As we make a move to more blog posts for you to read, here is one of our most popular Facebook posts, where we talk about not just "yelling louder" (stronger bits) if your horse doesn't understand what you're saying.
Todays blog is about bit and horse communication in general - because the whole reason behind A Bit Less is that we want our horse friends to be happy and comfortable in their work with you.
How often do you see or hear of horse that is labelled "strong" or "dead in the mouth"? So the cycle begins and the horse is put in a stronger bit. Maybe it starts in a snaffle, it moves to a kimblewicke, then a pelham, then some super leverage or twisted concoction. The bit works for a little while, but after a few weeks or months is just as unresponsive as it was to all that came before it.
I often say "you don't always need a stronger bit - you just need the right bit" - and i really believe it. RARELY is the answer to a strong horse, a stronger bit. In fact i find the opposite generally true (mostly... of course there are always exceptions).
Picture you're at work with a new colleague. They don't speak the same language as you.
"Hi my name is Sue, what's your name?" ... there's no response. They look at you puzzled.
So you lean in and say it a bit louder " HI, my name is SUE. What is YOUR name?" ... this time they lean back a bit from you, probably wondering why you're getting in their grill but not knowing how to ask you to stop.
You wonder why they're being so rude. Not answering you!!
"HI MY NAME IS SUE!!! WHAT IS YOUR NAME!!!!" - this time they're visibly very uncomfortable with you screaming in their face, they start backing away and looking for an escape route.
With a deep breathe you really let rip and not surprisingly, they start screaming back at you in their own language. Now you're just both screaming at each other and no one is understanding or communicating ANYTHING.
I'm sure none of us would do this to someone who speaks a different language to us. What might you do? Maybe you could quickly use google translate to say it in their language. Maybe you could write it on paper. Maybe you could make apologetic gestures. You would try something different. You wouldn't just keep talking and eventually screaming louder and louder.
Horses are usually very stoic, kind creatures, very few of them will scream back at you when they don't understand something. They are more subtle than that, and it's our job to recognize their tiny screams through the behaviors and evasions they protest with.
Perhaps you have a horse that gapes its mouth open when you take up contact - you might be working in a french link snaffle of some kind. It's possible that the tongue pressure this kind of bit exerts really isn't your horses cup of tea. You could try something with a small port to transfer some of the pressure off the tongue and onto the bars and lips. Don't just try something the same as what you're using - but stronger. That's just yelling louder.
Perhaps you have a horse who is very inconsistent in the contact, he might stay "on the bit" for a few strides, then come back above or behind it. It's like he can't find his comfy place. You're using a loose ring bit - why don't you try him in an Eggbutt or Baucher (hanging cheek)? These bits sit quieter in the horse's mouth than a loose ring - which can be all some horses need to have the confidence to seek the contact, plenty of these horses transition back to a loose ring perfectly after a while once they have developed confidence in the bit and their riders hands.
Perhaps you have a horse who is heavy on your hands / on the forehand. She shoves his head down near her knees and steams along, ignoring your half halts and woah's. You might have her in an Eggbutt lozenge style bit. Why don't you try her in a loose ring? It's harder for a horse to lean on a loose ring because the mouthpiece can move on the rings - it's hard to truly lean on something that isn't stationary.
None of the suggestions of bit changes above are stronger than what you were already using. They're just different. Different languages, different ways of communicating with an individual.
So i encourage you, if you notice the tiny screams of evasion; gaping, grinding, above or behind the bit, tongue over the bit or out of the mouth, head tossing, ignoring your aids, running through your hands.... please send us a message. WE'D LOVE TO HELP YOU! We are more than happy to go through what you're currently using & what problems you're having. We will always make an honest suggestion on some options for you to try - we aren't all about just selling bits - if we have something in stock or coming soon that might be a good option we will tell you, but that's not what it's all about.
We hope you all have a great weekend with your horses
~ Kirby @ A Bit Less Equestrian