Was a big day yesterday. Day worked for my neighbor, Mike, and went with his two sons to find some missing cattle on the neighbors next to them. This country is huge. I wish I would have taken my camera so I could have shared this place with you, beautiful. We rode around 15 miles looking for the cattle and found them in the bottom of a canyon laying in the sun. They really did not want to go the distance back to their stomping grounds but we finally convinced them that they really needed to go home. In the canyon we found them I saw some of the biggest cotton wood trees I have ever seen, amazing.
On the gather I was talking to one of the boys and he mentioned to me about an ambush that happened in one of the canyons that we were riding in. Turns out that Nana, an apache chief had killed a rancher named Pollack, the name of the canyon that we were riding up. He then when over the saddle and down the other side, the same canyon where we found the cattle. When I got home I started to do some research and learned a ton about that country.
Turns out, one of my student, Andrea, co-wrote a book titled, “The Fort Bayard Story 1866-1899”. I just got the book and am reading now. Well, anyway, I got an email from Andrea that she was doing research for another book and asked if I knew of a certain area. I told her I think I do, and so, this Saturday I’m going to take her to the spot I think she is looking for. She and I are both very excited. I will try to let you know how that all goes and have some pictures.
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A question I was asked last week was, “what kind of bit should I use on my horse, and how do I know which bit to use”? Great question. There are so many bits and opinions out there on what you should use that it is easy to get confused.
Usually people are looking for a different bit, no matter what they are using at the time, because their horse will not do something they want. Stop, turn, collect and the list goes on. Then there are horses that just don’t get along with a certain bit. You can put the bit in the horses’ mouth and it’s not long before he is tossing his head or acting up. In this case it’s usually that the bit is not adjusted right or the horses mouth is too small or large for the bit and it hurts. If you have this situation it’s easy to fix. Don’t use that bit, or get help making sure that the bit is properly adjusted for your horse.
In the case where you want a new bit because your horse is doing or not doing something you like, then you need to rethink your motive.
The best way to fix a problem is not to get a bigger or better bit but to back up. When I get horses here, with problems, I start back at the beginning with them, in a snaffle bit. I start just about every colt in a snaffle bit. The reason? It is the easiest bit on them and is a one to one pull. What that means is if I pull a pound of pressure, he feels a pound of pressure, as apposed to a leverage bit where if I pull a pound he feels ten pounds. With the snaffle bit I can teach or reteach him how to flex and give to the pull of the snaffle. It’s only when a horse has these lessons down with the snaffle bit, that I move him to a different bit. Don’t get me wrong, you can still hurt a horse with a snaffle bit, but you are more apt to hurt him in a leverage bit or a bigger shanked bit.
Who says that you have to move your horse into any other bit? I have been riding with my horses and had cowboys ask me why I have not put my horse into a more advanced bit, as if to say my horses were not advanced, when they, with their “advanced horses” are the ones having all the trouble with their “advanced bits”.
The key here is, if you are having problems with your horse stopping or anything, trust me, it’s not the bit. It’s probably YOU! So just back up a little and see where your horse needs help. Then work on that and you will find that the bit is the least of your worries.
Having said all these things, I do move my horses into another bit. Once I have a colt going well in the snaffle, I will move him to my secret weapon. This usually takes a couple of months. The bit that I move them into has worked great for me for years and I will be happy to share it with you, but you will have to email me if you want the name of the bit.
There is much more to say about bits, but most of us don’t ride enough to have really good hands and need anything other then a snaffle bit. If your not sure ask someone with experience to help you, but remember. They may have it wrong too, so be careful. Listen to your horse, he knows a lot more then we give him credit for and he will help you find the answer to your questions on bits.