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Monday, June 29, 2009

Overkill Much?

This is one of those things that I wish would be outlawed. This is a cathedral bit. I really see no purpose on one of these at any time for any purpose. Ever. They are sold in catalogs with a nice little caveat to the buyer "for use by professionals only". Sure, and that will stop Joe wanna-be horse trainer from getting one to put a stop on their horse. *Sigh* It just never ends does it?


  1. OMG, I had a App gelding come to my barn that was wearing this bit, the clueless owner had NO idea how the bit worked! He bitched that the horse would throw his head up and open his mouth everytime he "got after him"! He gave up on the poor guy before he came to my barn, I got him for $500, put a snaffle in his mouth and let a five year old ride him everywhere! He is such a good boy! When the previous owner came over and saw this, he was in shock, he couldn't believe he was so good for her, go figure.

  2. That is a funky looking cathedral. I'm not even sure that would be show legal - that port looks like it's over 3"?

    This is the port I'm used to seeing-

  3. That looks like something Cleve Wells would use. It's sure to keep those WP horses cranked back in slow motion and their heads dragging in the dirt whether they like it or not.

  4. How in the heck is that supposed to FIT in a horse's mouth?

  5. IMHO if you need to get this severe, your horse is missing something in their training.

    I believe in the theory, "school in a snaffle, ride in a curb" but this thing is ridiculous.

  6. They are sold in catalogs with a nice little caveat to the buyer "for use by professionals only".

    Makes you wonder just WHO is checking credentials at the point of sale...

  7. I wonder how on earth people can be so heartless as to actually use these things. I use a regular snaffle with my horse, and he's started fussing with it a lot, so I'm worried it's bugging him. I think it might be a bit wide for his mouth. I just don't know how anyone can NOT be worried about their horse's mouth.

  8. Wait- does the port itself curve the opposite direction of the shanks- in other words, TOWARDS the horse's mouth? It's hard to tell from the picture but appears to be so. Also looks like a cheaply-made bit.

  9. ETA: previous comment should read "towards the roof of the horse's mouth" as in the port curves upwards. It seems to curve down towards the tongue in other examples of cathedral bits.
    Rod's says a cathedral port is "excellent for spoiled horses who run through the bit."
    Gee, how do ya think they got that way?

  10. i don't have a problem with high ported bits like cathedrals and spades, *as long* as they're used on a fully finished bridle horse that does not have the reins touched in the least bit. a finished bridle horse (would probably spit that particular bit out because it is cheaply made and poorly balanced) carries a bit like that beautifully and you barely have to move the reins at all before they respond - so there's even less wear and tear on their mouths than there would be with a less 'severe' curb because there's little if any contact made so no leverage being enacted, although the potential is there. the weight of the bit, where it lies in the mouth, and the weight of the reins are all that's needed to communicate to the finished bridle horse.

  11. Bonnie what is the point? Are you saying that the only way to get a horse to respond to rein movement only is with a bit like that?

    If so, that is simply not true. I think that bit is overkill no matter which direction you come at it from.

    Besides that, most people don't use them lightly. As I have seen with my own eyes.

    Methinks your trainer has told you some stuff.

  12. Everyone-
    You need to educate yourself on a full finished bridle horse.. In NRCHA you can only ride a bridle class with a spade or cathedral bit..NO EXCEPTIONS.Those bits are designed with the tradition of the old style of training a bridle horse in mind... I personally have a broke bridle horse and he rides in a spade bit.. I barely touch the reins- not due to the bit- due to his training..However it is the tradition of a bridle horse for them to be in the bit after completing years and years of training.. ONLY trained an completed broke finihed bridle horses should be in those bits.Horses you dont have tp crank on and respond to a fingertip touch and ful leg and voice aids..My stallion has been in a spade since he was 4 yrs old- He is an exceptional animal that could mentally and physically capable of handling it.. . That bit is horribly balanced and obviously not a quality bit.. QUALITY spade and cathedral bits usually run $150-$500- the more silver the higher it can go..

  13. Sincerely? I did not know that (NRCHA rule).

    What is the purpose? I don't see the point. You can get that kind of response in much less of a bit. I've done it more than a few times on more than a couple horses.

    Just because it's an NRCHA rule or a rule from some other association, does not make it right.

    I just don't see the point. If the horse is that trained, you shouldn't need that bit.

    I believe a person can ride well in a bit like that...of course I think of trainers in their 50's and up with that much experience behind them to do it well.

    But in general, the post on this blog was "Overkill Much?" and I am siding with the blogger.

    Not only that - IF THE HORSE IS EXCEPTIONAL, you should be able to do exceptional things with them. Once again not needing that bit. A person can do a lot with an exceptional horse, they make training easy.

