Best Bit To Start A Horse In

David Lawrence
• Wednesday, 20 January, 2021
• 7 min read

The first bit a horse carries in its mouth when beginning training should be as mild and as comfortable as possible. If you’re headed for the dressage ring, your horse will eventually carry both a snaffle and curb a bit at the same time.

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That’s a personal choice, but it’s wise to consider that in spite of your best intentions to keep your horse forever, dire circumstances may mean you may have to part with it. A horse will appeal to a wider number of people and have a better chance at a good home if it is able to go in both a fitted and witless bridle.

A young horse will chew and champ on the bit, and perhaps at first rub its head to get rid of this new and annoying thing in its mouth. The first choice will probably be a jointed snaffle bit with smallish rings that would be unlikely to catch on anything if the horse does try to rub its face.

Quite often, though, these mouthpieces are thicker than a metal bit and can be quite bulky in a young horse's mouth. If you want to add flavor to make biting a more pleasant experience, it's easy to smear on a bit of molasses, jam, or honey.

Because the curb bit acts on the horse’s mouth, chin, and head, it can be overwhelming. The shanks are also a hazard if the horse tries to rub the bit, or its head, against objects in its environment.

If you're starting your young horse in the wintertime, make sure the bit is warm. Please keen in mind, that these suggestions are general, and do not take into account the details of your exact situation.

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Use them as a guide, read the product descriptions of the bits listed, and consider them as they might apply to your particular issues and training that you are also undertaking. Consider what sport of discipline you have in mind for your horse in the future, and use that to help guide your choices.

I generally suggest the use of the egg butt or other fixed cheek- you can read more about the benefits of this over a loose ring bit on my previous blog post here. It can be a nice bit to start in, as your aids are very direct, there is not a lot for the horse to play with and the slightly bendy plastic can be more forgiving than a metal mouthpiece.

A lovely bit, very nicely weighted, and with a flatter egg butt cheek to sit more like a Dee. The Minos Vision Balancer Dee Gentle curved, with a mouthpiece along similar lines to the loose ring Team Up.

Again, this bit is nicely weighted, the slightly larger Dee rings sit flush against the sides of the face, giving the rider the benefits of full cheek, but without the worry of the pointy bars. This bit will sit very even and steady in the mouth, and the copper alloy will mean it will be nice and warm.

The single join is much maligned, but a lot of horses do simply go better in them than a lozenge style, so it is not to be discounted! You can add FM keepers to steady the mouthpiece further should you wish, plus control the full cheek bars a little for safety.

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This is quite a fine mouthpiece at 10 mm, but for most of the smaller ponies this is a very comfortable thickness for them as they simply do not have as much room between the upper and lower jaws as the horses do. There are literally hundreds of bit options out there, from snaffles to curbs.

To start, there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to horse bits. The next section focuses on bit criteria” for selection, along with a few specific examples of these ideas in practice.

One difference between the two bits pictured above is where the rein attaches. On the snaffle bit (top), the rein attaches directly to the ring that the mouthpiece is connected to.

The shank is measured in inches from the mouthpiece to the bottom ring. Similar to a curb bit, it uses leverage action and requires a chain.

A port is a curve to the mouthpiece that changes where the bit applies pressure. The port can take quite a few different shapes: wide or narrow, low or high.

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Direct pressure is typically used with a snaffle bit and is common in hunt seat riding. The horse above is being ridden in a snaffle bit with contact (no slack in the reins).

Typically, riders should maintain light contact with the bit. Indirect pressure is associated with curb bits and is more common in Western disciplines.

The amount of pressure the rider exerts on the reins is multiplied by the length of the shank. This is essential for the bit to function properly and ensures a comfortable fit for the horse.

It also limits the amount of pressure on the palate as the bit rotates. If the chain is too loose, it won’t be effective; too tight, and it will be uncomfortable.

General practice says you should be able to fit the width of two fingers between the horses’ chin and the curb strap. If your horse has “more whoa than go” you probably don’t need a severe bit to control him.

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It is always a good idea to involve a horse trainer in a bit evaluation and selection. If you’re experiencing behavioral issues with your current bit, it helps to have a veterinarian rule out any medical issues that could be affecting your horse’s mouth.

Despite having virtually no contact with the bit, you can see in Picture A that Scotty’s head is tucked in, or behind the vertical. This is undesirable for hunter under saddle classes, and as a result we hadn’t been placing well.

Some horses really like this style, as it doesn’t have the nutcracker action of the single-jointed snaffle bit. Other horses might dislike it if they have a sensitive tongue, as it allows for more contact.

As you start your search, there are a few factors to consider what type of horse bit you should buy, including: The good news is, there’s an easy way to break horse batting” down so that it doesn't have to be so difficult.

A curb bit does the same thing but allows the rider to covey far more complex and nuanced directions to the horse via the “shanks”, which act as levers that can pull down on the bridle crown, put pressure on the top of the horse’s head, and pull the curb chain or strap forward against the horse's chin. While a lot depends on the rider and how the horse bit is being used, curb bits are generally considered to be more “severe” than snaffle bits because they apply more rein pressure.

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Curb bits vary widely according to shank and mouthpiece design, but there are two main categories -- Western and English. Western curb bits usually have gentle ports (the upwardly curved center of the mouthpiece).

Two common types of English curb bits are the Weymouth, which has straight shanks and a low port, and the Liverpool bit, which has several rein-attachment slots that provide a choice of leverage power and severity. Snaffle bits create direct pressure on the mouth without leverage.

However, there are a few general best practices you can follow that will set you up for success and allow you to avoid multiple trips to the tack shop. Try to find the gentlest horse bit possible that will still allow you to communicate at the level you need to with your horse.

If you’re an experienced rider who goes to horse shows, you can opt for a more severe horse bit than a snaffle bit but still always go as gentle as possible. Outside verbal commands and touch, a bit is one of the most important communication tools in your relationship with your horse.

You may not have invested enough time in learning how to handle and communicate with a horse. Before you can effectively use a bit, you need to be able to control your horse without one using only a saddle and reins.

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