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Bitting rigs

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minih

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Anyone who has used a bitting rig to help train a mini to drive, can you please help me with a few questions? I am ordering one, but I need to know what is most important with using one? How do I hook it up for a first time on a mini? Does it hook up just like a harness? Do I pull the neck in a little or leave it loose?

We have trained a mini to drive before but only wanted them for parades and such, we are really wanting to train this one correctly and possibly show in driving classes next year. Help, and I know these are dumb questions but I am open to learning.
 

disneyhorse

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If I were you I would just invest in a good harness and forgo the bitting rig. The bitting rig is only really for building muscles for headsets (a crappy shortcut too, in my book) for "extra flash" on those show ring horses.

Just use your saddle, bridle, and lines from your harness to get your horse going.

That's my advice, at least!

Andrea
 

Secret Hills Ranch

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When I've used a bitting rig on a horse for the first time I always have it as loose as possible to let the horse get used to it. At nearly the end of the work out I may tighten it up a hole or two depending on how the horse reacts to it.

The second time out I will again start on the loosest hole but I will tighten the strap after 5 minutes or so again depending on the horse. If the horse is comfortable I may go up 2-3 holes on the second or third time out.

After the horse is used to working in the rig I usually have it fairly loose in the beginning, then slowly crank their head in once they warm up. Just be sure to never start any horse with their head tucked before they're properly warmed up.

Good luck!
 

Magic

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I like to use bitting rigs because when my horses are getting used to the feel of a bridle and a surcingle, I put those on them and then let wear them in their stall or in the round pen for a little while (supervised, of course). They can roll, or try to rub them off, (or even try to get adjacent horses to pull them off for them, lol) but I don't have to worry about it all getting filthy or scratched up or damaged like I would my harnesses. When a horse is completely comfortable with all of that, including the crupper, I introduce side reins, but everything is taken very slowly and gradually. I want the horse to learn to give to the bit before I start ground driving him, and then his mouth stays very sensitive. I don't bit up with both reins except when I'm directly working with the horse though-- it takes a lot of use of the muscles to hold their head like that and I don't want them to become fatigued. And remember SLOWLY work up to having their head tucked in. I've seen people just bit up a horse and panic it and it flips over.
Think of it as an exercise-- you can't just go out and run a marathon-- neither can your horse just suddenly be able to hold its head vertically for an hour at a time.

(not an expert, I just play one on tv. lol!!)
 

Secret Hills Ranch

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Thought I should add I usually work the horse for no more than 15-20 minutes in the bitting rig. I prefer to let them free lunge for the remainder of their work out...
 

willowoodstables

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I copied this from a handout I gave out at a clinic


BITTING RIGS:

Bitting rigs are not to be used by newbies. You should have some experience in handling harness and lines.

I use a bitting rig to start all the green horses. I also use the bitting rig as part of my training regimen. As a training aid, the bitting rig is useful to help with head sets, propulsion and suppling.

I always work a horse in a loose noseband or no noseband at all so that he learns to keep his mouth closed, and finds a place for his tongue, by his own trial and error. If you start him with a tight noseband, he is constantly resisting the pressure, and never learns to keep his mouth shut on his own. Let me add here that it is imperative that the horse have his teeth floated and any wolf teeth extracted by a veterinarian before any bridle work begins. I give the horse a few days off after his teeth have been floated and any wolf teeth removed, to allow his mouth to heal.

The key to proper use of the bitting rig is the tension on the side lines. Too tight will teach a horse to “over-flex†and lean on the bit. Too loose will teach him to poke his nose and look more like a goose while trotting. With a horse that has never worn a bitting rig, it is better to err on the side of looseness. Once the horse is going around in a relaxed manner, I tighten the side lines a couple holes. This progression takes a week or so. I continue to work the horse, stopping every couple rounds to tighten a hole or two. Once the face is almost vertical and the horse is giving, I will not tighten anymore. I never tighten a horse to the vertical right off the bat. I do this after the horse is loosened up and then a couple rounds at the end I loosen so the horse can stretch out and drop his head. I do this without a check until the horse is well conditioned and his neck and back muscles are more defined. Then I will add a check, but again, never tight. In my opinion, nosebands and checks should be decoration on your harness. Too tight a check will cause a horse to “ewe†the neck, be generally unhappy and lean into it. An overly loose check is an annoyance and takes away from the look of the horse.

A round pen is great, but if you don’t have one, invest in a good lungeline. I use a racehorse caveson that is nylon and has rings on the sides and underneath of the noseband. On a race horse this is used for headpoles, on my training horses it is to attach the lungeline. The noseband loose enough to put 4 fingers between the horse and noseband.

Once you have the horse moving off in a nice circle at a trot and the lines are tightened so the face at the vertical I use voice commands, body language and a lunge whip to encourage the horse to work at the trot, walk, halt and change direction. I will only use the rig once a week once the horse is conditioned. The rest of the time the horse is in long-lines or jogging in the cart.

Kim
 

Kendra

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We use a bitting rig, but it's actually the backpad of a regular harness and an open bridle. We start all our horses by putting them in a bitting rig with the lines (back to the sides of the harness, not the rings on top) just there so they can hold their head normally, but if they toss their head around or whatever they can feel the pressure from the bit. We put them in a safe pen (nothing to catch on) and keep a close eye on them, but basically leave it on for several hours a day for about 5 days. They learn on their own that it's more comfortable to give to pressure, and when we start ground driving them it's easy as can be, they've basically trained themselves and already understand that when you apply a little pressure on one side it'll go away if they give to it and turn that way.
 

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