it. He ran right through the bridle and probably would have taken off with me if we hadn't maneuvered another horse in front of him. I don't know if it was the bridle, or the fact that anything new is likely to lead to a massive old man freak-out, but we went back to the curb bit. And I note for the record that he fought his way through two snaffles and a couple of other curb bits before we finally settled on his current one.


  16. My mare, a 20something former high goal polo pony who got bought by a stupid lesson barn and tried to make her a hunter by sawing on her face. I'm not sure how they accomplished the tongue injury exactly, but I know they did it (I know her history prior to that barn and rode her extensively before she went there). She will tolerate a fat rubber snaffle. You can ride with some really gentle contact even. I don't know if they make shanked western bits with a fat rubber mouthpiece, but it might be worth a shot. Anything else is met with a lot of flinging her head around and sometimes rearing. So if it hurt, she's plenty happy to express that loudly. She also goes well in something Tory makes and has labeled as an "English hackamore". It basically turns an English bridle into a sidepull. It's a fat, rolled leather noseband with rings on the side of it.

    I have a pretty spectacular bright blue biothane sidepull with a neoprene padded noseband I ride my Arab in on trails and endurance rides. It has zero 'woah', but he'll listen in whatever. I also have one of the rolled leather nosebands sidepulls for more formal English things, though he goes just fine in a French link snaffle as well.

  17. @Candy's Girl - that sounds like what Olde New England and I were talking about - a jumping hackamore.

  18. I found the fastest way to educate Mocha to a sidepull was to ground drive her in it first, and make sure I could get the rein around her rear when she decided to test it and hit a fast reverse. Kind of a case of letting her hit the noseband and find her own release. She's been respectful ever since.

    For a smart horse, it only has to happen once or twice. And it's a lesson I'd much rather start on the ground than in the saddle (keep in mind that my original horse mentor started me and my green Shetland, and I spent a LOT of time ground driving as a result. I'm very comfortable with ground driving and know the challenges with it...).

    A friend of mine rides her Lipizzan stallion with a sidepull--he had some bad experiences with an abusive dressage trainer, to the point that any bit you put in his mouth makes him curl and avoid contact.

    For Heidi, wrap the noseband in Vetwrap. Works quite nicely to keep it from rubbing.

    That said, I first learned about sidepulls from an old dressage trainer who'd been there, done that, and when she went for her Century Ride, she didn't just ride, she won the class. Former judge, one of the best horsewomen I've ever seen. Tactful, skilled, and it took a lot of careful questioning to elicit the info from her. I never got the opportunity to ride with her because she only worked with clients who had their own horses, and I was a lesson rider only at the time. But I watched and asked, and learned a little.

    Tongues do heal, albeit slowly. Mocha had a bad cut on her tongue from a previous rider when I bought her--a somewhat heavy handed and aggressive rider. Mocha spooked (which she normally DOES NOT DO unless she gets worked up by too aggressive a ride) and the rider dropped the rein--on a slow twisted snaffle. Mocha stepped on it. Over the course of eight years, it's healed slowly, but the mark is still there, and there's some paralysis of the tongue.

    I ride her in a double-jointed snaffle (a KK Ultra bridoon) and an arch curb (somewhat like a mullen mouth--I called it a mullen mouth curb until I had to order one on line--apparently they're arch curbs). The only straight part of the bit is right at the shank, on the bars--the rest of the bit arches over the tongue, so it provides quite a bit of tongue relief.

    Before that we used a correction bit, and that seemed to work.

  19. I have a cheap version of the Indian Hackamore that I really like. I picked it up for $10 and mostly use it on my little POA when I put beginner kids on her, to avoid ruining her mouth. (Yes, it could still cause her pain, but at 50 lb they would REALLY have to haul on her.) I've ridden her in it enough to make sure she's responsive. She's definitely lighter in her snaffle but still easily under control in the hackamore - she's easygoing and on the pokey side so it doesn't take much brakes to stop her, and the crossunder pressure seems to be very intuitive as far as steering.