  14. gooddrivers - long tradition for bridle horses (which use spade bits most often with a santa barbara cheekpiece) to use large bits. my trainer has not told me anything of the sort - she's an h/j trainer. i'm a dressage person myself, but i do know a little of vaquero/californio traditional tack, as a friend collects it.

    it takes a minimum of 8 years to have a horse ready for a 'big boy' bit. these are extremely experienced reined cow horses - working cattle horses rely on bits and reins in part because if a steer is roped and dallied to teh saddle, all communication from the rider with his seat is gone - the steer is putting too much weight on the saddle itself. so the weight of the reins and bit become the sold source of communication. that communication must take place one-handed - so a large, heavy bit that covers a maximum amount of surface area in the horse's mouth is necessary for the fine-tuned commands a vaquero gives his cow horse. in these instances, a simple snaffle just doesn't cut it for the complexity of commands and the looseness of the reins - it just isn't clear enough. it would be like trying to ride grand prix dressage without the use of your seat and leg aids and only a snaffle - there just isn't enough 'language' present to accomplish the complex communication required.

    (this is not the kind of bit that is in this post - this bit, as i said, is poorly made and ill balanced, not to mention is not heavy enough to get the job done)

    these kinds of bits are not meant to be used as leverage bits - the curb strap - if one is used, is simply to keep the bit in place should an emergency happen so the bit does not injure the horse. a pair of rommal reins with rein chains on the end of a well balanced and well made spade gives an enormous amount of communication without leverage - the bit barely moves in the horse's mouth at all. and like i said - the horses these bits are made for have been meticulously trained and most don't wear these bits until they're 8 or 9 years old. they start in snaffles, then go to the bosal, then the two rein (bosal and snaffle) and then move up after meticulous preparation to the spade. they often wear a bosal as well. these horses were required to work all day in these bits so soring mouths actually works *against* the purpose of the people who traditionally used them. most good western pleasure bits that you see accomplish the same thing - precise communication on a very loose rein. given the person puts enough time into the horse.

    all of that said, there are joe blo idiots who buy bits like the one posted, put a tight curb strap on it, and haul around on their horse's face to give them more 'stop'. that sort of thing is never okay and is outright abusive. this particular bit has excessively long shanks and so, if used as a leverage bit, would be very very painful and i'd hate to see any horse wearing it with an inexperienced rider - especially one uneducated in the commands capable with such a bit.


    that article explains the use of the spade bit in vaquero or buckaroo tradition beautifully. a very well made cathedral bit should work similarly, although with less feel and sensitivity than a spade. many people call reining 'western dressage' but that's really not true - the closest western equivalent to dressage in the amount of training and amount of sensitivity and balanced self-carriage in western riding is the bridle horse trained in vaquero/buckaroo tradition.

    these bits are not as cruel as they look when used properly - i.e., liken it to a finished grand prix dressage horse wearing the double bridle. they don't get into that double bridle until they're top level, and the same goes for riders - they don't touch the bit and bradoon until they're very well schooled and capable of handling it without harming the horse. if anything, these bits provide more feel and more sensitivity, and far less irritation to the horse than your average curb bit. using these types of bits for more 'stop' is foolish and harmful for the horse and a severe misuse of these bits - as they're not meant to be leverage bits at all.

    also - a word on cheap cathedral and spade bits - they're ineffective. as jo mentioned - a well made bridle horse bit costs alot of money. balance is key, and you would expect to pay a minimum of several hundred upwards to several thousand for a handmade bridle horse bit.

  16. Thank you Bonnie for your lengthy explanation!

    I still challenge the need for such a high port. (not in an argumentative sense - more in a 'but why' sense)

    I understand the use of a curb, I have 3 curbs that I use periodically, depending on the horse.

    With your explanation, I understand the traditional use of them. However, I still say they are not required to get any work done on a horse.

    If the NRCHA wants to have that class out of tradition, I guess. As a parallel, traditionally in this country people trained horses by snubbing them to a post and everyone thought that was great. It does work to get a broke horse, if you are willing to sacrifice your horse to try.

    Back to the bridle horse - ideally a person rides well enough and a horse is trained well enough to handle something like that - and still be fair to the horse.

    But I think of the people I know that could ride with a bit like that, I think they would decline. In fact, if they had a horse in training that long, and had the horse just the way they wanted, I am sure they would decline.

    If the trick is to not touch the bridle or hurt the horse, they would probably choose bridleless over the spade. That would be cool to watch!

    I think some of it comes to what people are taught. Just about everyone thinks they are good riders. So, whatever you show them - is a potential for them to try.

    I know a trainer in his 30's that uses these things often enough. I think it's to get a better stop, I'm not entirely sure, because that does not make good sense to me. I'm sure it doesn't make sense to the horse.

