For most of us, the bit is integral to how we communicate with our horse when we’re riding. But, while many riders spend a lot of time and money selecting a perfectly fitting saddle, how many of us give equal consideration to the bit we put into our horse’s mouth? Take time to study your horse’s face and mouth, both when he is wearing a bit and when he isn’t. A well-fitting bit should sit comfortably in his mouth, allowing enough room for his tongue and teeth.
Common mouth types
Spacious, long mouths with slim tongues – often seen in Thoroughbred types, this mouth type will have plenty of room and can be happily fitted with a thicker mouth piece.
Long mouth – these need extra care when fitting a curb chain to ensure that, when the bit is at the correct height for the mouth, the curb chain is still fitting snugly in the chin groove and not lifting up behind it.
Short mouths and lips – typically found in cobs and natives, there will be often be limited space to accommodate a bit if it is bulky, or a double bridle is used. In showing, you will sometimes see a Pelham used instead of a double bridle in horses with this type of mouth.
Large tongues – a large, fleshy tongue will often seem almost too big for the mouth. It tends to overlap the bars, therefore saving them from direct pressure to some extent.
Fitting a bit
A correctly fitted bit should slightly wrinkle the corners of your horse’s mouth – too low and it may knock against his incisor teeth, too high will cause discomfort. Aim for a finger’s width between the rings and his lips. If it’s too wide, it will slide across the mouth and put uneven pressure on his tongue, bars and lips. However, if it sits too close to his lips, they may get pinched or rubbed. All bits fit slightly differently, so your horse may be a different size in a straight mouthpiece than a jointed one. Straight bars sit directly across the mouth and sit slightly lower, without wrinkling the lips, but shouldn’t hang in his mouth. Jointed bits fold around the mouth and therefore sits slightly higher.
To measure a bit, place it on a flat surface and measure along the mouthpiece, from corner to corner. For loose ring bits, measure from just inside the end of the mouthpiece, by the ring.
While considering the type of bit, don’t forget to take time to regularly examine the bridle and reins you are using for wear and tear. Attention should be given to leather, stitching and buckles. A comprehensive range of bridles can be found at http://www.bridlewayequestrian.com