How to Choose a Bit for a Horse

A "bit" befuddled as to which bit to buy for your bewitching Black Beauty?

The bit--the piece of metal that fits into a horse's mouth and is connected to the reins--is used to steer the horse, so it should be chosen carefully. An ill-fitting bit can be painful or dangerous to your equine friend. Here's a "bit" of advice on how to find a good bit!
You can also go bite less if you so desire.


Learn about the different kinds of bits. The different "families" of bits are snaffle, gag, and curb. Research the action of each of these "families." The effects of the material and thickness should also be taken into account.


The most common type of English bit is the Dee ring, which, from the side, looks like a "D". It is one of the easiest bits on a horse, meaning that it isn't as harsh as other types. A "happy mouth" is the easiest because it is made of rubber.


Find out what the horse has used already. If your horse is already broken, what bit did he use before? If you have access to the previous bit, allow it to hang straight and measure the mouthpiece (do not include the rings in the measurement).


Measure the size of the horse’s mouth. There are measuring tools you can purchase for this purpose, or you can place a wooden dowel in his mouth where the bit should sit. Make sure the dowel sticks out about half an inch either side. Usually, a smaller horse has a smaller mouth and will need a smaller bit, and the reverse for larger horses. However, this isn't always true. For example, a Haflinger has a pony-sized body, but a very large head and mouth.


Consider the temperament and behavior of the horse. If you rode a gentle lesson pony and you bought a spirited Arabian, the snaffle you used with the lesson pony might not hold your Arabian horse under control. Don’t assume that a sharp horse needs a strong bit. A sensitive horse often objects to a harsh bit and bolts. If your horse does not respond to a gentle bit, you may consider doing ground work so the horse will respond to you. If you need a harsh bit to ride your horse, it may need more training.


Experiment and observe. Test different bits to see which one is the most comfortable for you and your horse. Start off with a snaffle, but only if a trained professional deems it appropriate. If that's too gentle, work your way up, but remember that a strong bit should not be used in place of proper training.

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