An important piece of horse tack is the bit. The bit is placed in the mouth of the horse and rests in an interdental region where teeth are not located. Riders utilize the bits to communicate with the horse. Most bits are constructed of metal or a synthetic material. Horses may attempt to evade uncomfortable bits. The following seven hints will assist riders in selecting the best bit for their particular horse.
- Teeth Check: Bit evasion in horses is often associated with dental problems. The horse’s teeth should be checked to assure there are no physical dental problems causing the horse to evade the bit. Vestigal wolf teeth may need to be extracted by a professional.
- Check for Pinching: Two vertical pieces stop the bit from pulling through the mouth on a full check snaffle. An attached loop slides along the rings in a loose ring snaffle and may pinch the horse’s lips. The horse may not respond properly when the lip is pinched resulting in pain and the loop may result in damage to the lip.
- Consider Copper Rollers: If a horse continuously evades bits, try modifying with copper rollers. The copper rollers may be added to most any bit. When the roller contacts the horse’s tongue, it causes the horse to salivate. The salivating generally acts to calm the horse resulting with less evasion problems.
- Apply Least Amount of Pressure: Snaffle bits apply a low amount of pressure and are generally reserved for very young horses. However, some horses with sensitive mouths may respond to a snaffle bit throughout the horse’s lifetime. The job of a bit is not to control a horse, but rather to communicate to the horse. Continue to take advantage of the snaffle bit as long as the horse responds.
- Select the Appropriate Snaffle for a Young Horse: Snaffles are available in several designs. Two of the more popular types are eggbutt and D-ring. An eggbutt snaffle only applies pressure to the inside of the horse’s mouth. A D-ring snaffle is similar to an eggbutt snaffle; however, the reins may become tangled in a D-ring snaffle.
- Graduating to Curb Bits: A Kimberwicke is an excellent curb bit to utilize on a horse when graduating from snaffle bits. The Kimberwicke contains D-rings rather than shanks, which is much easier on the horse’s mouth. Curb bits are generally utilized on mature horses. This type of bit applies pressure with a lever action. The amount of pressure applied by a curb bit may be up to four times more than a snaffle. A bridle attaches to the upper portion of the curb bit and a rein to the lower allowing the shank to move.
- Select the Proper Size: The length and the width of the mouthpiece should be considered for proper sizing. A properly fitted bit should sit securely at the corners of the mouth. An indication of ill-fitting rings are rings that press hard against the horse’s face or pinch the corners of the mouth. Extra space between the mouthpiece and the lips may result in soreness from slippage.
Photo is courtesy of New Rubber Mullen Mouth Bit by CSKK at Flickr’s Creative Commons.