Tricia Nassau-Williams and Abbey England offer advice on bitting…
Q – My horse carries his head very high and I struggle to get him in an outline. He is currently in a Jointed Eggbutt Snaffle with fixed cheeks; would a change of bit help?
A – There are several points to consider here. Your horse may carry his head too high because he is compensating for pain, lacking in schooling or has a conformation that naturally causes him to carry himself in this way.
A correct outline will only be a product of sound schooling and work. A horse with poor conformation will be more of a challenge to get “long and low” having engaged him first from behind, because he will not be so athletic. If this is the case with your horse it will not necessarily prevent you having the results that you desire but it may take you longer to achieve them. Seek one-to-one advice regarding his conformation and how to plan and execute a schooling program for the two of you. Also have his teeth, saddle and back professional check to make sure that they are not the cause.
As far as bitting is concerned, when schooling you need a bit that he will relax with and accept as much as possible. It wants to be mild but one that will also encourage his head carriage downward if possible. You could try using a Bevel Bit in a copper alloy. The Bevel bit will provide a mild amount of leverage (downwards pressure) and the copper alloy will encourage salivation and acceptance of the bit. For faster work you could use bits that also encourage a lower head carriage but with a stronger action, such as lozenge mouth Leverage Bit (Dutch Gag/Three Ring Bit) or a low ported Cambridge mouth Pelham. Also have a look at a copper and Sweet Iron Tom Thumb (leverage) bit.
Additionally fitting a running martingale may be of help. If correctly adjusted, this will only act when he lifts his head too high, above the direct line of action from the bit to the rider’s hand.
The answer to a problem such as this will be found through good schooling but be prepared for this to take time, it will be worth it in the end.