Bitting: The Correct Fit
#EverythingHorseMagazine – February 2017 – Bitting
This month Matt Waterworth, from Expert Bits, stopped in to give us an overview of bitting including the correct fitting of the bit and to take a look at the different actions of each type of bit. If you are as confused as us about modern day bitting, this is the article for you, enjoy!
When sizing your horses bit it’s a good guide to use a bit that you have previously used or if this is not possible, there are products on the market that help us measure the size of the mouth. Failing that, placing a piece of string through the mouth marking the lip at each side and measure the length between will give a reading.
Each brand fits slightly different and each mouth piece fits different within the horse’s mouth. For example, a mullen that doesn’t have any movement will measure smaller than a bit that takes up more in the mouth, like a single jointed bit. The cheekpiece also plays a part in the size of the bit, a fixed cheek like an Eggbutt can fit nice and snug as there isn’t chance of nipping the lip (if the lip goes over the hole between the cheekpiece and mouthpiece), unlike a loose ring where we don’t want the bit too tight to the lips as nipping can occur.
Which bit for my horse?
Single joint mouthpiece.
Single joint bits have what we call a ‘nutcracker action’ so as we take the rein up and put more pressure on the mouth the bit is forced to collapse and so squeezes the lips, putting pressure on the bars and tongue whilst also applying a point pressure on the roof of the mouth where the joint is.
Double jointed bits.
These relieve the effect of the nutcracker action by having a French link or lozenge in the middle. Therefore, they do not apply as much pressure; there isn’t a pressure point on the roof of the mouth, and the bit will follow the mouth confirmation better in bigger breeds, again relieving the tongue pressure.
Mullen or straight bar bits.
These put more pressure on the bars and create more tongue pressure as they don’t follow the confirmation of the mouth. This can cause horses to feel heavy or on the forehand.
More and more modern bits have a more rounded shape to them than the old fashioned type bits. This helps relieve more tongue pressure, as this is one of the biggest pressure evasions we find in horses. Pressure on the tongue can cause horses to feel strong or very heavy – this makes us as riders put more pressure on the mouth which in turn makes the horse fight against the bit more, it’s a viscous circle!
Pressure on the tongue can cause horses to feel strong or very heavy – this makes us as riders put more pressure on the mouth which in turn makes the horse fight against the bit more, it’s a viscous circle!
People tend to try and overcome this by having a stronger cheek piece that creates more pressure points like curb nose and poll pressure. By using a bit that will meet the horse’s mouth confirmation and relive this unwanted tongue pressure, we tend not to need as an aggressive cheek piece and will find that you will have a more understanding horse when doing more complicated. Other evasions to tongue pressure can be sticking the tongue out or head tossing.
When fitting a bit step back and think what is the bit doing, how is it working within the horses mouth and why does my horse react the way it is to the bit. Going back to basics sometimes solves some of the worst evasions to bits and is so often overlooked.