Horse Bits-- How to Choose the Right One

Discussion Topic Created:
Friday, May 08, 2015
There are many styles of horse bits available on the market, and all have their advocates and their opponents.
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But the most important thing for you to do is to find a bit that your horse likes, because the bit is one way you communicate with your horse so that she knows where you want to go and how. Most experienced riders will tell you to choose a bit that uses the smallest amount of pressure on the horse. Because the bit rests of the bars of the mouth (the spaces between front and back teeth), you want to be sure you choose the right size for your horse's mouth, or it could harm or even possible injure her. Good riders use their legs and seat to communicate also.

Styles

Snaffle bits exert the least pressure, and are the type of bit young horses are first exposed to. Many western style riders stay with this type even after training and find it is adequate for general riding. An eggbutt snaffle has a jointed mouthpiece with rings attached to either end. Pressure is applied with the reins only to the inside of the mouth. A variation is the full cheek snaffle. It has two vertical shanks called keepers on the sides of the mouthpiece so the bit can't pull through the mouth, and the horse will tend to hold her cheeks more vertically.

A loose ring snaffle features a mouthpiece attached by loops to the rings, allowing it to move back and forth. There is a danger of pinching the lip, and some horses will not like this type of bit. A D ring snaffle features D shaped rings, which allow the reins to slide up and down the curved part, although sometimes they get stuck on the vertical part.

Curbs

Curb bits or lever action bits have two long shanks attached to the mouthpiece, with a ring at the top and bottom of each. Reins are attached to the lower rings, a bridle or curb chain to the upper. The shanks move backward and forward, applying pressure to the mouth and the poll (the part behind the ears), and exert a leverage which has as much as four times more pressure on the horse. Pelham bits add rings next to the mouthpiece for snaffle reins and novice riders find them difficult to use.

A Kimberwicke bit doesn't use shanks but D rings with the mouthpiece near the top of the vertical line, which provides some lever action, allowing the reins to move up and down the curved part. Many horses can benefit by having copper rollers added to the mouthpiece of any bit. They cause the horse to salivate, creating a moist mouth which helps to keep the horse calm.

The best thing is to experiment with different types of bits; see which one your horse likes best and which style allows both you and the horse to enjoy riding. That will foster a good relationship between the two of you.

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