“Hi Stacy, I am viewing your DVD on basic body control. My horse is 20 yrs. old, a Kentucky Mountain boy. I got him three years ago. He is very sweet and willing but has some areas of training missed. For your training ideas in the above DVD, Can we work in his curb bit (which he is comfortable with) or would a snaffle be better? Don’t know when he last had a snaffle in his mouth. We are starting at the beginning of the DVD. Much thanks”, Sunya

Sunya, Thanks for the question! I like to do both.

If someone comes to a clinic I will start teaching them and their horse where they are at. That means in equipment they are familiar with and a speed they are comfortable with. During the course of a clinic, which is either two or four days, we will discuss the benefits of each type of bit. 

Often I will encourage people to return to the ‘foundation’ work in a snaffle especially if there are some key missing links. For example, if the horse does not know how to spiral out into a counter-bend the I prefer to go back to a snaffle. Also if the horse is tipping their head excessively, for example, if turning to the left the left ear tip is lower than the right ear, then it may help to go back to a snaffle.

The reason the snaffle is a great place to return to is because it allows you to ‘shape’ the horse in a different way than you can in a shanked bit. If you are unsure about making the switch I would encourage you to consider the following method. 

  1. saddle up and ride as normal for 30 minutes in a secure area such as a round pen, arena or pasture. Practice the spiral out exercise.
  2. if your horse is doing great, dismount and change to a snaffle bit. Remain in the controlled arena. 
  3. practice the spiral out exercise again and observe the difference. 

Using this method should allow you to both stay safe and gain more understanding of the way each bit is influencing the horse. I require my horses to learn the exercises both ways, in a snaffle and in a shanked bit. I always return to the snaffle if there is any confusion.

Ride with Faith,

Stacy Westfall