Fitting the Bit

Bitting and can be confusing. Before we are able to understand what bit to use, we need to understand how the bit affects the horse. In doing so, the why becomes a clear and educated decision initiating relaxation and harmony.

The tongue is a large, strong muscle containing literally thousands of highly sensitive nerves.  It is used primarily for eating, drinking and swallowing; Swallowing aids in inhalation and exhalation. Some of the tongue muscles connect to a small set of bones in the throat called the hyoid bones.

Originating from the hyoid bones are two major neck muscles, one connecting with the sternum and one with the inside of the shoulder. Therefore, discomfort and tension in the tongue will lead to tension all the way down to the bottom of the neck and restriction will inhibit respiration.

If the sternum muscles are tense, the horse cannot raise its back and use the circle of muscles that connect the poll to the tail, traveling along the underside of the horse back up to the poll. In addition, there are muscles connecting the hyoid bones to the temporal-mandibular joint (the TMJ, or jaw,) which is an important center for nerves involved in balance and proprioception (part of the horse's coordination system.)

At Arbitrage, we take Bitting very seriously. No matter what the breed, discipline, level or age of your horse, understanding their bitting and Dental health is an integral element for their well-being. We encourage you to try bits prior to purchase.

 We thank you for allowing us to be a part of your journey!

-Deb & Toby

 

Each horse is unique in the structure of their mouth.

To measure the mouth, you can purchase or rent a bit measurer from our store or simply use a wooden dowel! Place in mouth where the bit would sit and mark edges. Remove from the horse's mouth and use a ruler to measure the length, in centimeters. Most bit manufacturers measure their bits in 1/4" increments and using centimeters will allow you to select the most accurate sized bit for your horse's mouth.

*When working around the horse's mouth, please be cautious and be gentle. When placing the measuring instrument in the mouth, take care to encourage the horse to open the mouth just as you would when placing a bit. If needed, coat the instrument in molasses or peppermint oil as an extra incentive.

Obtaining the ideal length for each horse is paramount to their dental health and rideability. Have your dentist or vet verify the height of your horse's palate if abnormally low or high as this can directly affect how the bit fits and sits in their mouth. Bitting restrictions may apply to these horses. As always, check with a vet!

 

Contact points of the bit:

  • POLL,
  • CHIN,
  • PALATE,
  • BARS,
  • TEETH, and
  • TONGUE

ONE POUND OF REIN PRESSURE EXERTS ONE POUND OF PRESSURE WITHIN THE HORSE’S MOUTH. THIS DIRECT PRESSURE ALLOWS DIRECT RESPONSE.

THE FIRST LINE OF CONTACT IS ON THE LIPS. THE MOST INNER PRESSURE IS CONCENTRATED ON THE BARS AND TONGUE ON THE MOUTH.


Mouthpieces vary:

  • Single Jointed
  • Double Jointed (which includes center pieces such as a french-link, Dr. Bristol, and roller pieces
  • Mullen Mouth

Cheekpieces serve a variety of purposes:

  • Loose Ring: forgiving of rider error
  • Fixed Cheekpieces (Eggbutt, Dee-Ring, Full-Cheek, etc.): uses lateral cues of opposite rein pull exerting pressure to encourage the turn. The longer the cheek piece, the larger area pressure is dispersed on the horse's muzzle and cheek.