Bits come in various styles and shapes. It is essentially a piece of metal that sits inside a horse’s mouth, in the interdental space called bars. It is attached to the reign and the bridle and is used as a communication means between the horse and the rider. Some bits are quite simple in design while others come with different components, each designed to serve a purpose. Factors like the training level of the horse, the rider’s skills, as well as the shape and size of the horse, play a role in deciding the ideal bit for the equine. Typically speaking, the bit that allows clear communication with the horse without causing it any discomfort is the right choice.
Bits can be broadly categorized into two main types namely snaffle and leverage (curb). The main differentiating factor between these two types is where and how the pressure is applied. Let’s first understand the difference between snaffle and leverage bits.
A snaffle bit comprises one ring on each side of the mouthpiece. The mouthpiece sitting inside the horse’s bars may or may not have joints. When the rider pulls the reign, the horse can feel the pressure on the corner of its mouth, gums, and tongue. With training, it learns to follow these cues and move according to the instructions of the rider. Snaffles are very popular and are extensively used both in English as well as Western-style horseback riding.
Leverage bits or curb bits come with a long shank on each side that connects to the horse’s reign. Typically, this type of bit also comes with a curb strap or a chain that lies below the horse’s chin. When the reigns are pulled, the shanks, as well as the curb strap, add leverage to the pressure applied on the horse’s mouth and chin. Leverage bits are considered to be stronger bits. The bigger are the shanks the more the pressure can be leveraged. However, the severity can be adjusted by loosening the curb straps.
There can be a lot more varieties within these two categories. For example, some bits have a raised bend on their mouthpiece called port. It offers some tongue relief to the horse and applies pressure on the roof of the horse’s mouth. The pressure acts as a cue to the horse for the desired response. Some snaffle bits also come with roller or keys in the middle of the mouthpiece – some horses like to play with these with their tongues. Some bits like Pelham, Weymouth, and Kimberwick use both the bit designs and are called combination bits.
Ideally, the mouthpiece of the bit should have a thickness of three-eighth of an inch. Thinner mouthpieces or the ones with twisted wire are quite harsh on the horse and can cause damage to the horse’s mouth. When a horse is just beginning with the hunter jumper lessons, thicker bits or even a rubber bit is used to make them used to its feel. Regardless of what you choose, the right fit, comfort, and safety are very important for the horse to get used to it and to be responsive to the cues.
The idea of a bit is not to be harsh or to punish the horse, but to use it as a cue to get a desired response from the horse. It can ask the horse to change direction, signal to stop, change gait, etc. So, use the mildest bit, to begin with, and use a light hand. Being light hand with a horse means to be kindle and gentle communicating cues. Use voice commands, body movement, weight shifting as well as hands to pull the reign to communicate with the horse.
Snaffles are mostly preferred initially for young horses. Complicated bits need to be used on horses that are trained for particular work like dressage. Throughout a horse’s career, it may have many bit changes, depending on the training and riding field.
If a horse doesn’t co-operate while his bit is being put on, you have to find the root cause. It could be a dental issue or an improperly fitted bit or a harsher bit. If you need help with it or any other horse training services, get in touch with the experts at Comly Sports Horses. It is one of the premier hunter jumper barns serving Dallas, Fort Worth, and surrounding areas in Texas. Call today to book an appointment.