UP to 50 percent of a rider’s communication with the horse can be done through the bit and reins. For clear communication to take place between a horse and rider, the bit must sit correctly and comfortably in the horse’s mouth, and a pair of soft, understanding hands must hold the reins.
Being one of the most important and most common pieces of tack used for the horse, choosing a bit can cause the most confusion and controversy when it comes to size and type. This is not surprising when there are many aspects you will need to consider. Not only does it depend on the horse, their conformation, behaviour and needs, you will need to take into consideration your own ability, as some bits can be quite severe in the wrong hands.
Riders are now looking to synthetic materials when selecting bits for their horses. As riders, we are beginning to understand how important it is for our horses to be comfortable and accepting when it comes to their bits, and some horses just don’t like metal…
There are a wide selection of softer material bits on the market and one of the more popular brands available, the ‘Inno Sence’ by Trust, have a selection to choose from. These bits have been specifically designed for horses with sensitive, fussy or very light mouths. Softer, flexible material can also be beneficial for young horses or to encourage a more sensitive feel when riding.
The Inno Sence range of bits are made of an elastic synthetic material, which is extremely gentle to the horse’s mouth and tongue, and helps to activate salivation and softening to the contact. A flexible steel inner core ensures safety.
It’s reported that horses ridden with a flexible mouthpiece follow the hand easily and accept the bit quickly. Bits with a flexible mouthpiece can be used for all horses, yet are a particularly good choice for horses with a sensitive mouth.
These bits, however, can be quite thick due to their external coating, making them uncomfortable for horses that do not have much room in their mouths. Due to the soft material, these bits also have a relatively short life span and horses that tend to chew or take hold of the bit may cause dents and cuts in the material, which can cause damage to the horse’s mouth and be very expensive to replace regularly.
Whatever bit you chose, it is very important to ensure your bit fits correctly, as the horse’s mouth and tongue is a delicate and sensitive area – any pain and discomfort can lead to negative or dangerous behaviour and can cause serious and lasting damage. Bits should be comfortable and act as a way of communication rather than a punishment.
Incorrect fitting can lead to common problems, such as head shaking, refusal to perform, opening of the mouth, tongue rolling or can even be as subtle as dropping of the shoulder or picking up the wrong lead in canter. Whether it is subtle or severe, it is recommended to check all areas of the body to ensure that there are no underlying problems, such as back problems or lameness.
Fitting of a bit all depends on your horse – if you are unsure, get a trainer or professional to help you.