The Power of Walk


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Who decided that a jointed snaffle is “kinder” than a non-jointed Pelham?

Dec 03, 2023
Who decided that a jointed snaffle is “kinder” than a non-jointed Pelham?
This was a misconception that I also believed once, being very judgey about people that used Pelhams. I think I might have actually been taught that Pelhams are harsh, and never thought to question.
This was until seeing horses going beautifully and happily in Pelhams made me question my presumption.
I have felt the action of single and double jointed snaffles and fixed mouthpiece Pelhams by holding in my hands and getting someone to apply rein pressure, and even have tried putting them in my mouth! The traditional jointed snaffle feels pinchy, squashy, restrictive and vague. (Mylers are a little better). The Pelham feels smoother and clearer, not pinchy and the pressure is much more even.
I have heard people complain about poll pressure making the Pelham harsh, but when I put my hand under the headpiece and rotate the shanks to 45 degrees, I notice some movement but barely any change in pressure. What about the curb chain? I use a soft elastic curb strap rather than a chain, and it causes the horse to chew when it comes into contact with the curb groove at 45 degrees. When the horse chews, tension is released throughout the body. That’s one reason why I like a curb bit.. the horse can be taught to release the whole body from one specific light aid. This release, from the underside of the jaw, cannot be forced and cannot be used to pull the head into a false outline because it acts upwards and forwards. But it does make things clearer for the horse.
I introduced Vikingur to a Pelham (in-hand first) a few months after I had him because he needed to be shown how to begin to soften and lift the front end so that he didn’t dive down and pull. It wasn’t intuitive for him, so the Pelham gave him clarity and worked very quickly. He told me very quickly that he preferred it. I had decided to try this as I had noticed dents on his nose after I rode bitless from the leaning. (Of course, I also tried pulling a noseband across the front of my nose and can confirm that this is incredibly painful, far more so than a bit in the mouth! There is not much flesh to pad between the nasal bone and the noseband.)
I encourage everyone to challenge their preconceptions and use whatever tack works best for their horse, for their individual mouth conformation, sensitivities, personal preferences (of the horse) and training goals. Use what is most comfortable and what helps the horse in the clearest and gentlest way to move is a way that supports their comfort and longevity carrying a rider.
For me that has often been the Pelham, but I ride some horses in a jointed snaffle, a Myler or bitless and am open to nearly anything!

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