BITTING materials have progressed more so over the past few years. New research into the comfort of horses when bitted is progressing. We, as riders, are looking for more humane ways to connect with our equine friends.
Nickel was one of the first metal materials to be used, but it was soft, it bent easily, and some horses had allergic reactions and is now rarely used.
Stainless Steel is still used in a vast number of bits – these bits are usually cast, so should be checked before purchase, for any rough edges, especially on fixed sides, uneven rings and sizing. They can be cold to the touch and will take longer to warm up in the horse’s mouth, but are still a good basic material.
Auriga Bits are used to encourage increased salivation in your horse’s mouth. The alloy is made from a mixture of 85% copper, 4% silicon and 11% zinc. The alloy was developed and patented by Sprenger. The alloy appears similar to other copper alloys, but has different oxidation properties, which is supposed to contribute to the improved experience with your horse, as in conductivity. Many copper alloys include nickel; the lack of nickel in the Aurigan alloy is of particular benefit to horses with a nickel allergy.
Sprenger Sensogan is a new patented mouthpiece material for a sensitive connection to the horse. The innovative mix of materials including the micronutrient manganese and a reduced copper content is said to “increase the horse’s chewing activity and salivation” – while excessive chewing and salivation isn’t desirable, especially in dressage, they do help to relax the jaw and discourage horses from leaning and setting themselves against the contact. Sensogan is designed to achieve optimal concentration, calmness and relaxation, resulting in the horse being much more willing to perform.
Bomber bits are made from blue sweet iron, because it oxidises easily, again encourages salivation and supposedly helps bit acceptance.
Sweet Iron bits will oxidise and it’s this sweet taste that horses like. There is dispute over having bits that taste of something, but these have been used with success on horses that have not accepted other bits. They can still be used even when really rusty, as long as there are no sharp or rough edges.
There are many nylon, plastic, rubber, vulcanite bits still available – these can be too fat or can be chewed easily, causing serious damage to the tongue, lips and palette. Some cause friction burns, by drying the mouth. Some have writing on them which can cause sores. Chewed ones not only cause damage, but they can break during ridden work. It is very important to maintain the upkeep of these types of bits, checking them for damage before and after use is required.
There are other materials, such as wood, still advertised! As well as leather mouthpieces and bandaged mouthpieces, which I would not recommend.
It is good to see so much thought going into the material of bits, with the horse’s comfort in mind. This is a very important area to consider when purchasing a bit to ensure optimal acceptance and comfort.