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Goats and Bits - Nanno - 11-23-2015

In the interest of not letting Cuzco run away with Santa again this year in the Christmas parade, I've been considering putting him in a bit instead of continuing to drive him in a halter. One problem with driving in a halter is that you have to get it super snug to keep it from riding up the nose when you pull on the reins. Even so, it tends to ride up the nose anyway, and it always rubs the hair off because halters aren't really designed for side-to-side pulling. So I've been thinking about trying a bit and I found a tiny little 3 1/2" miniature horse bit at Mini Express. The lady was very amused when I told her I was buying it for a goat, and she couldn't believe that goats come in Cuzco size. I decided on copper since goats usually crave copper (they regularly rewire our trailers and have attacked our internet twice) and I went with a French link snaffle since goats appear to have fairly low palates. I made a little headstall for it which was quite easy since goats with horns don't need browbands or throatlatches. I still need to make a noseband as this will help stabilize the bit and prevent it being accidentally pulled through the mouth. 

As a side note, I used to wonder why driving bridles were made with the noseband run through the cheekpieces. Riding bridles are designed with the cavesson as a separate piece and its only function is to discourage the horse from evading the bit by gaping his mouth or getting his tongue over the bit. A driving noseband has these functions too, but with the strap running through the cheekpieces, it becomes a safety feature since it prevents the bit from being able to be pulled through the mouth. Pulling on the bit can also engage the noseband to assist in turning the head. 

So how did Cuzco react to the bit? The answer is, not much. He shook his head a few times, chomped a little, then seemed to accept it pretty well. I led him around with it the first day and was amazed by how light a touch I could use to direct him. I drove him in it yesterday and he was very light in my hands. This is the first time he has not succeeded in turning the cart around whenever he felt like it. We still had problems on the way home--this is usually when he likes to take off at a run. I successfully held him to a rather prancey walk without much difficulty, but he did a lot of head-shaking, and occasionally he came to a dead stop if he pulled too hard in protest. It wasn't perfect, but at least he was responding. So after 12 years of driving we finally have proper brakes! We're going to need to practice some more over the next couple of weeks before the parade, but I think I may have found the key to driving this goat comfortably without ground assistance. 

I also tried the bit on Finn and Sputnik. They protested madly about having it installed, but Finn accepted it quite well within a few minutes. Sputnik never stopped chomping on it throughout our walk yesterday, and both goats have a hard time taking treats with the bit in, but I think with gentle practice they'll come to accept it as part of the routine. They'll need to grow a lot more before I can start driving them in it because right now it's too wide for their mouths, but I figure they can just wear it for now and get used to the feel.


RE: Goats and Bits - Taffy - 11-24-2015

A 3 1/2" bit! I used 6 1/2" bits for my Fjords. That bit must be teeny!

Your application of horse driving principles to goats is spot on! Like any other driving animal - I would think different goats would respond differently to a bit. I really enjoy reading your detailed analysis.

I think if a goat is going to have a bit in its mouth you would need an extremely light hand on the lines. If more pressure is applied I can see a goat rearing up trying to get away from the pressure. That wouldn't bode well for anyone.

Once again Cuzco proves he's still the greatest goat of all time!


RE: Goats and Bits - DownUnder Gal - 04-30-2016

Hi Nanno, I'm wondering how your goats are going with their bits, now you have been using them for a few months? I am thinking of ordering a 3 1/2" French-link snaffle for my Koby.


RE: Goats and Bits - Nanno - 05-01-2016

Unfortunately I haven't been able to practice in quite a while as it's been winter here and too snowy to drive. Cuzco also has not been up to driving. At his age, we restrict work to times when he feels fit and feisty, and as winter got longer his weight and energy levels dropped. The younger goats haven't grown into the bit yet and probably won't for a few more months. However, I did put it on Sputnik just to wear (no reins) for a while during the goat show last weekend and he did pretty good. He hadn't worn it in quite some time, so he protested when I first fastened the bridle on, but he settled down pretty quickly afterward. I'm surprised he calmed down so fast considering how little time I've spent working with him over the winter.

