In the July/August '11 issue of The Trail Rider ("Go Forward Under Saddle," Joy of Riding,) world-renowned trainer/clinician Linda Tellington-Jones gives you five exercises to encourage your horse to move out freely on the trail.
Your choice of bit can also influence your horse's impulsion and energy. As you select a bit for your trail horse, you may want to consider the Tellington Training Bit (www.ttouch.com) designed by Linda Tellington-Jones.
About the Bit
The Tellington Training Bit, a curb bit, is made from stainless steel and has a seven-inch shank. The shank is loose and curved back, which, says Linda Tellington-Jones, has a softening effect on a horse's mouth, poll, and back. The mouthpiece has a copper roller.
The Tellington Training Bit is designed to be used with two reins; for best results, use it with lightweight, narrow reins.
According to Tellington-Jones, this bit has been shown to:
- Improve transitions, carriage, balance, and engagement.
- Reshape ewe-necked, hollow-backed, and strung-out horses.
- Soften the back and encourage flexion at the poll.
- Calm and control overcompetitive or spooky horses.
"The experience we've had with many riders who use this bit is that it allows the horse a greater freedom of the head and neck," notes Tellington-Jones. "The horse uses the muscles of his back in a more fluid fashion, activating a more effective movement throughout the body — like no other bit!
"Because the horse is more balanced, the rider doesn't hang on the horse's mouth as we see so often. With this bit, you don't have to take hold of the horse's head."
Soft & Supple
"I like a curb bit," says Tellington-Jones. "It's my experience and opinion that a snaffle bit sitting on the horse's tongue can really affect his connection to the ground, and his ability to speed up and slow down. "All the points — from tongue to jaw to sternum to shoulder — must be free of tension in order for the horse to move freely and comfortably. Constrict any of those points and you've jammed the system, which often manifests as behavioral and performance issues, ranging from balkiness and short-striding to sourness and head-tossing.
"There's something about the Tellington Training Bit that encourages suppleness in the back and forward movement," Tellington-Jones continues. "Horses really seem to like the bit. Just carrying the bit with their head loose, horses tend to track up differently and get in balance.
"We find that horses that tend to be too slow or have a tendency to be lazy start to come into an improved sense of physical balance, which then brings them into mental and emotional balance. They have better connection with the ground, and they can listen to you."
On the Trail
World champion endurance rider Becky Hart uses the Tellington Training Bit. (For more on Becky Hart, click here.)
"I was introduced to Becky Hart and her remarkable horse RO Grand Sultan — known as Rio — in the late 1970s at the American Endurance Ride Conference's North American Championship on the northern coast of California," says Tellington-Jones.
"Over the years, I've worked with Becky and Rio, including at the 1996 World Endurance Championship in Kansas, and another ride in Wyoming. We did a lot of TTouch on Rio after the completion of the Kansas ride, and at age 18 this horse was presented with the coveted Best Condition award."
Hart used the Tellington Training Bit with Rio for training and in competition. "She often spoke of how this bit rebalanced Rio," says Tellington-Jones. "He became more supple and free-moving."
"I also remember a situation with [top endurance competitor] M.J. Jackson's horse at the three-day Race of Champions event," says Tellington-Jones.
"On the day before the first ride, her horse's back was so sore that she couldn't even present him for the veterinary check-in. This horse was so high-headed and ewe-necked that it looked like his ears were in the rider's face — which obviously made his back hollow and sore.
"So I put a different pad on him, along with the Tellington Balance Rein and the Training Bit, and rode him for about 10 minutes to get the horse to extend his neck and really reach out.
"M.J. ended up placing seventh overall for the three days, and her horse had a sound back at the end of the 180 miles."
Cynthia McFarland is a full-time freelance writer who writes regularly for national horse publications. Horse-crazy since childhood, she owns a small farm in north central Florida. She and her Paint Horse gelding, Ben, enjoy regular trail-riding adventures.
Linda Tellington-Jones (www.ttouch.com) is a lifelong horsewoman who's competed extensively in combined training, hunter/jumper, and dressage events. She's completed six 100-mile Western States Trail Foundation Tevis Cup endurance rides and held a world record in endurance riding by winning the Jim Shoulders 100. She's been an official member of the veterinary team for the United States Endurance Team.
A former U.S. Pony Club instructor and an American Horse Show Association judge, as well as a judge and competitor in the North American Trail Ride Conference events, Tellington-Jones was a founding member of the California Dressage Society. She also owned and operated the Pacific Coast School of Horsemanship and Research Farm with then-husband and former classical Cavalry officer Wentworth Tellington.