Question: Tell BHN readers what your favorite bits are, how they work and what problems you correct with them.
Jolee: We basically use different versions of a snaffle. We start everything in a basic O-ring smooth snaffle and then adjust to regular shanks and stronger mouthpieces as needed as the horse progresses through training. Our favorites are the larger twisted wire versions with dog bones (three-piece mouthpieces) in the middle. These are not so severe in the horse’s mouth but do give you lift and control. We use different lengths on the shanks, depending on how strong the horse is, and very little gag as we have pretty soft hands and have found that we need immediate response when we pick up a hand.
We constantly work to keep our horses in the least amount of bit needed to get the job done, whether it is barrel racing or roping. Sometimes, instead of going to a more severe bit, we will bit a horse up in the round pen using a snaffle or short-shank bar bit and allow them to work against themselves to lighten up. We also use draw reins quite a bit on the young horses. The whole aim with our program is to have a horse that immediately positions into the task we ask them to complete.
Since we use dressage in our training regimen, snaffles are the best bit to use. You can teach control and collection—a must in our training—without damaging the horse’s mouth. They will learn to use the bit as an aid, rather than the focus, in any exercise we are teaching them or on the barrel pattern.
We also have a couple of lifter bits with chain mouthpieces that we use occasionally. In rare situations with finished or problem horses that have harder mouths, we may use a plain bar bit or a pretzel port bit. Often we use these more as a schooling aid to lighten one up than for everyday use.
No matter which bit we are using, we rarely ride our horses in the bit we are running them in, and we change up frequently to keep the mouth soft.
Danyelle: I find it really hard to pick my five favorite bits. Like most barrel horse trainers, I have an arsenal of bits and I always buy new ones, anxious to see what they feel like on different horses. I go through phases where I use the same bit on almost every horse every day. So in choosing my five favorites, I had to pick the ones I always go back to as well as the one (mullen mouth) that’s functions are so different that it is a must-have tool in my tack room. I love a great O-ring/D-ring snaffle and have a ton of them. I feel every horseperson should have a great snaffle with split reins in the tack room. I have about 10, all with different mouthpieces and feel. I don’t really have a favorite competition bit. Right now all my horses run in something different. That being said, the following is a list of the few bits I always make sure I have on hand and that I take to all my clinics with me.
1. Square mouthpiece O-ring snaffle:
I use this bit on any age horse. I like the fact that the square mouthpiece gets a horse’s attention and respect without scaring them. I can get the feel I need without having to use the leverage of a shank or control of a chinstrap. Everything works off the corners of the mouth, allowing me to get lateral bend, poll flexion and “whoa” without having the horse brace against it or get scared because of too much leverage. I use this bit on older horses to keep them soft in the mouth and younger horses to get them soft. I use it as needed per individual horse
2. Double-draw gag:
This is a draw gag a friend and I had made up. I generally use this bit with German martingales. I love the fact that it’s a double gag, and the stopper in the center gives a quick reaction and a lot of bend and feel. I don’t run my horses in this, but it’s a great training tool I use for collection, flexion and overall softness. Once again, I will use this on any age horse, it does not scare them and horses are at ease and comfortable with this bit.
I use a leather or nylon crownpiece with this draw gag rather than a cable or wire over the head to make it softer. It helps get a horse to break at the poll, and with leg pressure I am able to keep them moving into the bridle. I also use this bit with draw reins or regular split reins.
3. Goostree short-shank double gag:
I am not generally a fan of running in gag bits—I like the quick reaction of a stationary mouthpiece—but I really get along well with this bit. It is light enough for a young horse but has enough control to run an open horse. It comes in numerous mouthpieces, and I like them all. If I had to pick one, it would probably be a two-piece twisted wire. I will change the curb strap depending on the horse. I use a chain on some horses, or a nylon cord or leather strap on others. You can change the entire feel of the bit by changing the type and length of curb strap you use. For more “whoa,” use a tighter chain. For more “bend” use a loose leather strap. This bit also comes in a long shank, which is also a nice bit, but I use the short shank more. Goostree makes a nice, high quality bit with proper balance most horses are very accepting of. It gives you bend, poll control and a horse naturally wants to follow their nose through a turn with this.
4. Short-shank Mullen mouth:
Even though I don’t use a lot of mullen-mouth bits, I do feel it is important to have one on hand for those certain horses that need one. My training program is based on bend, bend, bend; however, there are some horses that have too much natural bend in the neck, even though the bend in the ribcage is perfect. For these horses, I like a Mullen mouthpiece. I prefer the short-shank version with a set back curb strap. This is a Goostree bit, and Carolina Bit Co. and Shallow Creek Farm Bits also make their version of it. I can still get lift and a horse follows their nose through the turn the way I prefer, but it keeps them from over bending and getting “floppy” through a turn. I like the short-shank version, but if you have an older, stronger horse the long shank does provide more leverage for “whoa” and overall control.
5. Any ol’ hackamore:
I love a hackamore. I can’t even pick just one. But I do like the Jim Warner hack, and Ed Wright has some nice ones as well. I use hackamores in my training on occasion for a horse that is too responsive to the bit or a colt that is over-responding and over-thinking and needs to just go through the pattern with minimal help from me. I also use them for competition on any horse that prefers it. A hackamore is great for a horse that has too much bend as it helps to stiffen them up. I also use them for trail rides to let the horse relax and not have to pack a bit in his mouth. A good hackamore is a must for me.
Jolee Lautaret is a three-time National Finals Rodeo qualifier, seven-time circuit finals qualifier and four-time Dodge National Circuit Finals Rodeo qualifier. She has qualified 10 times for the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association World Finals in team roping, breakaway, and tie down roping.
Residing in Kingman, Arizona, Lautaret spends her time traveling with her mom, Dolli Lautaret, training horses and planning for an upcoming wedding to Professionaln Rodeo Cowboys Association judge Alan Jordan. Often times her roping partner is her father, Allan.
Danyelle Campbell is a Southern California girl. She grew up riding and racing motorcycles in a family that had no interest in horses. Despite her parents’ lack of knowledge in her chosen profession, Campbell credits them for instilling a great work ethic and upstanding values. Campbell is a two-time qualifier for the National Finals Rodeo and the Canadian Finals Rodeo.