A correctly fitting, well-chosen bit can make a huge difference to your horse’s happiness and way of going. We take a look at expert opinion on how to determine which bit is right and when it’s time for a change.
Simple ways to try out a new bit
Just like picking out your horse’s feet, it’s important to get into the habit of checking his mouth every day. This will help you to spot any changes or problems quickly.
Before trying a new bit do an extra thorough check of your horse’s mouth so you’ll be able to tell, once you’ve used it, whether it’s resulted in any damage or changes, such as cuts, rubs, bruising or scars on the roof, tongue, inner cheeks or bars. Also be sure to only change one thing at a time so you know what it is that’s caused any changes, be they positive or negative.
Always try a new bit in a controlled environment first - an enclosed arena where your horse is used to working in will be ideal. Go gently at first, moving progressively through walk, trot and canter, checking all is well before moving onto faster work or jumping.
This way you can make sure you have the required control before you find yourself tearing towards a huge jump with no brakes or steering!
How your tack affects the bit
Your horse’s tack can affect the fit and action of his bit. For example, if his noseband’s too tight, forcing his mouth shut around the bit, it may press into his tongue,bars or upper palate, making him uncomfortable.
Flash nosebands, drop nosebands, grackles and Micklem bridle nosebands may interfere with the bit as they fasten below it and can potentially push it up in the mouth (or trap flesh between them and the bit), which will nip or rub.
There are bits designed to be used with nosebands that will make the mouth far more comfortable, and choosing one of these is a more humane way to close the mouth if you need to.
Running martingales are popular with riders as they can give confidence in tricky situations. However, when your horse raises his head too high, or lands from a jump, the martingale can break the line of action between your hand and his mouth, changing where, on the mouth, the force is applied - taking it from the lips and applying it to the tongue. As a result, this can change the effectiveness of your rein aids.