Around here, we are all about becoming partners with our horses. We want our horses to “want” to help us. To “want” to be with us. To “want” to be bridled and go for a ride. So we take great care in helping them stay in that frame of mind. We get them get them good about searching for a release, and good about looking to us for support. Bridling made easy is part of that. We know that often people have trouble with their horses when it comes to getting them ready to ride. We also know how easy it is to get into a habit with your horse of just skating by, because you only have so many hours in your day and only so much time to spend with your horse. But what if, by spending that time, one or maybe two days, and not riding, you can help your horse, and in turn make your time with your horse eve more enjoyable? I’d say, sign me up.
Below, you’ll find a couple of ways we might go about getting them ready to be bridled and one way to bridle them. These are not the only way. These are just a couple ways we choose to do things.
Before you were to start either of the exercises below, you’ll want to make sure your horse is good about having his mouth/face/ears touched.
In a newspaper ad, on Craigslist, in Facebook Horse Groups – someone says they have a short shanked snaffle for sale. I’d like very much to explain to everyone that writes that, that they don’t technically have a snaffle bit available. You have a leverage bit, or a curb maybe, but a snaffle bit, notsomuch.
You see, a snaffle is a snaffle because it isn’t a leverage bit. Any bit that has shanks becomes a curb bit (or leverage bit)- whether it has a broken mouthpiece (like a snaffle) or is a ported grazing bit. The reason for this is that a snaffle works on a direct rein and doesn’t utilize leverage.
The pressure from the reins on a snaffle bit is not amplified, unlike with a leverage bit. When you pull on a leverage bit, such as a Tom Thumb or Argentine, the pressure is increased the farther back the shank reaches.
There are several different mouthpieces available in “true” snaffle bits: Jointed -the most common. Mullen – essentially one piece. There is no break in the mouthpiece.
French link or Dogbone- has a smaller “dog bone” shaped piece in the middle, making it a three piece mouthpiece.
Single and Double Twisted wire – two of the most severe mouthpieces.
Mouthpieces typically come in different dimensions – 7/16th of an inch and 3/8ths of an inch are probably the most common – but you can find them in ½ and ¼ in diameters too. The smaller the diameter, the more severe the bit can become. Myself, I like a 7/16th mouthpiece.
As well as the different mouthpieces, there are many different cheek styles too. In western riding the four most common are:
O-ring or loose ring snaffle.
Greg Darnall Off-Set D- Ring Snaffle
Greg Darnall Off-Set D- Ring Snaffle
Egg-butt (because it’s shaped kind of like an egg).
JPW Egg Butt Snaffle
JPW Egg Butt Snaffle
There are basically two different ideas when it comes to where a snaffle bit should hang in the mouth of your horse We prefer to hang the bit a tad below the corner of the horse’s mouth. I know many of us grew up in the train of thought that we needed a wrinkle (or two) in the horse’s mouth. But, what we’ve learned by riding primarily in snaffle bits (they’re the only bit we now own and I run all my barrel horses in them) is that the horse will learn to carry it where he likes it. Further, it gives us a chance to ask with less pressure, and have the horse respond to less because there is a very discernable release for the horse due to the fact that his mouth isn’t already pressured up due to the “wrinkles”.
So, the next time you see a bit labeled snaffle, I’d like for you to think of this little Public Service Announcement and ask yourself, is it really a snaffle?
We’ve probably all seen it happen: a wreck where the saddle ends up under the horse. It can happen for any number of reasons – a latigo could break, or you could be in the process of saddling your horse when he spooks, and under him the saddle goes.
One of the ways to prevent that from happening is to utilize the “correct” order for saddling, if you will.
Always pull your front cinch first.
The back cinch goes second.
Finally, the breast collar (if you use one).
By securing your main cinch first, you’re ensuring that the saddle shouldn’t roll under your horse if something were to happen while you’re in the process of saddling. We like to take it a step further, and on our saddles with a double rigging, we like to lead the horse forward a few steps once he’s saddled and take the front cinch up some more.
Rarely do we tie our horses up when we saddle them. They’re always being held in hand. That way they don’t get in the habit of sitting back or wiggling around, because we have control over his feet from the get-go, and because we know what’s on his mind when we’re saddling him, we can help him stay with us, and that inevitably makes our rides go better.
We never cinch a horse up as tight as possible on the first try. EVER. We may take several steps forward with the horse, several times. We figure we don’t like to put on jeans that are tight, so we don’t really want to do that to my horse!
Do the same for the back cinch. If you ride with your back cinch loose, instead of snug up against your horse’s belly, you run the risk for a couple bad things to happen:
You could catch a spur in it.
Your horse could catch a hind foot in it. THIS is never good, and the ending won’t be happy for your saddle. Trust me.
If you remember the order for saddling your horse, the order for unsaddling your horse goes like this:
And finally, the front cinch.
The front cinch always goes last in the unsaddling process, just like it’s first when you saddle.
By getting in the habit of utilizing this process, you can keep yourself and more importantly your horse out of a bind.
Here on the ranch, we have become users of CSI Saddle Pads. We love the contour, the fact that they’re made right here in the USA, they’re green and we haven’t even talked about the technology behind them yet! WE LOVE them so much, we became dealers, because most everyone that comes to ride with us here at the ranch wants them for their horses!
Here’s a brief video, from the owner and founder, Donna Helms, on the pads:
These pads go on our first ride colts, to our finished horses- and we believe they make the horse more comfortable. And really, all a horse wants is peace, comfort and release. We are happy to answer any questions you may have regarding these pads.