Kohr Quarter Horses’ Favorite Bits

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Halters to Bits.

From the ground up we teach our colts to be soft and give to nose pressure with a halter first before we introduce a snaffle. As our colts accept all of our softening ideas with a halter we add the snaffle. We will put a broken in three-piece snaffle on them for a day or two, letting them just wear it as we ride them in a halter. On the ground, we teach our colts to give to a snaffle, one side and then the other, forward and back until they are giving lightly and easily. As they accept all of this, and it’s good with them, we ride them in snaffles. We stay with a snaffle as they mature and learn to handle themselves. I am a fan of broken in three mouth pieces in most all of the bits I use. I prefer their feel and their molding to a horse’s mouth over the broken in two. We use a snaffle with a small dog bone mouthpiece, made by Tom Balding.bits

Transitioning Bits for young futurity horses.

I’ll often go back and forth between these and a snaffle with the goal of achieving respect without fear. The two I use are the short shank broken in three Merrill gag (it has a small gag with a very quick release) and a short shank double cross mouthpiece by Tom Balding. With both bits I use a roomy chin strap, meaning a good three fingers instead of the traditional two fingers loose. I go to the gag easily from a snaffle. It gives me a quick release and always gives my horses a place to go. They learn to back off my hands and legs a little more than with the snaffle. The gag is gentle yet has a little more reinforcement. The short shank Tom Balding has a bit more get off my hands feel for me and yet still has lots of release and movement in the bit so my horses do not hit a hard-solid place with my hands. The short shank Tom Balding helps me teach my youngsters to square up. I really like the feel of moving forward squarely.


Irish Certa, owned and raised by Fred and Clara Wilson, wearing the Merrill Gag.


Short shank, double cross mouthpiece, handmade bit by Tom Balding.

Bits for competition horses.

We use the short shank Merrill and the short shank Tom Balding on 95 % of the horses we compete on (which are mostly 4-6-year old barrel, pole and rope horses). I train horses to be very aware and move squarely over their feet. In other words with collection. The Merrill gives me the soft and immediate transition I like while encouraging collection. This being said, it is always up to the rider behind the reins. We use our legs to support and our hands to move with their feet while asking for transitions. I use the short shanked Balding bit when I want just a little more respect for my hands. It has a squarer feel to me and we do use it on all of our rope horses. For our young rope horses we use the short shanked double cross Tom Balding pretty much on all of them. It helps keep our horse square over their feet and straight in their carriage (not so different from the approach to barrels and poles). Often as the horses age we move into the 6 inch shank Tom Balding with the double cross mouthpiece. Our son ties down on his 8-year-old using the 6-inch shank bit. For our old one-in-a-million head horse, Danny, the short shank is still plenty of bit. P.S. Danny came to us a superstar; it was only our pleasure to enjoy him and keep him happy. He has always been in that bit throughout his very celebrated career.


Tom Balding Double Cross

Using the side pull or hackamore.

When I’m conditioning older horses, when outside people come to ride our horses, and if we get a horse in that likes to tuck in behind the bridle we will use a rope-nose hackamore or as we have always called them, side pulls. Since all of our horses are started in halters they have learned to give to pressure on their nose, front to back and side to side, so they take to side pulls with little additional education to long trot and condition. Often when outside of our family comes to ride our horses, I usually throw a side pull on for both the horse and the rider. This lessens the miscommunication with light soft mouths of our horses and keeps the rider more comfortable. When we get in outside horses that have been started by others and that tuck in behind a bit, we many times educate that horse to a side pull, just to get out of a place other people have been and then we can soften and teach collection and respect without a past history. If you try one on a horse who doesn’t know about pressure on their nose, take the time to teach and educate them so both of you have some success.


Disclosure: We spend a large amount of time educating our horses. They are very soft and engaging and follow body signals smoothly. All of this creates a silent code or work ethic, alleviating the dependence on “What bit do I use for this problem” when we have taken care of the behavior problem with education rather than with a mechanical solution.

Posted in: Featured, Horse Supplies, Horse Training

About Lynn Kohr

I am a barrel and pole horse trainer, giving springtime barrel racing and pole bending clinics and workshops, competing in barrel racing and pole bending futurities while marketing our horses for sale. I am a Mom of 3: Sage, Cedar, and Stratton. And wife of...

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