I'd really like to try a mullen mouth too, but I haven't ordered one yet. I think it would be gentler than a french link, but they do tend to slide side-to-side more, so I should probably wait until my goats are full grown so it fits their mouths very well before trying one out.


RE: Goats and Bits - DownUnder Gal - 05-01-2016

Hmmm ... food for thought re the mullen mouth. The kinder the better IMHO Smile


RE: Goats and Bits - DownUnder Gal - 05-11-2016

I just ordered Koby's bit today http://www.jacksmfg.com/Mini-French-Snaffle-Bit,640.html?b=d*6095 ... already got his new driving bridle (also from the US). Will use the bridle without the bit for a couple of months (i.e. until he's 2 years old).


RE: Goats and Bits - Nanno - 05-11-2016

Where did you get the driving bridle? Does it fit? And it works with or without the bit? I want to know more!


RE: Goats and Bits - DownUnder Gal - 05-11-2016

Hi Nanno, here is a photos of a team of goats (Team Snazzy Goat) wearing the bridle I bought. https://sites.google.com/site/teamsnazzygoat/ It is a miniature horse bridle that has been a little modified in terms of where the buckles attach (no sewing machine required). The bit attaches to the noseband so theoretically you could start to use it without the bit and attach the driving lines to the noseband instead. The overcheck is removable. I tried the bridle on Koby this morning but it is too big for his young dairy head. It should fit Atticus who has a much boofier head.

The other driving halter I have been using is the one that came with the Hoegger driving harness. I think you might have that one? I like the hackamore-like effect but it doesn't stop Koby from putting his head down too far.


RE: Goats and Bits - Nanno - 05-12-2016

"Boofier head" -- HA! I love it!

I also love Team Snazzy Goat! My harnesses are betathane though so I'd prefer a bridle made from the same material. I got one with my harness but it doesn't even come close to fitting my goats. I've already taken one of them apart and I may see if the leather shop up in Pueblo can restitch it according to my specifications. I also want to try a Dr. Cook's bitless bridle and see if that works well for goats. I think I'll make one myself from leather scraps or nylon that I have on hand and try it before I buy one or have one made. I keep wondering if I should go ahead and invest in my own heavy duty sewing machine and some materials so I can start making goat harnesses myself. It would be so much easier than trying to work with horse harness makers over phone and email.

I do have the driving halter than came with the Hoegger's harness but I don't much care for it. I far prefer to drive in my Sopris halters. They stay put better, but even those have their drawbacks. Cuzco lost all the hair on his nose one spring when we were driving a lot because no matter how tight you crank it, a halter still rubs back and forth across the nose.


RE: Goats and Bits - DownUnder Gal - 05-12-2016

Hi Nanno, if I could sew I think I would get a heavy duty machine myself, for the same reasons you've mentioned!  Unfortunately I am not very talented in that department.  It's becoming rather expensive for me to order all of this stuff from the US to find it doesn't quite fit.  I tried the Tough1 mini bridle on Atticus yesterday and it is too small Sad   The nose band won't fit around his "boofy" nose.  Unless I can fashion a larger noseband I think I will get limited use out of it ... it seems very heavy (good quality brass fittings add to the weight).  There will probably only be about a six month window when it will fit Koby and then he will grow out of it, as all indications point to Koby being bigger than Atticus when fully grown.  I might try the bridle on one of the feral cashmeres who have a different shaped head to the dairy goats.  Maybe Gilly-Gumboots (Gilbert); he would make a good harness goat but I would need to start from scratch and he is not as receptive to training as the dairy goats.  

I have never heard of Dr Cook's bitless bridle so I am going to do a bit of research on that, thanks for the tip.

Team Snazzy Goat suggested to me that I might try adding a bit via bit clips attached to the noseband of the Sopris halter I have.  I might try that - I am determined to find a workable solution!  So far I have found the Sopris halters to be great quality and fit, and much cheaper than goat halters available here in Australia (which start at $40 and don't seem to fit as well).  I might need to work the overcheck from the Tough1 bridle into that equation somehow.

What brand is your betathane harness?