Selecting a Bit for the Hard to Please Barrel Horse

Selecting a Bit for the Hard to Please Barrel Horse

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In many cases, “hard to please horses” like the one Stefanie describes in the Q&A video below, who toss their head and gap their mouth, don’t have a bit problem.

As I state in my book, Secrets to Barrel Racing Success, the way we go about performing maneuvers, applying techniques and solving problems, matters. In many cases, it’s not the BIT, but HOW our horse responds to it, that we must be concerned with. If our horse is not responding in a way we would like, we need to ask WHY, and develop a solution from there.

The Solution STARTS here

This time of year, as intense rodeo action is playing out at stock shows nationwide, I’m reminded even more, that the horses who excel those little pens, with short runs and funny angles to the first barrel, are the horses that are especially soft and supple to bit pressure (and through their entire bodies). They not only especially excel in those more difficult set ups, they excel more in general.

Putting the odds in your favor requires a commitment to creating feather-light response to bit pressure. When you do, your horse is more likely to wrap around those barrels wickedly fast, even in less than ideal circumstances – leaving the stiff, resistant horses in the dust!

Of course, horses DO have preferences when it comes to bits, and they are likely to perform better with certain types. However, no matter how advanced and complicated the contraption is that we put on our horses head or in their mouth, it can never replace emotional fitness and a solid educational foundation. (Watch the video below to learn about how you can provide both to your barrel horses.)

In the case of any behavior problem, we always want to rule out a health issue, first and foremost:

For even more bitting resources, visit the links below:

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4 replies
    • Heather Smith
      Heather Smith says:

      If the injury to the tongue is legitimately an issue once it’s fully healed (you’ll want to stay out of the mouth completely until it is), then you’d want to try mouthpieces with minimal tongue pressure. You could also educate your horse to respond very well to other types of pressure, like nose & curb for example so you can use headgear (like a hackamore) without a mouthpiece. Be sure to see the Dave Elliot article for more info as well!

  1. Tricia Duncan
    Tricia Duncan says:

    I have a 6 year old mare. None of the bits I have tried have been working. She has a sensitive mouth but when I put a light bit in her mouth,I don’t have any control. She is very heavy headed. I need a bit with control but not so harsh. What should I use?

    • Heather Smith
      Heather Smith says:

      Hi Tricia, I would make sure you’ve really focused on educating her mind so she understand to quickly and easily yield from steady pretty lightly on the ground with a halter first, then a snaffle, then slowly work on that under saddle. Release when she softens and responds and just hold or make it difficult (ex: tap her chest with a stick & string on the ground) for her NOT to respond.


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