One new lecture we had this year at the RDHMW was on bit fit. Beth Haist gave us a great bit of insight into bits (haha).
The most important thing I learned was not to listen to the hype of bit companies. They are in the business of selling bits. To determine what you need think about the inside of your horse’s mouth and the dynamics of what you are trying to produce and how much space you have in your horse’s mouth. To do this when you are looking at bits do not hold it in your two hands with facing you. Turn the bit sideways and activate it. By this Beth meant move the side pieces as if our reins are pulling on the bit in different directions. From this see what happens and where pressure would or wouldn’t occur in the horse’s mouth. There can be pressure (or pain) caused by the bit in three places; on the palette, on the tongue or on the cheeks.
Beth explained putting together bits through working through the needs of your horse from each piece separately. She first discussed the cheek pieces as she always builds bits starting with the chekk piece. We examined fixed verses loose cheek pieces. The fixed cheek pieces she suggested for young horses. She called these grammar school bits. There is less communication between the rider and the young horse’s mouth so they don’t get overwhelmed with too much going on at once. The full cheek also steadies the young horse a bit more which they need in earlier development. A nice big D ring also helps to give them more directionality because of the larger area. Fixed cheek bits are softer on his lips and less likely to pinch than a moving loose ring bit. An egg butt helps to get young horses to lower their poll. A loose cheek bit she called a university bit where you give lots of information all at once. It is important she stated when using a loose ring bit that you have control of your hands. If you do not have steady hands your inadvertent movements aregiving signals you may not want to be imparting to the horse. So you pick the bit not only for the age and knowledge level of the horse but also for the experience and level of the rider and how quiet their hands are.
We also discussed the differences in horse breeds and how warm bloods are being bred to have huge lips and the top lips are much thicker than the bottom lip. So think then about physics. How does a fixed cheek bit work with a warm bloodwith thick lips? A fixed cheek will protect his mouth more because it sucks in the big lips and puts a little more stability on his mouth which makes the fixed bit even more important for young warm bloods as they are less likely to pinch.
She suggested you feel the real size of your horse’s mouth by feeling the jaw bone. Because warm bloods have so much lip the mouth may be much smaller than you think. The bits are designed to sit with the bars on the edge of the mouth. Most of the time she sees bits way too long because the bars are in the huge lips and not the mouth. If the bit is a little too long for the horse’s mouth, sometimes a two piece bit will be nicer too the horse’s mouth than a three piece because of its shape. Of course, try not to have them too big! If your warm blood doesn’t like the 3 piece bit which is supposed to be softer; She suggests it may be too long because the short arm of the bit if it is too long is hitting the wrong place in his mouth. Do not have a bit too big that is slides through his mouth! To judge the size of bit mouth piece you need. Hold up one end of the bit against his check and pull it across there should be room for one finger afterin the jawbone not the lips. IF you have more than one finger you need to go smaller. What happens if your bit is too big is that the center piece slides in the mouth. It doesn’t give him stability nor does it sit where it is designed to. She explained why the three piece bit is softer than a two piece. In a three piece bit, no matter how hard you pull on the reins you cannot keep the center piece rigid. So the horse owns the center piece. Be careful of the whole size, the shape and length of the three piece bit.
Curb bits when working a double bridle fit in the mouth with the snaffle. Beware that you know how the curb and snaffleaffect each other in the mouth. Is one stopping the other from its function? Do they both fit? If you have a smaller horse his mouth may not hold what you are putting in it.
Every time you have a break in the mouth piece that is where you get pinpoint pressure. So if you use bits with breaks think about where that pressure will hit the tongue or palette. No breaks mean even pressure but not pinpoint pressure. But curbs still use curb chain and poll pressure even if there is no pinpoint pressure. In closing Beth said to consider the age, breed and experience level of the horse as well as the rider when choosing a bit. Always use the softest bit possible and be kind to your horses by having things fit them well!