Bitting your horse - Things to consider

Mary Wastie, Horse Bitting Consultant, shares her advice on what to consider when choosing a bit for your horse.

Often now with the internet, and social media sites you will see someone asking about what bit is right for their horse, and there ensues a deluge of advice and opinions, saying “my horse goes well in X, Y or Z bit”, but how do they know it will be right for the person posting the question?

The answer is that they cannot, not without having a lot more information regarding the horses mouth conformation, age, stage of training of both horse and rider and what support they have in their training.

Mouth conformation affects the suitability of the bit. Some horses have a shallow lower jaw, and thin lips covering sharp bars underneath.

Others are a lot fleshier, with thick lips, flatter bars, and a tongue that can be seen to spill out through the side. Both horses will have different levels of sensitivity in the mouth, and different pressure points to which they are sensitive.

Some horse have tongues which overfill the mouth and there are some horses who have tongues that are slightly too long in the mouth and tuck up behind the front teeth!

Alot of pony breeds are very short from the corner to the front of the mouth, and this can cause issues with stretching the corners and splitting the lips. More and more modern breeding is looking at the aesthetics of the horse, and in consequence, there are finer heads with narrower jaws. All very pretty, but not the easiest to accommodate a bit, or in the case of some dressage horses, two bits!

The type of bit and construction of it means that it will act on different pressure points, and a snaffle is not always the kindest bit for a horse.

The pressure points acted upon by bits are the tongue, lips and bars, and in the case of leverage bits, the poll and the jaw.

In some cases, a leverage bit will be a better option for a horse as it distributes the pressure. It alleviates excessive pressure on the tongue, lips and bars through the leverage coming into action, placing some pressure across the poll and the jaw.

Too often, leverage bits are maligned, however, a lot of them are not used or balanced correctly. All too often, owners will fit a curb chain loose, to be kind, but this nullifies the action of the bit, and instead of balancing and introducing the poll and jaw pressure, it will lead to excessive mouth pressure.

In the case of snaffle bits for dressage, the degree of pinch and collapse varies dependent on the mouthpiece. Finding the correct mouthpiece for the sensitivity of the horse, in correspondence with the level of ability of the rider is key.

Once this is achieved, it is then important to find the correct cheek. A loose ring will delay the signal, and can be useful with young horses, although this is not always the case. A cheek like an egg butt, or dee cheek give a direct signal, so release and reward are quicker, as is correction, a more black and white signal than a loose ring. A hanging cheek is useful where the horse has a short mouth profile, ie is short from the corner to the front of the mouth, and does not give poll pressure as is all too commonly assumed. It in fact relieves poll pressure, and can also be useful in horses sensitive to poll and or bar pressure. So, all in all a lot to consider when looking at re-bitting a horse, or even initially bitting a young horse ready to break.

There are professionals who can help, can come and visit your horse, see you both together and make recommendations as to what would suit you both.

To find out more, or to book a bitting consultation, contact Mary Wastie:

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Mobile - 07800 558636

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Facebook - Horse Bitting Consultants

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