Best Bit To Use On A Horse

Danielle Fletcher
• Sunday, 24 January, 2021
• 7 min read

There are many choices when it comes to bits, and the selection at your local tack shop can be overwhelming. It sometimes takes some experimenting to find just the right bit for your horse.

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If you feel you must use a curb bit, choose one with the shortest shank you can find. If you are having trouble stopping, you may be better off going back to schooling and reinforcing the basics.

There is nothing wrong with riding with a curb bit provided you understand how it works and how to use it. One thing that is sometimes overlooked is the shape of the horse's mouth and dental condition.

If you find your horse is having difficulty holding the bit, is lolling its tongue, tossing its head, or stiffening his jaw and poll, it may be because the bit is uncomfortable in its mouth. Some horses have shallow palates, thick tongues, or other conformation that makes it difficult to carry some bits.

It might take some trial and error to find a bit that is comfortable for your horse to carry. It wouldn't be fair to use a long-haired curb bit on a horse that has only ever been ridden in a snaffle and expect it to understand your aids completely.

If for some reason you want to ride in a curb bit, you can school your horse to understand your aids with considerate hands. Either borrow bits to try or head to the consignment section of your tack shop.

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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. 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. One of the most common types of snaffle bit is the egg butt, which is considered to be the gentlest type of snaffle bit because it doesn’t pinch the corners of the horse's mouth.

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.

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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. Bits are one of the most Misunderstood pieces of horse equipment man has ever invented.

The things that people think they're supposed to do with a bit in a horse's mouth are unbelievable. A rocket engine is controlled by tiny bits of information being fed one at a time by a computer.

The bits flow in a pattern called a program that the rocket understands. All it needs are tiny bits of information fed to it with the right timing to get with the program.

The bit must be shaped in such a way and fit properly within the mouth, so horse is able to understand what the communication is. Depending on its shape and adjustment, a bit can also put pressure on the horse's lips and on the roof of its mouth.

The thinner the bit, the less contact area it has and the greater the pounds per square in of pressure. The thicker the bit, the greater the contact area and the lower the pounds per square inch of pressure.

So the effective size of the mouthpiece is the first thing to look at because it will determine how noticeable the pressure you apply will be. Rough bit surfaces such as twists reduce the area where pressure is felt much like rough tread reduces a tire's surface area where it meets the road.

The second thing to look at is whether the mouthpiece is straight or whether it is shaped, so it relieves the pressure on the tongue. The bars are the only places in the mouth we can use to communicate an understandable directional pressure.

If the mouthpiece is hinged or grooved, so it relieves pressure on the tongue, the bit is more noticeable on the bars of the mouth and gives more directional guidance. A port is a raised groove or attached spoon so tall that it puts pressure on the roof of the mouth when the shanks of the bit are rotated by pulling on the reins.

Leverage decreases the amount of time it takes for the horse to feel a bit pressure. Because of this exaggerated pressure and release, curb bits impede true feel and understanding between you and your horse.

If you use a thick leather strap, the pressure is more noticeable on the bars of the mouth. The bit is only part of the overall corridor of aids you used to create the shapes you want the horse to take.

Whenever you see a horse fighting the bit, he has lost feeling for the rest of the aids. Instructor and trainer Ron Meredith has refined his horse logical” methods for communicating with equines for over 30 years as president of Meredith Manor International Equestrian Center : Rt.

1 Box 66, Waverley, WV 26184; 1-800-679-260; an ACCEPT accredited equestrian educational institution. With a short purchase, the bit will act quicker in a horse's mouth when the rider pulls on the reins.

With a long purchase, the bit is slower to react. When the mouthpiece is pulled, it creates a V shape, applying pressure to the horse's tongue, lips, and bars.

Three-Piece Snaffle Mouthpieces, also called double-jointed bits, create more of a U shape instead of a V, making it a more gentle mouthpiece than the single jointed. This mouthpiece applies pressure to the lips, tongue, and bars of the mouth.

Double Twisted Wire Snaffle Mouthpieces are made up of two single jointed strands which are broken off-center of each other. Chain Mouthpieces do not work on the bars like a snaffle bit, but on the corners of the mouth.

Triple Barrel Mullen Mouthpieces are the flexible and forgiving when relaxed, solid with tongue pressure when engaged. Ported bits put pressure on lips, tongue, roof of the mouth, and bars.

Gives the mouthpiece a different action than a solid constructed bit. Many riders, tack shops, and even manufacturers confuse bit terms.

Snaffle bits are those that do not have purchase rings to connect to the headstall. A snaffle's rings put pressure on the sides of the horse's mouth while the mouthpiece, which is usually a broken design, puts pressure on the horse's mouth.

Shanks on a bit multiply the pressure that the rider puts on the reins. Without shanks, the snaffle bit delivers the exact amount of pressure the rider uses.

Curb bits, including the Pelham and Weymouth, are leverage bits which multiply the pressure put on the reins; the longer the shank, the more severe the pressure. The bit can put pressure on the horse's bars, tongue, and roof of the mouth with the mouthpiece, and also put pressure on the poll and chin groove.

A full cheek snaffle is also useful when rein aids may be the main way to communicate lateral cues, such as when driving, riding side-saddle, or in para-equestrian. A full cheek should always be used with a restraining loop on the bridle, which hooks over one of the arms and helps keep them in a fixed position, thus preventing interference with the nose and lips.

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