In helping people finish their horses, the subject of bits always comes up. This is a very large topic and needs to be discussed more fully than I'm able to do here but I'll start. Incidentally, there are several good books on bits, their proper usage and their history. I'm not sure if any are still published but it would be worth your while to check them out. Also, bit catalogues are full of good information.
First and foremost, when choosing a bit you must decide two things: first, is the bit designed to do the job? Secondly, is your horse ready for this particular bit - in other words, where is your horse in his level of training and is he confident and comfortable at that level? Some other important things to consider are: Does the bit fit and is it properly adjusted? What kind of mouth does your horse have (e.g. is it wet or dry; cavernous or shallow)? How old is your horse (i.e. how long are his teeth? Don’t forget that good dental care is an important part of this). Also: how advanced are your riding skills?
Advanced bits need advanced riders with horses that are well trained. It’s worth noting that horses, like people, have particular likes and dislikes when it comes to bits. That being said, I have found that a well trained horse will accept most bits willingly and comfortably. This is one mark of a well-trained horse.
So often students will tell me a certain bit is mild and then misuse it so that it’s no longer mild. Another aspect of this is seen when a horse no longer responds, or perhaps never responded well, to a bit and the rider uses more and more force to compensate. This gets you nowhere.
Another point to remember, a good bit is a good investment. Not all bits are equal even if they appear to be the same. Mass produced copies are never as good as the bits made by smaller, well reputed manufacturers. Often times these bits are designed by famous horsemen. Remember, quality counts.
There is an art to putting horses in the bridle - make no mistake about it - but, bits are also about mechanics and horses mouths are all about conformation. This is an interesting subject and should be studied by all serious horsemen. Remember: your horse should be as comfortable in his bit as you are in your boots! See you next week. JD