Inch Shank

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Do you have to use a walking bit to in horses to put them into a gait?

I bought a spotted saddle horse a few months ago. This is my first gaited horse. And I was wondering do you have to use a walking horse bit to get them into their gaits? Also, I was reading and researching, I think to get them to gait you nee their head down..right? I read that you have to put some pressure on the reins to get them into a gait. Right now she is riding with a curb bit with 5 inch shanks. The bit is jointedm(breaking bit). I have her in a grazing bit, I thought that was harsh, from what I read, but I read others who use the same bit on gaited horses. I guess the question is, to get her into her gaits, do I need to change the bit or pull the reins to apply some pressure to keep her head pulled more towards her chest? Right now when I ride her, I put no pressure on the reins unless I am wanting her to stop. They are loose the entire ride. But I want to get her to gait, the way I know she can!

There seems to be a lot of confusion regarding the best bit to use when starting a young gaited horse under saddle. Many Spanish training traditions start all young horses in a bosal. If a person is experienced with the bosal, this can be a good choice. But many seem to believe it is the equivalent of a simple halter, or mechanical hackamore–not so. Unless you’re well trained in the correct placement and use of the bosal, you are better off starting your young horse in a good snaffle bit.
The best type of snaffle to start with is a D-Ring with a moderately thick mouthpiece that is shaped in a gentle curve so there’s plenty of tongue relief for the horse. The direct action of a snaffle bit permits the young horse to learn how to stop, turn, back, and balance its weight properly under a rider. It allows the rider to help the horse develop straightness and impulsion from behind, as well. The Imus Comfort™ Training Bit is designed specifically for this application.

Once these initial training goals have been met–and not before–it is time to introduce a good curb bit.
The Imus Comfort Gait™ Bit has been designed to meet the needs of gaited horses from this point on. While it may be advisable for some horses eventually to advance to another bit for gait improvement (more on this later), most of the time horses can go right from a snaffle to this bit, and never require any other bitting during the rest of their riding career.

When switching a young horse from a snaffle to the Imus Comfort Gait™ Bit , start by attaching your reins at the cheek-piece, so you have a direct snaffle action while the horse becomes accustomed to the feel of the new mouthpiece. If you have enough dexterity, attach a second set of reins to the bottom rings of the shank, and begin transitioning to the curb action for halts and rein backs. After just a few rides you can eliminate the snaffle rein and work right out of the curb.

The pinch free, independent side to side action of the bit permits lateral work, and you’ll find the shape of the mouthpiece encourages the horse to gently drop his head into the bit, rather than stiffening up against it, when you ask for a bend to one side or the other. Lots of circles, serpentines, figure eights, halts, half-halts, and rein backs should be worked into your rides to help the horse develop flexibility, suppleness, and straightness. Good impulsion forward is born out of these qualities.

Your work should consist primarily of the walk, with good impulsion. Diligently practice the techniques outlined in our article, Ten Tips for Finding, and Keeping, the Gait. If your horse isn’t gaiting with a moderate degree of speed after several months of this without breaking to pace or trot, it might be necessary to use another type of bit to help reach your gait goals.

A naturally pacey horse needs to be collected up a bit more to help square up its gaits (by ‘square up’ I mean develop the gait so that it falls close to the center of the gait spectrum, being an evenly timed, 4-beat gait.) You can accomplish this by the use of a bit with a port. We’re in the process of developing a ported bit with many of the same qualities as our mullen bit, but until that time a good aluminum or stainless steel curb bit with a wide, medium port, fairly thick mouthpiece, and solid cheekpieces, should work quite well.

Good Luck to you..!

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