What bit will solve control problem? Jessica Jahiel

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What bit will solve control problem? Jessica Jahiel

Post by lightertouch on Sat Apr 04, 2009 4:47 am

I don't know if anyone's heard of JJ, I thought this response to a query on her mailing list might be of interest. From the mouth of a bit user, yay!

>From: Suzan
>Subject: What bit will solve control
>Dear Jessica, I am 99% sure that you will give

>me an answer that's all about training, going
>back to basics
etc. That's not what I need. My
>daughter is twelve and not very tall.
She has a
>new horse this year. We bought it last fall for
because the owner couldn't afford to feed
>horses any more. It was very
thin and now that
>it is back in shape it is much more "active" and

>it is making Kellie afraid to ride it. The lady
>who sold it gave
us the saddle and bridle too.
>The bridle has a side pull on it and that
>doesn't give enough control now that this horse
>is in
shape. He gets wild and runs right through
>the bridle on her even when
she does one-rein
>stops he blows right through them. We can't

>afford to send him to a trainer and get his mind
>right. Don't
worry I know all about how
>important training is, etc. but Kellie needs
>have control right now so she won't get hurt.
>What is a bit
we can use that will give her
>control like she needs to have for being
>She wants to take him on some long trail rides
>with her
friends as soon as the weather warms up
>a little more but she is afraid
he will take off
>with her like he does at home. I can cut his

>feed if you think that's a good idea. He spent
>the last six
months in his stall eating his head
>off but like I said he was very thin
when we got
>him from the lady. She didn't tell us that he
act crazy when he got in shape! Okay just
>to remind you, we can't afford
to send him to
>the trainer so please don't even go there with

>me. Maybe we can afford that some day in future
>but for this
year what we need is a bit that
>will keep Kellie safe on her new horse
by giving her

Hi Suzan! Ah,
you're obviously a long-time
HORSE-SENSE reader - you know me so well. And

yes, sorry about this, but I'm going to go
exactly where you don't want
me to go. I can't,
in good conscience, go anywhere else!

Your new
horse needs training; your daughter
needs lessons. I can (but won't) suggest
number of bits that would do a great job of
tearing up your horse's
mouth, but "can inflict
pain" isn't the same thing as "will give the

rider control." The bottom line is that there is
no bit that will give
Kellie the control she
needs. Bits can injure horses, but bits don't

stop horses. Bits aren't brakes; bits aren't
magic. Bits aren't actually
MEANT to stop horses;
they're meant to allow the rider to give clear,

quiet signals to the horse, and one of those
signals is "I'd like you to
stop, please."

Suzan, what do YOU do when you're driving and you
a stop sign or a red light? You stop. Why?
Those things do NOT stop your
car, nor do they
reach out and physically force you to hit the
The stop sign and the red light are
SIGNALS. They control your actions
because (a)
you understand what those signals mean and (b)
you've been
driving for quite some time and have
developed the firm habit of responding
to stop
signs and red lights by stopping. A new driver
will have to pay
close attention and probably
won't brake as smoothly as a more experienced

driver, but new drivers have to learn to obey the
signals before they
can hope to be safe on the
road, even under ideal conditions. It's not so

different for riders and horses - they need a
good basic education and
good communication
skills before they can be sent out on the trails
anywhere else. Riders have to be able to
balance themselves and use their
aids clearly
(which means understanding what the aids are and
how and
when to apply them); horses have to be
trained to understand the aids,
drilled until
their responses are as reliable as possible, AND
they also
have to be sufficiently fit and
conditioned to be ABLE to respond promptly
correctly. An unbalanced horse that's scrambling
to stay upright is
far more likely to speed up or
buck than to slow down and stop, regardless
what the rider may want it to do; a horse with
muscles that are weak
from disuse may have all it
can do just to carry itself, never mind balance
rider as well, never mind manage prompt responses
to the rider's
signals. And a horse that doesn't
understand the rider's signals isn't going
to obey them - how could it?

Your horse's problem is NOT that he needs to
a bigger bit. Your daughter's problem is NOT that
she needs to use
a bigger bit. Your problem - and
yes, you have one, because your daughter is
risk here - is NOT that you haven't found a big
enough bit to give
your daughter control over her
horse. You need to stop thinking in those
because the only result of that line of thought
is this: KELLIE
WILL GET HURT. We - and by "we" I
mean you, me, and everyone else who is
this - do NOT want that to happen.

You're looking for a quick
fix, and there isn't
one. Horses will run through their bits if they
hurt or frightened or confused; green horses
will run through bits because
they have no idea
that the pain in their mouth means "I want you to

stop." Horses are hard-wired to escape pain,
fear, and confusion by
running away - their
primary defense is speed. When a rider uses a
severe bit and/or yanks the reins, the only
message the horse will get is
"Hey, I can hurt
you!" That's not a signal to stop, and in fact
it may
well hurt and frighten the horse badly
enough to provoke a runaway. I say to
you: Don't go there.

