How do I know if I’m using the right bit for my horse?
Note: The following excerpt is the transcript from a question I answered from my Facebook Live made in the Steady Horse Facebook Group on 6/5/19. Watch the video or read the text below to learn the answer to the question.
When it comes to bits, for the most part, I always recommend most people to ride their horses with a simple snaffle. It could be an O ring or a D ring, that’s fine. But I always recommend a simple snaffle.
In my experience, most of the horses I come across and work with don’t have the hours, or years on them training to be ridden in a curve bit. A snaffle is a bit without leverage. When you put one pound of pressure on the snaffle, that horse is feeling one pound of pressure. Now, a curved bit is a leveraged bit, that’s a bit that has a shank on it.
So, if I put one pound of pressure on a curve bit, that might end up translating into 15 pounds or 20 pounds of pressure, depending on the type of bit that’s in that horse’s mouth. So, especially for beginners, for horses that are green horses that haven’t had more advanced training, I recommend using a simple Snaffle so that when you call them, you gently urge them. With a curved bit, it is more likely that your horse will freak out, buck their head, hollow their back, and end up getting bruising in her mouth.
I definitely recommend starting with the simple snaffle, making sure on the ground that that horse knows how to give to that pressure and then translating that into your riding. Being slow, gradual, soft, and fair with the way that you handle it. If you’re new to horses, I recommend getting some horseback riding instruction where someone can teach you how to properly, and gently, use your hands with that bit that you’re using. But when all else fails, I recommend a Snaffle with most horses as far as fit is concerned.
You don’t want to have that bit where the sides of scrunching up in the corner of that horse’s mouth. So you want to look for about an eighth, to a quarter of inch space on either side of the corner of the mouth that tells you that it’s not going to rub, but on the other hand, you don’t want to have so much space that it’s going to be sliding back and forth and rubbing that way. So you don’t want anything more than about a quarter of an inch of give on either side when that bit’s resting in the corner of your horse’s mouth.
As far as contact in the corner of your horse’s mouth, that’s going to vary from discipline to discipline. But as a rule of thumb, just barely sitting up against the corner of the mouth is a good place to be. Some people talk about putting a half or a wrinkle in there, depending on the discipline.
Again, a good overall rule of thumb, make sure that it’s just barely making contact where it’s touching the corner of the mouth and not necessarily making pressure on the corner of the mouth, that’s going to be a good safe bet for you to fit that horse’s bit.