Bits And Bitting

Date posted: 23rd July 2011

This is a topic which can set off rather heated debates and everyone seems to have different ideas of what is good and what is not. It is very difficult to know which bits to use as it is not purely what is best for the horse but what will suit the rider also. A horse may ride perfectly well in one bit for a particular rider and then not respond well at all with the same bit and different rider.
My safe options for new horses tend to be rubber Pelham’s, straight bar snaffles, hanging cheek snaffles and fulmar’s. It is always a case of trial and error with bits. I have bought a few horses from private homes who have had problems for years with riding and all that was required was a simple change of bit to change the horses whole way of going and attitude towards work. If a horse is uncomfortable in his or her mouth, it can result in disaster and sometimes the damage done is irreversible. To think that any horse will be happy in the everyday jointed snaffle is naïve and really just not the case.
I use different bits for different activities e.g. Hacking out with the intention of cantering through fields in a group of horses I would be inclined to use a straight bar snaffle on most. On a horse with a sensitive mouth and a heavy handed rider I would use a rubber Pelham as obviously the rubber is more gentle in the mouth but with the addition of poll pressure to help slow the horse without hurting the mouth , these bits do not suit those with big tongues and small mouths. I often use rubber Pelham’s on pleasure rides if I do not know the horse/rider combination too well, the last thing I want is for a rider to damage the horses mouth and especially not while out on a long ride. The fulmar bit with keepers is my preferred choice for most horses while in a school. For Oscar while on pleasure rides I tend to use a steel Pelham as he is rather keen to move and pulls a lot whilst trying to hunt the others on the ride! I don’t like to use the steel Pelham on many as is a strong bit but sometimes the horse and rider combination requires it, depending on the situation they are in.

What bit do I recommend for a Friesian? I could not possibly answer unless I knew the horse in question and had seen the rider with that horse. If buying a new horse I would suggest that you do not make a drastic bit change for the first few rides unless the previous bit has been known to cause problems or you are well informed on bitting as it really is difficult to know which bit is going to work best for you and your horse. The good thing now is that a lot of websites offer a bit trial, if you are not happy with it you can send it back and try another which is an excellent idea as you could spend hundreds of pounds buying bits and not finding one to suit.
I am certainly no expert in all of the fancy modern bits, all that I try to achieve is that the horse is as comfortable as possible and the rider feels safe on board or indeed while leading in hand.

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