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Right Bit Wrong Bit
 By Winniefield Park   •   19th Nov 2016   •   1,157 views   •   0 comments
In a perfect world we wouldn’t need to ride our horses with a bit at all. We would be in such harmony with them that a mere thought and the subtle flex of muscle and change of balance would be all that’s needed to make them understand what they want. This type of harmony is possible. We look at those who can ride their horses like this with awe and envy their skill. Most of us don’t have the time to hone those type of riding skills. So, artificial aids like bits, spurs and whips provide shortcuts for the rest of us.

One of the most discussed artificial aids is the bit. Which bit is the right bit? What makes a bit ‘wrong’. It probably depends on what you are trying to achieve. And, much depends on the horse. The worst way to pick a bit is to buy something that looks nice, or because someone else is using it. So what’s the right way to choose the right bit?

Related: The Bit Dictionary
Related: The Bit Dictionary - Snaffles
Related: The Bit Dictionary - Mouthpieces

First of all, you have to follow the rules of your discipline. Many sports have very specific rules about the bits that can be used. Not following the rules can mean no matter how good your performance is, you will be disqualified. If there are no rules, or if you’re pleasure riding and not competing, anything goes and you make the decisions.

Your horse’s comfort and your safety are important when you’re deciding what bit to use. First the horse. Some horses dislike some mouthpieces. A horse with a small mouth might be uncomfortable with a very thick eggbut type snaffle, even though this is meant to be a very soft, comfortable bit. Some horses prefer a french link to a single link. Other’s don’t like plasticky mouth pieces. Chewing and pulling at the bit can mean your horse is uncomfortable. It’s the wrong bit, no matter what the sales ad, or your best riding buddy says.
Eggbutt and Dee Ring. These two bits are very similar. Both have fixed mouthpieces and thus apply pushing action and prevent sliding. Due to the longer sides, the Dee ring has slightly more pushing action. The Eggbutt tends to be very slightly softer as it is generally wider at the corners of the horse’s mouth than the Dee ring.Eggbutt and Dee Ring Snaffle Bit

Your safety counts too. One of the top reasons people change up bits, and put their horses in curb bits rather than simple snaffles, or no bit at all, is because they want better brakes. That’s because lots of people believe that the bit is the brakes. This isn’t entirely true. If you are only pulling on the reins to stop your horse you’re not doing things quite right. Cuing your horse to slow down or stop requires your whole body. So if you think you need a stronger bit, maybe consider taking a few lessons instead to find out how to be a more effective rider. That will help you be a safer rider overall, because rather than just pulling on the reins, you’ll have a few useful aids and skills to help you. If you’re just buying a bit to stop your horse, it’s the wrong bit and the wrong approach.

Curb bits, including kimberwicks, pelhams, gag bits and other harsh bits with or without leverage action are often used as shortcuts. Some of them, like western curbs and the curb bits on English double bridles, can be used the right way with good results. But they are not used for the amount of ‘whoa’ they can get from a horse. In the right hands, these bits are used for very specific reasons that have nothing to do with simply stopping. Used properly, they are the right bit. But in unskilled hands, they quickly become the wrong bit.
Dr. Bristol. In appearance, a Dr. Bristol is much like a French link, except that the flat link in the middle is longer, and angled so the edge presses sharply into the tongue. Unlike the mild French link, the Dr. Bristol can be relatively severe, especially for a horse with a sensitive tongue.Bristol Bit

Perhaps when we are riding, we should picture those riders and horses that have such unity that any type of bit isn’t necessary. Those riders have learned the skills it takes to control their horses - no bit required. And those are skills we can aspire to as well.
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