Sam Rose and Dennis Moreland discussing bit placement

Whys and Hows of Proper Bit Placement

Have you wondered whether it’s better to have a wrinkle or 2, or no wrinkles at all, at the corners of your horse’s mouth when you ride with a snaffle Could there be times when both options are correct? Follow along with the video as Dennis Moreland of Dennis Moreland Tack and judge, horseman, and exhibitor of performance horses Sam Rose, of Gainesville, TX, , discuss when it’s OK to have a wrinkle in a colts mouth and when it’s not, properties and history of various snaffle bits, and ideas on changing bits when your horse loses responsiveness to the bit being used.

Sam says he and his family always started colts in a hackamore and then went to the snaffle. He says “the first time or 2 that you put a snaffle in a colts mouth, they’re going to use their tongue a lot and if you don’t pull the snaffle up (by adjusting the headstall tighter) they’re going to get their tongue over the top of the mouthpiece. After the first ride or two, and as time goes along, I always adjust that headstall looser, so that snaffle isn’t right against the corner of their mouth. Then they’ll learn to pick that snaffle up. The higher you pull that snaffle up (by adjusting the headstall tighter) and the longer it’s on that horse (too tight), the duller that horse gets” says Sam. Horses need to be comfortable and not be intimidated by the bit so it’s extremely important to adjust it so it’s comfortable in the mouth.

Dennis says, “a bit is to give the horse a signal”. If a bit is too tight in a horse’s mouth, the horse can’t feel the small movements of the reins as the rider begins to make contact with the bit and then follows through with the cue. “You can’t communicate a signal if you’re already on bottom” Dennis advises. “A horse has to have a release or relief point” according to Sam. It can’t have that release if the bit is always putting pressure on the horse’s mouth because the headstall is adjusted too tight.

Sam tells the story of how the Don Dodge Offset Dee snaffle came to be. “The Dee snaffle originated when Don Dodge had the bars, on the top and the bottom of the Cavalry Dee Bit, cut off.” Greg Darnell began making the bit at Don’s request, and that bit became known as the Don Dodge Offset Dee snaffle. The Dee applies pressure to a larger area on the side of the face than an O ring snaffle so young horses can better understand what the pressure from the snaffle means. Sam says a lot of people like to start a colt with an O ring snaffle but he prefers to start with a Dee ring snaffle and then go to the O Ring because colts learn to respond to the signal to turn more easily in the Dee Ring snaffle.

When it comes to curb bits, Sam says a lot of people, including himself, have gone straight to putting a bigger (more signal) bit on a horse when the horse becomes less responsive to the bit being used. Sam says “I believe that a person, if they’re having trouble training a horse, they’ve got to have something they can go back to. I believe instead of going up to a bigger leveraged bit, you might come down (to a bit you’ve used previously), and spend a little time working him on a cow. Sometimes that’s a better deal.”

Sam reminisces that “in the past, we didn’t spend a lot of time doing groundwork, which I think is better to do,  but my dad (Matlock Rose) always said when you get your saddle on it’s time to step up there.” Sam says he now encourages doing a lot of groundwork when starting colts.

Dennis Moreland Tack hand makes Offset Dee Ring Snaffles, O Ring Snaffles and curb bits and for training, working and showing. The mouthpiece selections for each bit makes it easy to find the just the bit you need. If you have questions email [email protected] or call 817-312-5305.

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