X Country bit for TB

I have a 12 yo OTTB. He is large and strong, but mannerly under saddle. He's a bit of an insecure horse, a follower. He raced 2 years, then was let down and trained for cross-country paper chases and group trail rides. In the ring I ride him in a loose ring 2 jointed snaffle with copper lozenge. He accepts it, but always has his mouth open. X Country he is very anxious about the excitement with other horses running with him and so I've tried several bits for more control. I purchased a 4 ring Continental loose ring with cherry roller snaffle from Bombers and used it last year. He sets against it pretty strong. I have also tried a pelham with 5" shanks and double jointed mouthpiece with copper lozenge. I have also tried a Cheltenham Gag with quarter moon. He goes with his
head propped up a bit in all, seems the best in the Cheltenham Gag. In the ring, he opens his mouth with the double jointed loose ring snaffle. Does the Cheltenham Gag encourage "head up"? In your opinion, which bit offers better brakes: double jointed pelham, 4 ring cherry roller Continental, or Cheltenham Gag? Maybe he doesn't like the copper lozenge - I was trying to use it for a softer mouthpiece. Thanks for your advice.

Posted in General, asked by Marybeth, 2 years ago. 469 hits.


Hi Marybeth,

The Cheltenham Gag can lift a horse's head, but it also sends confusing signals to the horse. The ropes lift the bit in the mouth when the rider takes up the contact, asking the horse to lift their head, but it also introduces poll pressure, which asks the horse to drop their head.

Your horse is more comfortable in the Cheltenham Gag because of the mouth piece that is on it. If the half moon is what I think it is, then it will offer more tongue relief that the other bits you have tried.

The only bit that will offer you better brakes, is the one your horse finds most comfortable. Control is not about the strength of the bit, but more about how well the horse accepts the bit. When a horse is comfortable with where the bit places pressure, they will respond very well to it, because there is no reason to resist.

The lozenge uses mostly tongue pressure, and his mouth opening means he is trying to get away from that pressure. It is not a harsh mouth piece, but if the horse find tongue pressure uncomfortable, then it won't work for him.

For the ring I recommend a Loose Ring Ultra Comfy Lock Up for him. I don't think he likes a lot of tongue pressure, but I also don't think that he is overly sensitive to it. The Ultra Comfy greatly reduces the tongue pressure, and spreads the pressure out over the mouth.

Sometimes for cross country we actually need to soften the mouth piece, while adding a little more to the cheek piece. In this way the horse accepts the pressure, but we still have enough control. I recommend a 2½ Ring Ported Barrel for the cross country. This removes even more pressure from the tongue. When he isn't fighting you, he will come back to much easier.


Claire @ Bombers
2 years ago
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