Horse bits for equestrian activities

Apr 7


Innes Donaldson

Innes Donaldson

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Horse bits for equestrian activities.


Bits are a form of horse tack used in equestrian activities. They assist the rider to communicate with the horse. They come in various styles each designed for a definite purpose. A message is sent from the hands of the rider down the reins to the horse's mouth. The slightest movement of a finger or the dropping or raising of the wrist can carry the riders intent to the horse.

The bit rings of a snaffle or the shanks of a curb bit along with the mouthpiece are the two basic components of the bit. In conjunction with other parts of the bridle all bits act with some pressure and leverage. To determine the action and severity most people look at the mouthpiece. In certain competitions many mouthpieces are not allowed. For example,Horse bits for equestrian activities Articles in the show ring and on the racecourse the gag bit is generally illegal.

Regardless of the mouthpiece any bit that operates on direct pressure is a snaffle bit. If they create leverage by having shanks come off the mouthpiece they are curb bits. Curb bits are available with short shanks or long shanks. Most mouthpieces of curb bits are solid without joints. There are also combination designs that apply both pressure and leverage. The Pelham is an example of a combination design and is ridden with two reins. For their curbs Western bits utilize a flat strap. Curb horse bits that are fitted with a flat curb chain are English bits.

Curbs and gags are considered the harshest and snaffles are considered the mildest. Snaffles are never considered mild when they have twisted wires, however. Even the mildest bit can be painful with a hard-handed rider. Most of the steering should be done with the legs and seat. The style you use should be appropriate to the horse's needs. In order for the bit to function properly and be as comfortable as possible for the horse it needs to be fitted properly.

Severe bits should only be used on horses that are unresponsive to the rider. Hopefully, after gaining the horse's attention then a less severe bit can be used. Bits act differently and in different parts of the mouth. You should check to see if the horse still has his wolf teeth if he frequently throws his head when the bit is in his mouth. These teeth can interfere with the bit and they can easily be removed. If this is not taken care of the horse can develop a head tossing habit. In cold weather always warm the bit before placing it in the horse's mouth.

Bits should not cause injury and should fit the mouth. Use a bit guard if the joints on the sides are loose and can pinch the corners of the mouth. The bit should rest snugly in the corner of the mouth. If the horse bit is hanging too low it can bump the teeth. The severity of the bit and the length of the shank depend on the rider. If the rider is a small child a more severe bit with a longer shank should be used. Adults and stronger youths can use a less severe bit with shorter shanks to control the horse.