Bit Mistakes


We all have make mistakes when bitting our horse. We get impatient with the horses progress in training, and we try something different, and the horse gets worse rather than better. Don’t worry; if you are anything like the regular person, you did no permanent harm to the horse. Horses are very forgiving, once we make them comfortable again, and admit our mistakes. Some common mistakes are incorrect pressure on the lips when adjusting the headstall. Another is the incorrect tightness adjustment of the chin strap or chain. Remember that all bits are affected by the manner in which they are adjusted. Sometimes the type of headstall can add to the confusion of the horse. While a One Eared Headstall is easier to place on the head, it can move to one side while riding, which creates un-even mouth pressure for the bit. A full brow headstall is better balanced for training. The horse is a very sensitive animal who can exhibit behavior which may surprise you when equipment is changed. If you changed bits, was the new bit the correct choice? What was your reason for changing equipment? Was it properly adjusted prior to use?

Initial Correction

Once you discover that a mistake was made, return as quickly as possible to a mild bit that you used prior to the change. Don’t worry about backsliding with your training; at this time it is more important that the horse is comfortable, relaxed but controlled. Walk, or trot in this new “relaxed mode” so it gives the horse something familiar to relate to. This will help lower the apprehension of the horse. Remember to be gentle, and if you have to, revert back in the Round Pen for control. You should keep this ‘relaxing riding’ on the horse as long as it takes for them to relax. Do this for the remainder of the day, and do not try to ‘Correct it” the same day. Relax and let the adrenalin go away in you and the horse. If this takes more than two or three days, call in a pro. 


During the time the horse is becoming relaxed again; perform an evaluation about what went wrong. Were you just too impatient? Was the change you made to abrupt or severe? Did you adjust the equipment properly? Were you too quick to in your judgment?

 Something went wrong…it is your job to find out what…and it wasn’t the horse


Don’t be hesitant to ask someone for assistance. You already have admitted to yourself about making one mistake; don’t be so quick to make another. Even if your knowledge is greater than that other person, ask them; they might have seen something that you missed.

After you discovered what went wrong….start on the path to correction and progress.

When training horses, it is very easy to forget that small changes can have profound effects. Maybe we did not need to change bits, but just tighten the curb chain a little for a quicker action. Maybe the new bit was the correct choice, but it was adjusted incorrectly for that horse and acted too quick and frightened the horse. Back off and analyze everything that you did, and you will become a better horse person for it. Our place when training horses is to help the horse understand what we want them to do by exerting pressure on the horse, not pain. Remember that a horse always moves away from pressure, but the horse RUNS away from pain.  

Proper Introduction of New Equipment

Remember to take it slow when using a new piece of equipment. That means slow hands, slow and purposeful body movements, along with a well balanced seat that helps the horse become familiar with the new or newly adjusted equipment. Train with your mind and throw away your emotions. Emotions always get in the way of solid training. Don’t forget that when introducing new or newly adjusted equipment to the horse, take a step back in your training first, so the horse gets used to the changes with a minimum amount of stress. Remember the adjustment is meant to help the horse, not hurt them. When the adjustments have been accepted by the horse, then slowly return to the previous level of training.  While this progression is occurring, make mental notes concerning how the adjustments are affecting the performance of the horse. Is the horse doing better, worse or about the same? Is the correction you wanted beginning to take effect? GOOD JOB!!! 

Listen to the horse; they will let you know when you are on the right track.