I understand that these are tough times

financially, but if you can't afford to find some
good help in the form
of a trainer for the horse
and an instructor for Kellie, you're going to

need to keep the horse in the pasture until you
CAN manage to get the
help that you need. It's
just too dangerous to do anything else. And

speaking of pastures... you say that this horse
was very underweight
when he came to you and is
now much healthier and "in shape" after six

months in a stall. NO. He isn't necessarily
healthier, and he's
certainly not in shape. Six
months in a stall for a horse is like six months

in bed for a human - it is NOT an experience that
creates any strength
or conditioning at all. On
the contrary, the horse (or the human) may gain a

lot of weight over those six months, you're very
likely to be able to
see and feel the additional
fat, but there will have been invisible losses

that are far more important: Muscles will be
smaller and weaker, and
BONES will be thinner and
weaker as well. I repeat: This horse is NOT in

shape. I'm sure he looks better than he did when
you first acquired him,
but at this point he
can't possibly be in shape to carry even a small,
light, proficient rider.

If Kellie can't control her horse at home where

everything is quiet and familiar, she has exactly
NO chance of
controlling that horse out on the
trail with new sights and sounds and
everywhere. Letting your daughter take this horse
out for
long rides away from home (and, right
now, even for short rides in her home
arena or
pasture) is putting her at risk. It's also
putting the horse at
risk, and - think about this
- it's also putting at risk any person or
who ride with your daughter, and any person or
persons who
happen to be on the trail or in the
vicinity of the trail at the same time
as your
daughter. An out-of-control horse is a threat to
everyone and
everything, which is why control is
a rider's first responsibility... and
that brings
us right back to training and lessons. Please get
both, and
if you absolutely can't afford them, I
understand, but if that's the case
just turn the
horse out for the next year or so and let Kellie
do some
basic groundwork with him several times a
week. Not riding him for another
year isn't going
to kill her; riding him without doing the
preparation (training and lessons) and
without allowing him to become AT
LEAST "pasture fit" actually COULD kill her.

(Let's go back to the car
analogy for a moment.
Let's say that Kellie will be old enough to get a

driver's license tomorrow morning at 9:00. Let's
say that she has had
almost NO experience
driving, doesn't know the rules of the road, and

that she wants to take a car that you KNOW is not
road-worthy. WHAT DO
YOU DO? Would you, as her
mother, have ANY trouble saying "Sorry, honey,

cars are dangerous and you NEED to take driver
education and learn the
rules of the road, THEN
we'll get you a car that's mechanically sound,

and THEN you can take the keys and go"? Or would
you just figure "She's
old enough, she can learn
to drive as she goes, the car probably won't

break down at a bad time and if it does, oh
well!" You would think about
Kellie's safety,
about what she needs to know to have a CHANCE of
safe, and you'd want her to do well in a
driver ed class AND you'd want your
mechanic to
sign off on the car before you gave Kellie the
car keys and
your blessing to head down the road alone or with her friends.)

Here's my
bottom line on the whole bitting issue.
Bits are for communication, not for
control. If
the simplest, gentlest bit that fits an
individual horse
really well doesn't get the job
done, then you're asking it to do the wrong
A horse that can't be controlled by its rider
needs education and
training - and 99.999% of the
time, the rider also needs education
remedial education!) and training. Control is
mental and
physical, but it's not about hardware,
it's about training and understanding
and the
creation of habits. If a horse has gaps in its
education - as
many horses do - then what you
need to do is go back one or three or twenty

steps, until you get to the level where the horse
understands what you
want and is capable of
responding as you want him to respond, and then

you build, step by step, building block by
building block, from that
point on. THEN when
you've filled in all of the gaps and you have an

educated horse and rider - THAT'S when it's time
to move onward and
upward. But hoping that a
child who is having control issues with an

extremely unfit and probably overfed horse (it's
very easy and terribly
tempting for ALL of us to
overfeed horses that are too thin when we get

them) is not going to have MORE control if she
uses bigger hardware and
goes out on long rides.
She'll have LESS control; she'll be in MORE

danger. Please, please do NOT go there - this
situation is rather like a
gas leak in your
house. It may cost money and be inconvenient to
what's necessary, but ignoring it is asking
for big, big trouble. Most of us
are having to
put at least some of our plans on hold because of
state of the economy; most of us can live
with that. If YOU know that it
will be a year or
more before your financial situation will permit
to invest in the necessary training and
lessons, that's fine. Explain this
to Kellie, and
then do what you need to do: WAIT. A year of
groundwork will be good for Kellie and
her horse. It may not be quite as
much fun as
going off on long trail rides with her friends,
but under
the circumstances it's a much better
option - and one that's much less
likely to result in a tragedy.