    The guy drives me nuts with his training theories.

  17. I wish there was a criteria for buyers: you may not buy this bit until we put it's human counterpart in your mouth and "ride" you in it.

    Horrifying, IMO. I'm not anti-curb by any means, but puhleaze...I can hardly look at the thing.

  18. I'm thinking more people need to ride some finished bridle horses.

  19. sigh. if that is what it takes to ride a 'bridle horse' than I'm glad I ride h/j.

    Um. Bonnie. You REALLY can ride a GP horse off your seat and leg and a snaffle. Somebody HAS been feeding you bunk.

    The double is required to show, not to teach the horse the 'tricks'.

    I've had my life graced by a finished GP horse. He was almost NEVER schooled in the double. I also had a Intermediare horse in my barn. He was also only ridden in a snaffle. Did tempi changes in a snaffle.

    Never mind that comparing a spade bit to a double bridle is ludicrous.

  20. Since when is a cathedral used on a cow horse? Made correctly (no roller), it's not legal for NRCHA! I'm thinking people don't really understand their terminology, and are confusing a cathedral with a half-breed.

    You most certainly do NOT only show NRCHA with a spade or cathedral. Rules specify a spade OR a bit with an unbroke bar mouthpiece, a port 1" or higher, and there must be a cricket.

  21. pat - i'm aware of that - the double bridle is for show and control. i've got a fine enough education in dressage to know the difference - i ride my own horse with my seat and legs - you misread my illustration.

    i think you missed my point - while seat and leg aids are the foundation of good dressage, the same seat and leg control are not possible on a working cow horse simply because of practical reasons - see my point about a steer dallied to the horn. bridleless riding requires very clear seat and leg aids, and it's just not possible when you're trying to do cow work because of the use of the saddle to secure the steer for whatever reason. the weight of the steer counteracts any seat aids you might want to give.

    the spade bit basically takes the place of the seat - the reins are used very quietly, but they *are* used. think about it - you have to handle your reata to rope the steer, and the most efficient way possible to do that and to handle the steer once he's roped and dallied is to have the most finesse possible while handling the reins with no contact in one hand and as little motion as possible and still communicate effectively to the horse. spade bits in a finished bridle horse give the rider the ability to communicate complex cues to the horse while still handling his reata and the cattle in a quiet and balanced manner. it's very very different from 'rodeo' work and modern cutting and team penning. most of that is very very showy whereas actual working ranch buckaroos are far quieter to keep the stress on all of the animals to a minimum.

  22. Bonnie, I'm with you 100% on the Bridle Horse. When done correctly, it's a true art - though unfortunately there are plenty of abusers. I for one would need years of instruction of the same sort the horses go through! Also I love the look of old-school braided romal reins & stuff....

    I've known two old-school Arabian folks who have finished bridle horses.

    They told me it took YEARS of that painstaking process, but was totally worth it. I actually knew one of the stallions trained that way, and he was such a light, beautiful mover. Of course she could also ride him on the trail with a snaffle or bitless bridle (when she did endurance on him), but when she put that Big Boy bit in, he pricked his ears and got that archy-neck "look." He actually liked it, because she is such a sensitive rider, and she could just "whisper" with that bit.

    She's the same woman that made her kids ride with yarn reins whenever they got too fresh with a SNAFFLE. I think it takes that kind of evolved understanding to successfully train a spade-bit horse.

    The other woman was an old-school Californian, and didn't ride anymore (she weighed over 300 lbs and her Crabbet horses were just too small). She described a similar long training process. She also pronounced bosal "bo-SAHL" which I found interesting.

    But yeah, this particular bit looks pretty crappy!!

  23. "*Sigh* It just never ends does it?"

    It sure doesn't, scaequestrian.

    And the excuses to USE that bit or something similar (well balanced or not) keep coming. The main excuse I hear is you need the heaviness of the bit to get the light contact. Really? Then why the hell just not use a heavy mullen mouth or flat polo bit? Those are just as heavy as this insane cathedral bit or anything with a high port.

    Explain to me why is it that I can ask my horse to turn by just squeezing my hand or rotating my elbow in just a snaffle bit? Or why is it that I can lay the rein on the horse's neck and he will turn, once again, in a snaffle bit? Or most of all, why can I do it with a bitless bridle on? And why is it that people like Stacy Westfall and Clinton Anderson continue to compete at high levels with nothing more than a snaffle bit or completely bridless? Because excuses = I don't want to do the real work involved to train my horse using classical methods/I rely solely on riding with my hands and not my body/BNT uses it so why shouldn't I/the old cowboys did it back in the day so I should do it that way too.

    Oh wait, I'm stupid and don't know--I'm into those gaited horses and I "just don't understand."