All equestrians know the struggle of choosing the right type of bit to use for their horse. The topic of using and choosing the correct bit can become quite controversial and confusing, so it important to be able to use your best judgement in this decision, as the bit you choose to use will greatly impact your horse, as well as the quality of your ride together. Bits are an important part of riding equipment, and have the potential to create an integrated connection between horse and rider when properly used. Continue reading for more information about the different styles of bits as well as their uses so that you will be able to make a more informed decision on your purchase.
What Is a Bit?
The bit is a piece of horse equipment or tack, usually made of metal, that is designed to attach to the bridle and reins and is placed between the horse’s teeth and over the tongue. It rests in between the horse’s incisors and molars, where there are no teeth in the mouth. The bit rests on the horse’s gums, referred to commonly as the “bars”. The bit is a device that is used to communicate signals and directions with the horse through pressure applied by the rider on the reins. When properly used, the pressure on the bit should not be the only line of contact between horse and rider. Instead, it should be an accompaniment to leg aids from the rider, and should serve as a gentle reinforcement to help the horse understand what is being asked of them.
Are Bits Necessary?
There is quite a bit of controversy that surrounds the use of the bit; there are many individuals that feel that bits are dangerous to both the physical and mental health of the horse, as they can cause a considerable amount of stress and pain when used incorrectly.
There is not necessarily a need for a bit; it is still completely possible to ride without a bit. In fact, many riders prefer to use “bitless bridles” and rely more heavily on leg aids to communicate with their horse while riding. There are also riders that swear by the use of their bit, and many people feel that they would not be able to develop a strong connection with their horse while riding without their bit. Like most things in the equine industry, the use of a bit is dependent on each unique situation between a rider and their horse. While using a bit may not be ideal or necessary for one horse and rider, another horse and rider may find that they achieve wonderful results with the use of the right bit. Some horses, especially those who have been rescued from abusive situations, are reluctant to listen to the commands of their riders through the bit, and many acquire a fear of the bit due to a misuse in the past that caused them mental or physical pain or distress. The use of a bit, while not absolutely necessary, has the potential to create a more direct line of contact between horse and rider, allowing for easily-registered commands and requests by the rider through even the lightest amount of pressure applied to the reins. It is important to keep in mind that the tissue in a horse’s mouth is extremely sensitive, and despite the large size of the horse, only a very small amount of pressure is needed to retain control through a bit.
Different Types of Bits
While the use of the bit has been documented for thousands of years, there were not many different options until the past century or so. The modern bit is available in a plethora of different styles and materials, and most are tailored to the intended use, as well as the riding discipline that it will be used for. Modern bits are usually fabricated from stainless steel, but there is a growing interest in rubber bits, which are believed to allow for a receptive contact between horse and rider without causing the horse any discomfort or stress.
Below is a small list of the most commonly-used types of bits, as well as their uses.
- Snaffle bit: Designed to apply direct pressure to the corner of the mouth and the tongue.
- Curb bit: Makes use of a lever referred to as a shank to apply pressure on the mouth, chin groove, and poll.
- Pelham bit: Provides a mix of both the snaffle and the curb bit.
These three types of bits are just a few examples of the most commonly used by modern riders. There are hundreds of different types of bits, all with their own unique intended uses. As previously stated, there has been a shift towards rubber bits with some riders that wish to take a different approach to communicating with their horse while riding. To determine which bit would be best for you, it is a good idea to conduct your own research, both online and in person with other riders. Individuals with large amounts of experience in the horse industry, such as trainers, are good sources of information as well.
How PonyHorseTack Can Help You Find The Perfect Bit For You and Your Horse
When properly used, the bit is a very useful piece of equipment that can make a world of difference for both horse and rider, allowing for a more integrated and direct connection. It is important to make sure that you are using the bit that is best suited for you in order to build the best connection and bond with your horse as possible, which will allow you to perform at your best and highest levels. Here at PonyHorseTack, we are dedicated to helping our customers find the riding equipment and tack that works best for both horse and rider. Click here to browse PonyHorseTack’s inventory of english bits, and here to browse our inventory of western bits to find the model that is right for you and your horse!