I know this isn't the answer you wanted,
but it's
truly the only answer I can give you.


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Re: What bit will solve control problem? Jessica Jahiel

Post by lightertouch on Sat Apr 04, 2009 5:03 am

Yikes! Sorry about the formatting, can't do much about it...

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Re: What bit will solve control problem? Jessica Jahiel

Post by FlorayG on Sat Apr 04, 2009 5:49 am

Whoooooo...JJ tell it like it is, girl. Who is this woman who dares to tell the truth? What's the website? Let's all email her in support!

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Re: What bit will solve control problem? Jessica Jahiel

Post by Cyndi on Sat Apr 04, 2009 8:26 am

Hooray JJ!!!! cheers What a GREAT reply! Was it just me, or did anyone else's jaw drop as they read Suzan's message? I couldn't believe that she was actually stating those things, like "Don't even go there with me.", and "I don't need that.".

JJ mentioned how Suzan and Kellie were looking for a quick fix. Isn't that the way a lot of people are these days? They get a new horse and expect to be out riding on trails the next day. Some people totally don't understand when you tell them you are taking your time and working on your relationship with your horse, or that you aren't riding because you are spending more time on groundwork. It's like they look down on you for that, because to them it means that you aren't much of a 'trainer' if you aren't out riding your horse right away.

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Re: What bit will solve control problem? Jessica Jahiel

Post by Sydney on Sat Apr 04, 2009 9:17 am

wowowowow! I see this often and it's shocking and just kills me!! First of all the poor girl is overmounted and I bet she just fell in love when really she needs a horse that is going to give her confidence and skills if shes fighting over a runaway problem. Dangerous!!

The girl needs some lessons on that horse! Shes gonna be the pipsqueak riding it.

My theory always: bigger bit= smaller brains. So basically you can use a bigger bit but it's gonna hurt the horse and make him go more squirrely eventually.

I hate parents that let their kids ride dangerous horses like this! You are the parent you need to put your foot down and say NO!! This horse is dangerous, until we get this problem sorted out you are to be off it's back.

*sigh* I really hope this girl does not get hurt.

If you know the lady writing this on the website and she needs backup please feel free to give her my e-mail. I would love to back her up, especially about the bitting problem and the kid getting hurt.

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Re: What bit will solve control problem? Jessica Jahiel

Post by HorseHippie on Sat Apr 04, 2009 1:46 pm

Hey all!

I bought 3 of JJ's books and she is one of the main reasons why I went bitless and holistic and really really wanting to ride dressage!

I suggest reading her 3 books - The Riders Problem Solver, The Horse Behavior Problem Solver and The Training Problem Solver (I hope I got the titles right). I really liked the Q&A format of these books. She is a real, "This is what I would and do and the WHY I would do it". Very Happy

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Re: What bit will solve control problem? Jessica Jahiel

Post by bohohorse on Tue Jun 16, 2009 2:04 am

Whohoo! I think I love this lady Laughing

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Re: What bit will solve control problem? Jessica Jahiel

Post by lightertouch on Tue Jun 16, 2009 2:43 pm

Sorry I didn't respond to you guys, the forum can be a bit weird about telling me when there are new messages...

Here's JJ's website http://www.jessicajahiel.com/. I get her newsletter Horse Sense, which is a freebie tho donations are suggested. I've got a lot of respect for her - she is the ultimate diplomat, extremely patient and seems to her point across even with extremes of ignorance and misinformation, and regardless of age and gender. I try to absorb her tact as well as her knowledge when reading her replies. They are always very full and complete replies! Enjoy Smile

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Re: What bit will solve control problem? Jessica Jahiel

Post by joskt0204 on Tue Jun 16, 2009 6:53 pm

I love her answer. It's great to hear someone tell it like it is, rather than trying to please a potential "customer".


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Re: What bit will solve control problem? Jessica Jahiel

Post by Jo on Fri Jun 19, 2009 4:46 am

What a fantastic reply.
And why couldnt the lady do some training herself - if we are to own these wonderful creatures should we not be able to do a certain amount of training ourselves, in hand especially?

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Re: What bit will solve control problem? Jessica Jahiel

Post by Cyndi on Fri Jun 19, 2009 8:05 am

So true Jo! Everyone wants a horse they can just jump on and ride, but few are willing to take the time and energy to work with the horse. My trainer's STRONGLY urge clients to come work with their horses while they're in for training, so that the clients learn how to work with the horse and they can continue when the horse goes home. Once in a while they get a client in who drops off the horse, says, "I'll be back in a month (or whatever time they have paid for).", and that's it. They said that is such a waste because although they will be able to do whatever they want with that horse, the owners probably won't, and the horse could very well come back at some point for more training because it acts up or doesn't do what the owner wants it to do. The horse is probably fine, but it's the owner who needs to learn!

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