There’s an old cowboy saying…. “a bit should fit a horse’s mouth like boots fit a cowboy’s foot”. So, if a bit hangs too low or is jammed to high both can be uncomfortable and can discourage a horse from learning to “carry” the bit properly.
including professionals often don’t understand that a young horse has a shallow
mouth because its teeth have not grown.
So an older horse might very well be comfortable with a thicker bit but
that same but can be too much for the younger horse’s shallow mouth. I
usually bit up young horses with an average or slightly thicker-than-average
bit. Some older horses benefit from
thicker bits depending on what you are trying to accomplish. A note here:
You can usually tell if a horse is comfortable or not by how much he is
chewing and adjusting the bit in his mouth.
change with age and they also change with training. Horse’s mouths become educated and they learn
to accept bits as their training progresses.
I’ve found that wet mouths make for better mouths but it’s not necessary
that a horse be “drooly” to have a good mouth.
of individual mouths must be considered also.
Some horses have narrow, shallow mouths with thin lips and some have
wide mouths with lots of depth. Some are
small and some are large. The thickness
of their tongue should also be considered as well. Horses with thick tongues will need bits that
offer tongue relief.
often do well with bits that have some play and “pre-signal” in them. It is just the opposite though for
finely-tuned older horses. The
discipline you are training for also makes a difference. Some horses just need to pack the bridle
willingly and quietly while others must do complex maneuvers.
When fitting a curb, I look for one or one
and a half creases at the corners of the mouth.
Classically, the curb strap should be adjusted so two of your fingers
can fit between the strap and your horse’s jaw and the curb shanks should have
a 15 to 30 degree swing but the mouthpiece should not rotate too much in their
mouth. And, with a snaffle I look for one
to two creases at the corners of the mouth.
equipment, the user – in this case the rider - is a major factor. With the bit, the rider’s hands can be an
issue. Some bits are just not appropriate
unless or until the rider has developed “soft hands” and has a real feel for a
I expect to and do change bits, sometimes frequently,
as my horses age and develop and as they evolve through their careers. Take a good look at the bits you use and if
you’re not sure how each one is designed to work talk to your trainer to learn
more. Bits aren’t just common pieces of equipment;
they can be fascinating studies in leverage and pressure and often, workmanship
too. I hope you enjoy learning more about them! Talk to you next week. JD