A "Bit" Confused?
With all the various types of mouthpieces on the market, it can certainly be overwhelming when trying to decide which one to attach to your headstall for the best comfort and control of your horse.
The bit you use will probably depend on your horse's age, the condition of its mouth, its temperment, and the type of riding you are engaged in at the time. Your best bet, of course, is to ask a trainer that is familiar with your animal. But it helps to know a little something about the various mouthpieces beforehand, so that you can understand what the trainer is talking about.
There are 4 parts to any bit:
- Purchase - The part of the bit above the mouthpiece can be either "long" or "short". A short purchase will act quicker in the horse's mouth when the rider pulls on the reins, while a long purchase is slower to act when the reins are tugged.
- Shank - The part of the bit below the mouthpiece which gives leverage or control on the mouthpiece. The shorter the shank; the less control. The longer the shank; more control.
- Cheeks - The sides of the bit which includes both the purchase and the shank.
- Mouthpiece - The part of the bit that is placed into the horse's mouth.
The mouthpiece can be made of several different kinds of metals which are designed for specific reactions when placed into the horse's mouth:
- Copper - Will cause a horse's mouth to salivate and allows the mouth to stay soft and pliable to the riders hand on the reins.
- Sweet Iron - Is intended to rust. As the rusting occurs, it will produce a sweet taste that appeals to the horse's tastebuds.
- Stainless Steel - Will give a clean neat look to the mouthpiece and does not affect salivation.
Jointed or "broken" mouthpieces can have a single joint in the center of the bit. When pressure is applied by the pull of the reins, it creates a V shape and applies pressure to the horse's tongue, lips and bars.
Three-Piece Snaffle mouthpieces or Dougle Jointed bits create more of a U shape when pressure is applied by the pull of the reins and is considered more gentle than the single Jointed bit.
Double Twisted Wire Snaffle mouthpieces consist of two single jointed strands which are broken off-center of each other and are cosidered very severe since they amplify presure on the bars of the horse.
Chain mouthpieces work on the corners of the mouth instead of the bars (unlike the snaffle) and should be made of high quality link chain.
Mullen mouthpieces give even pressure and allow more room for the tongue; due to the gentle outward curve of the mouthpiece. It is a gentle bit for inexperienced hands.
Ported mouthpieces have a curve to the mouthpiece which be high or low, and narrow or wide. This bit puts pressure on the lips, tongue and roof of the mouth and bars. The wider the port, the more tongue relief.
Snaffle bits, or bits that do not have purchase rings to connect to a headstall, put pressure on the sides of the horse's mouth and can be a more gentle bit if used porperly. The snaffle bit will deliver the exact amount of pressure the rider uses through his pull on the rein. But an ill fitting Snaffle or an inconsiderate rider can inflict much pain to the poor horse.
Curb bits such as the Weymouth and Pelham are leverage bits. The longer the shank, the more severe the pressure to the bars, tongue and roof of the horse's mouth by the mouthpiece, as the reins are pulled. In the hands of an experienced rider, these can be quite successful with a headstrong animal. But again, an inexperienced rider can cause great harm to the horse.
As always, your prowess as a horseman or horsewomen is really dependent on whether your mount is also enjoying the experience. So get some expert advice when choosing the correct bit for your horse and discipline.