shags wrote:If I was considering a horse that the current owner had in a harsh bit I would question why they needed it. If a horse is well trained it shouldn't need a harsh bit. Some owners and trainers when they have difficulties with a horse, think the answer to all problems is to move to harsher and harsher bits when they ought to be backing up a few steps and doing some retraining.
A harsh bit in the hands of a novice rider can be cruel. It takes knowledge and finesse to use one to best advantage. No beginner needs a fire-breathing animal in the first place; a more appropriate horse would be one whose 'brakes' are properly installed and which can be activated by gentler means.
Our young field trial horse was purchased as a two year old and came with a twisted wire gag. WTH? For a two year old???
We switched to a comfort type bit ( very mild) and he has been great with it for several years now.
See if you can get the DVD 'Gaits From God' by the late Brenda Imus from your library. It has some very good information about the mechanics of various bits. Granted, she's selling her own brand, but the information remains and several other bit makers have choices similar to hers. As a matter of fact, the DVD set has lots of good information about gaited horses in general ( demonstrations of various gaits, conformation, etc) that could benefit a horse shopper.
As far as natural horsemanship goes, it DOES work, and is not a bunch of horse-pucky. That said, how effective it is and how well the horse behaves is all a matter of how well the person did training it. Any horse will have holes if trained and/or handled by someone who doesn't know what they're doing or are just looking for a quick-fix. Most well-trained horses using natural horsemanship methods are typically less-likely to blow up in a scary situation from what I've seen because those people typically spend more time desensitizing their horses to odd things and situations. A halter, or simple snaffle can be just as effective as a heavy bit if that horse has been properly trained to respect it. Plus. . . .a one rein stop is an absolute god-send if you need it, too, whether you're using a halter, snaffle bit, or curb bit with long shanks. I'd be really cautious of a horse that needs a heavy bit for control. It's a bandaid that usually means the horse does not have a good stop or control. . . . .and using a heavy bit usually causes the horse to need a heavier bit down the road. . .and heavier. . and heavier. It shouldn't be a replacement for good, solid foundation training.
Typically, the "heavy" bits in the hands of a good horseman are meant to be used for refinement, not for better control. I've worked with plenty of gated horses that will gate well with just a simple snaffle. It's about body carriage (collection) and giving to the bit. . . .regardless of what bit you use. IMHO the heavier bits are meant for people concerned with the type of refinement you're looking for in the show ring, not on a trail ride or field trial.
Longer shanks put a lot more physical pressure on the inside of the mouth (think long fulcrum in terms of physics), so horses are usually more sensitive to them. IMO, that's the easy way out of training a solid foundation into a horse.
But don't think you can jump on a horse that is used to wearing a heavy bit and be effective with a snaffle or like
Retraining a horse that has been taught to be hard in the face to be soft to a soft touch is a process that doesn't happen overnight.
There are more than one way to skin a cat, and natural horsemanship is just one of them.