Fitting The Correct Bit
If you are having problems with finding a bit that is suitable for your horse there are a few steps that you need follow to get the right bit in its mouth.
First you need to make sure that it doesn’t have any mouth, back or neck problems. No bit will help if the pain or discomfort lies in the mouth, back or neck.
The most important part of fitting the correct bit is finding the right mouth piece for a particular horse. Here it is what the horse is doing with its head that tells you what bit is needed.
- The horse sticks his nose up in the air the moment the reins are taken up. This is the horse telling you that it is experiencing pain in its mouth. If using a Snaffle, you need to change to a three-piece bit such as a Control Plate.
- The horse shakes its head, which means that he does not want tongue pressure. From the Snaffle or Control Plate, you would go softer to the Happy Tongue, designed specifically to take pressure off the tongue.
- The horse bringing its chin up to its chest in an effort to evade the bit is a sure sign of too much bit for the horse and it trying to relieve the pressure. The solution is to either ride on a looser rein, or use a softer bit. From the Snaffle one could use the Lock Up.
- The horse that pokes his nose forward, trying to pull the reins out of the rider's hands in an effort to relieve the pressure of the bit. Once again the solution being to use a softer bit.
The next step is to measure the horse's mouth.
Measuring this width is an easy procedure provided one knows what to look for. Using a bit measure or straight rod, put it in the horse's mouth and lift it to the correct place in the mouth - just before any wrinkles begin to form (Figure 1), and mark the bar on both sides just outside the lip crease.
Measuring between these marks gives you the measured mouth size.
This measurement can then be used to determine the size of the bit required. The bit size will differ depending on the type of mouth piece required. Most horses are fitted with bits that are too tight and this just adds more pressure points. With a fixed mouth piece bit the size required is the measured size, and with the single and double break bits this should be the measured size plus 10 mm to take into account the set. In addition to this add 5mm if the bit has a loose ring cheek piece. Nothing additional needs to be added for fixed cheek pieces.
Once you have established the mouthpiece and the width, then you have to establish which cheek piece would be suitable. This is dictated to by various things including the discipline the rider is participating in and the skill level of the rider.