    I think this would be a good bitless method to use on a horse who's sensitive but not too forward. It's not going to have the stopping power of a mechanical, and also doesn't have as wide of a range between a light touch and full contact so it would require good hands to get the horse really responsive. However I think it's a good choice for lateral control, and maintaining some contact English-style vs. the pressure-release action of a curb.

  20. Great comments, I'm picking up some good bits here and there.

    Cindy D. - A reminder on where a bit sits on a horses tongue -- they play with those bits, move the tongue around, and a horse will worry a sore place like crazy.

    Zebradreams - you bring up an excellent point... another reason I rejected some of these bitless rigs was how the contact worked.
    Under the chin pressure simulates curb action and nothing I ride works off that pressure point.

    A hackamore (bosal) sets a horse up to neck rein, which is how end up. So you definitely want to be riding with a bridleless bit that gets what you need discipline wise.

  21. @Scamp - yes same thing. I didn't realize Kincade made them too. Mine are Tory, but the exact same design.

  22. I don't like the bosals because they just don't translate well to English riding. They don't translate well in my limited experience to a direct reining situation. I much prefer a mild sidepull for my purposes. There was minimal to no learning curve for my horse from halter (playing around as a baby with rudimentary directional cues) to snaffle to sidepull later on. My Arab loves his sidepull from Running Bear: I also like that I can stick a bit on it or even remove the bit while I'm in the saddle if I want to.

    If I rode primarily western, I'd likely go the bosal route because it seems to set a horse up for neck/indirect reining better than a sidepull.

  23. I had a mare growing up that had a very similar injury to her tongue. I was super young and green, not knowing a thing about bits or how they worked. I only knew that she wasn't comfortable in them. After seeing her injury I replaced the bit of my bridle with a piece of leather. I experimented and used all sorts of leather from old rolled reins to a fairly wide, flat piece. When I found what she liked the best, we kept it. Its flexible, will break in a panic (if a rein gets stepped on, for instance, but it's also strong enough to hold up to riding and cheap to replace when it gets oogie. My mare and I barrel raced, chased cows, did trails, parades, etc. all in that simple leather piece. Just an idea.


  24. Hi all,
    My 2 cents worth. A long time ago I rode a mare that had been professionally trained first as a reiner and then the trainer started her as a cutting horse. For some reason he decided that wire wrapping her bit was the way to go and cut the crap out of her tongue. (My opinion of that can't be printed here.) She was "retired" to the ranch that I was working on. I rode her first in a bosal and then in a mullen mouthed curb...with as much arch as I could find to give her tongue lots of room. I am primarily a dressage rider....your hands are only to give INDICATIONS of direction and speed. The rest ALL comes from your seat, balance, weight and leg. There are solid snaffles with a mullen mouth in them available if anyone encounters a situation, showing or whatever, that requires a bit. I would wrap the outside section (that comes in contact with the bars of the mouth) with latex to provide more comfort.

  25. Another thought for the lady who uses leather for a bit....many racing catalogs show leather and leather covered bits.

  26. I decided to go bitless after seeing how much better the horses at my local riding school went bitless. They initially tried riding with a halter rather than going to a harder bit with a young QH mare who was very hard to stop - instant change to a very responsive horse. The only horse we didn't see do instantly better bitless was a Standardbred of mine, he didn't like the Dr Cook cross-under so put him back in a snaffle, few weeks later tried a different kind (worked off a chin strap) and he really liked that. My horses are very happy with the chin strap bridles, and the riding school uses a mixture of halters chin straps, Dr Cook and sidepull, depending on the individual horse's preference.

    I won't ride with a bit now, I feel far far safer without one.

  27. Mugs, do you know what became of the horse whose tongue was severed? Is it possible to repair such a severe injury, or is it life ending? His owner must have been gutted.