Bit By Bit
Bitting can be a very scary subject, as there is an overwhelming volume of choice available on today's market! I mean, where do you even start?
Changing your horses's bit can be a daunting prospect. What if your horse doesn't like the bit? What if it's too severe? Our advice is "don't panic"! Remember, a bit is only as severe as the hands at the other end of the rein. Your horse's mouth will not be ruined if you put a stronger bit on their bridle just to try it out. Just bear in mind that you should pay close attention to your horse's reaction to a new bit; he will tell you loud and clear if he doesn't appreciate it! It will often take a while and a variety of bit styles before you know for sure which type of bit is right for your horse. And remember that your horse's bitting requirements will change over time as they mature, as their education progresses or their workload changes.
Here at Equitogs, we offer a 'Bit Try' service. Our staff are experienced in all different areas of equestrianism and we are more than happy to chat with you about the bits we have available. We always offer honest advice, drawing from our own experience and we make sure we ask lots of questions about you and your horse to help us give you the best advice we can. If we have a bit that you would like to try with your horse , you can purchase it from us to trial for up to 30 days. If, in this time, you feel that the bit is not working for you then you can return it to us with the original packaging and receipt, and we will refund you the price of the bit (minus 10%) or exchange it (again minus 10%) for a new one to try. Before you decide on a new bit, here are some important factors to take into consideration:
The horse’s current level of education – is your horse just starting out in its ridden career, or is it an old hand? Has the horse learnt to accept the contact yet?
Your level of education – How experienced are you in the saddle? How developed is your independent seat? Have you established a good sense of ‘feel’ and contact? Do you fully understand the desired action of the bit you want to try?
The conformation of your horse’s mouth – Each and every horse is an individual and their mouths will all be made up differently, depending on breed, age, whether they have had regular teeth checks throughout their lives, etc. They may have a fleshy tongue, they may not have had their wolf teeth taken out (this is no longer a standard practice for many vets and dental professionals). There is lots in the makeup of your horse’s mouth which can dictate your choice of bit.
Job Role of the horse – Is the horse a happy hacker, a hunter or do you want to compete? If competition is your goal, it is vital to check an up to date rule book for your chosen discipline, which will list all bits you are permitted to use in competition. There is absolutely no point in training with a particular bit at home if you can't then use it in the competition arena - horses like consistency after all.
Desired action of the bit – What are you looking to achieve? There are many types of bits on the market today and they all provide a different action. Some will lift the horse’s head up; some will encourage the horse to take the contact forward; some will provide better steering; some will help to achieve better engagement of the hind quarters.
When was the last time you had your horse’s teeth checked by an equine dentist?
It is essential that you have your horse’s teeth checked by a qualified professional regularly; ideally every 6 months, but if not, at least annually. Your horse's teeth will develop sharp edges over time and these can cause your horse pain and discomfort which can create bit related problems.
Once you are aware of the profile of your horse’s mouth and have a better idea of what you need we can start to narrow things down.
As previously mentioned, there are hundreds of bits on the market and they all do something a little different. Where mouthpieces are concerned, the main types you will find are:
- Straight bar – this mouthpiece is very mild and will only really affect the corners of the mouth. Sometimes they can be curved or come with a port to allow more tongue room.
- Single jointed – these provide a nutcracker action, which affects the bars and the corners of the mouth and can affect the roof of the mouth. Not all horses appreciate this action.
- French link – these mouthpieces are double jointed, with a flat link in the middle. They will distribute pressure over the tongue, bars and lips.
- Lozenge – these are also double jointed, but the link in the middle is smoother and rounded. They give the same action as the French link, but the rounded lozenge is gentler on the tongue.
- Revolver – again, these are double jointed. The link in the middle is oval shaped and is split in the middle to allow your reins to act independently of one another.
- Waterford – a multi-jointed mouthpiece with a chain of rounded links. It creates an even pressure over the tongue and prevents the horse from taking a hold of the bit as it becomes uncomfortable to do so.
It is difficult to say exactly which mouthpiece is best for which type of horse as there are so many factors which affect a horse’s way of going and acceptance of the contact. The best piece of advice we can give is to assess your particular horse and your particular needs and try different bits to find the one which suits you and your horse the best.
The most important thing to remember is that bits are not quick fixes and they cannot compensate for correct and consistent training. Used correctly, they can help achieve your goals through a happier, more relaxed horse who is accepting of the contact and comfortable in their work.
There are a number of competition legal bits on the market and we have reviewed for you below a couple of our favourites:
Sprenger KK Ultra
Available in Sensogan & Aurigan in a variety of thickness's and sizes.
The middle small link is rotated forwards at a 45 degree angle. When a rider picks up a contact, the lozenge sits smoothly over the horse's tongue meaning decisive aids can be given in a gentle way.
We would recomment the Sensogan mouth piece for particularly sensitive horses as the reduction of copper and the addition of Micro-nutrient Maganese still increases the horses chewing activity and salivation but with more calmness and relaxation.
Neue Schule Verbindend
Neue Schule bits are made of Salox Gold, which is an extremely warm, soft metal. This material is formulated for high thermal conductivity and reaches the temperature of the horse's mouth very quickly, promoting acceptance much quicker than with a traditional stainless-steel bit.
The curved mouthpiece of the Verbindend helps to eradicate tongue evasions by creating a channel for the tongue, promoting self-carriage and helping to lighten the forehand.
This is a very versatile bit and is suitable for lots of different horses.
sprenger Flex Control
This bit is formulated with SENSOGAN. It has a single joint, covered with a soft and flexible rubber to protect sensitive horses in their tender mouth spots. The moveable rubber enables the rider to achieve contact and thoroughness with the horse, whilst the loose ring design discourages the horse from leaning and grabbing hold of the bit.
Neue Schule Turtle Tactio
The Turtle Tactio averts rein pressure to the central part of the tongue, diverting pressure away from the bars so this is a great option for horses with big tongues who are very sensitive on the bars but have little room in the mouth. This mouthpiece is the smallest in the Neue Schule range to accommodate this.
The Turtle name is derived from the shape of the central link, which takes its inspiration from the shape of the Box Turtle Shell. This bit is anatomically designed to provide comfort for the horse and discourage tongue evasion, whilst allowing the aids to be felt readily. The locking cannons feature helps to stop any horses who have developed a habit of evading with the tongue - this bit is designed to reward horses who want to work with you.