Which mouthpiece to choose
There are many choices when it comes to choosing a bit for your horse, as well as various factors that influence how your horse might respond to it. The range of options can be overwhelming, and it may take some experimenting to find the right option, but there are ways to narrow down your search to find the right bit for your horse. In this blog, we’ve outlined some considerations to make before choosing a bit.
Check the size
The first step to checking the size you need is to measure the horse’s mouth. To do this for a loose cheekpiece, note the traditional mouth measurement and add 5mm to the figure to avoid pinching. Loose ring bits have sliding rings attached which slide through the ends of the mouthpiece to provide side-to-side movement and are better suited to horses who lean on the bit to avoid the rider’s aids.
To measure the sizing for a fixed cheekpiece, compress the lips slightly until you’ve achieved a snug fit to eliminate side-to-side movement. Fixed cheekpieces transmit pressure from the rein aids to the tongue and lower jaw in a more direct way, keeping the bit steady in the horse’s mouth. These bits are suitable for horses with sensitive mouth corners.
It’s also important to take into account the style of the mouthpiece. For flexible mouthpieces and those with one or two breaks, add 10mm to the mouthpiece to allow for the bit to sit in the mouth, while semi-broken mouthpieces require an additional 5mm to the measurement.
Pay attention to the thickness
The thickness of the bit makes a big difference in how your horse reacts to it. Thinner bits allow for the horse to feel the effects of rein pressure and encourage more of a reaction to contact, while a thicker bit can be good for horses with sensitive mouths or younger horses. However, consider the size of the horse’s mouth before making this decision, as a smaller horse may not be able to tolerate a thicker bit.
Understand where pressure points are located
When choosing a bit for your horse, it helps to start when they’re younger as they can get used to it more easily and will grow to be trusting of it over time. But it’s also essential to know where the pressure is needed to make your horse as comfortable as possible. All cheekpieces exert pressure on the cheek – fixed cheekpieces are designed specifically to encourage flexion while loose cheekpieces should be slightly removed from the lips for greater comfort.
Curb pressure is applied through a back strap or curb chain, and it’s used alongside a mouthpiece and, optionally, nose and poll pressure. The back strap sits higher than the curb chain to exert a softer pressure, while also keeping the bit in place. It also adds a third area for the pressure to be dispersed.
The nasal bone is sensitive, as it’s covered by a very thin layer of skin, so be sure that no pressure is placed on this area. Pressure in this area also encourages flexion at the poll. Pressure in this area encourages the horse to lower its head and flex, which creates more power in motion.
Bitting should be approached from a holistic perspective – there are several factors which need to align in order for a bit to work effectively. Bitting problems can arise from the bit itself and the mechanics, resulting in the horse shaking, pulling or avoiding contact, as well as the bit’s contact with the tongue.
Check the material
Bits come in a variety of materials, each with their own benefits to your horse. Stainless steel is the most common material, providing a rust-free material and a neutral taste. Copper, brass and sweet iron will rust when in contact with the horse’s saliva which produces a sweet taste and encourages the horse to mouth on the bit. These types of bit can be a good fit for horses who are struggling to accept the bit.
For a more lightweight solution, plastic, nylon or rubber provide durable coverings to stainless steel bits and are ideal for horses who don’t like the cold sensation of metal in their mouth. Some plastic or nylon bits are also flavoured to encourage mouthing. However, if you have a horse that chews on the bit, they can become misshapen over time.
Understanding the different types of bits and how each works can help you find the right bit for your horse and its specific needs. The style of bit determines where the pressure is applied, so knowing where your horse needs the pressure to be concentrated can help you pick the best option. The Bit Boutique offer a range of options and can provide you with expert guidance to help you make the right choice.