Q: I have a problem with a horse who is in a snaffle bit. He works great in it for flatwork but he tends to get strong and ignore my hand aids during jumping. I don’t want to ‘bit him up’ but I feel like he has no respect for the bit and just takes off into jumps without listening. What would you suggest, and if I should try something stronger, what is a suitable next bit up?
Asked by Jillian McDonald
A: The first requirement for good jumping is good flatwork. When the horse stays responsive to your aids during flatwork, you can start jumping some small jumps. During this work it’s most important that the horse learns to slow down from your seat and not only from the reins. Often, the bit is not the solution for these types of problems, because after some time using a stronger bit, you end up with the same problem all over again. It would be better to address your basic flatwork or dressage work, and to concentrate on exercises in transitions and tempo changes.
If you want to try another bit, you can first try different snaffles. There is no guide to the perfect bit. If you ride in competitions, make sure the snaffle you use is allowed under competition rules. Sometimes you don’t necessarily need a stronger bit, but rather a bit that works in a different place.
If you still believe that you need a stronger bit to control your horse, always ask a professional trainer for advice. There are plenty of bits available, so try different ones!
Answered by Noor Gierveld, Dutch showjumper and Equine Support International trainer