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Another Choice: High or Low?

Simple adjustments in your bitting make a difference

By LES VOGT - Horsetrader columnist - August 18th, 2011 - More with Les

Fourth in a series
Before entering the arena, we take a closer look at the details of our snaffle bit.

I tend to ride with the snaffle fairly low in the horse’s mouth. Often I’ll have it a half-inch or more off (below) the corners. I find that the lower I have the snaffle the lower a horse’s head will tend to go. Normally we want their heads low since our ultimate goal is to get the horse’s back rounded and his weight distributed to the hindquarters so we can maximize his performance. The one time I might be careful here is if I’m on a horse that has heavy shoulders, because if he carries his head too low it will be hard to keep his weight off of his front end.

Also, I’ve found that the higher you adjust your snaffle, the closer to the head you’ll get your flexion. A bit that’s higher in the horse’s mouth will give you more lift, keeping the head up and causing the flex to happen up by the poll, where a lower adjustment will give you more drop in the neck, from back near the withers. So how high or low you place the snaffle has a lot to do with your horse’s conformation and capacities. And it might be something that you change periodically. Some days dropping the bridle a little lower might really lighten your horse up for a few days, but on the third day, you do better back in your original setting. I do recommend however, that once you find that magic hole in the bridle, you save if for the shows!

Sometimes, even during a ride, if my horse becomes dull, mad, or I’m just not getting what I want – but I feel like I need to persevere until I make some progress – I’ll try just changing the adjustment of the bit, and often just doing that can give me the edge I need to get what I want – before I get a fight. I don’t think horses get as mad at us as we think they do. I think they get mad at our equipment, as in our spur or bit, so just changing the equipment a little bit can often save the day.

EDITOR’S NOTE: More with Les is a regular California Horsetrader column. Les Vogt has won more than 15 World Championships, including two wins at the NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity. Although Les still rides and occasionally shows, his focus is giving clinics around the world and developing products for the performance horseman. To learn more about Les and to see his clinic schedule, visit: www.lesvogt.com

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