Myler Curb Chains
Many Myler Bit designs allow a rider to utilise curb pressure with the use of a curb strap or curb chain. Curb pressure is traditionally used with shanked bits offering leverage, such as many Western bits and also Pelhams and Kimblewicks.
A unique design in Myler's snaffle cheeks with hooks, however, allows a rider to use leverage and curb pressure with a ring bit as well.
Curb pressure is very effective for asking a horse to relax at the poll. Firstly, a curb strap helps to stabilise the bit in the horse's mouth. With leverage created by the shank or the hooks on a ring cheek, it allows the rider to apply downward pressure in the horse's mouth and then once the horse responds it helps to bring the bit back into position, so offering the horse a release. It is another encouraging pressure area for the horse to respond to.
Also, downward pressure is better at asking a horse to roll his head forward and relax at the poll. Traditional ring bits apply direct backward pressure into the tongue and bars, which many horses resist by pulling into, pushing their weight straight through their shoulders and onto the forehand.
Curb straps or chains also help distribute pressure around the horse's head. For instance, with a traditional ring bit snaffle, 100% of the rein pressure is sent to the horse's mouth. With a leverage bit and curb strap, pressure is distributed to the mouth, the curb area (or back of the jaw) and the poll. Distributed pressure, as a norm, is kinder and gentler than concentrated pressure.
Another benefit of utilising different pressure areas is that it helps the rider to ride with a lighter, gentler hand. For this reason, the Mylers advocate the use of curb pressure with novice riders and children. It allows the rider to learn the 'feel' of riding lightly, allows the horse to have distributed pressure for softer signals, and also helps the beginning rider maintain control without a high degree of rein pressure.
A curb chain used with a Myler snaffle will sit relatively higher on the back of the horse's jaw than a curb used with a traditional Pelham or Weymouth. This does not cause the curb pressure to be any less effective or more harsh in any way. It is simply used as a stabilisation point and pressure area for the horse to respond to. In addition, the pressure higher up on the jaw is spread over a larger area than the chin groove.
It is important that a curb chain or strap is attached correctly. Whilst the 2-finger space rule is a good guideline, it is all relative to the size of one's fingers! A better guideline is that one should only be able to move the reins 1 to 1¼" before the curb chain engages. This way the horse is able to respond to light rein pressure in the mouth before curb pressure engages, teaching him to be lighter and more responsive. Too tight a curb chain and the horse does not receive a rewarding release. Too loose a curb chain and the horse gets pressure too hard and too late from the curb chain - the rider's message is lost and the horse upset.
Have you had a bad experience with curb pressure before? Some riders have tried bits with curb pressure on their horses but then found the horse resisted more than with a traditional ring bit. If this has happened to you it is worthwhile for you to consider what the horse was resisting. Was it the curb pressure? Or was it the mouthpiece of the bit? For instance, if the horse was ridden in a traditional single joint snaffle bit with resistance and then ridden in a Pelham with a single joint snaffle mouthpiece with more resistance, it is more likely the horse objected to the mouthpiece rather than the curb pressure. This is because the mouthpiece was more stabilised and offered more downward pressure into the mouth, whereas with a single jointed mouthpiece it drove down painfully through the centre joint.
Reconsider the mouthpiece and reconsider curb pressure!