Trial and Error: Choosing the Right Bit
By Dani Sussman
Choosing the right bit can be a daunting process, which sometimes involves trial and error until the desired effect is found. One particular horse that came to me for training required a few bit changes until I found the right fit.
I didn’t really know much about this horse when she arrived for training. Her owner had said she was not very good hacking out by herself but said she was great in the arena. I was not told which bit she typically worked in, so I went to my wall of bridles and started with a soft loose ring snaffle. I chose this one to start with because it has a thick mouthpiece and a double joint, which typically is acceptable to most horses as being soft. She started out well enough until I picked up my reins and asked her to start working more. She tossed her head every time I tried to take a half halt. Not knowing the horse well at all, as to whether it was a training issue or the bit, I started changing bits.
The next bit I tried was also a loose ring but had more of a curved mouthpiece, hoping to give her more tongue and palate relief. Right away it was evident this was not the bit either, due to her reaction to the half-halts being even more extreme. Clearly, I needed to try something different. I then tried her in the Rubber Mullen mouth. This bit was significantly different from the other two, as there is no joint and is made of thick rubber. This time when I tried to half halt her, she started to protest but then gave in, as the bit works on the corner of her mouth and bars, which apparently was more acceptable to her.
I continued to train her in this bit for a few weeks but was still noticing the occasional over-reaction to the hand. At this point, I needed to be sure her teeth were not bothering her and that what I was feeling was not a bit issue. Upon a quick feel in her mouth, it was evident she was due to have her teeth floated, which I scheduled right away. Then back to the rubber bit I went. This was the best fit I could find for her, through a little trial and error. She is happy in it and performs well.
Sometimes the answer isn’t the first bit you try. Don’t be discouraged, try another and see what result you get. There is a bit out there for every application and need.