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Fitting The Bit
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When examining equestrian bits it is necessity to recognize the control points on the head and mouth and what works with each type of bitting. Each horse is different so it is up to you to determine what works best with your horse.
Bridge of the Nose- Halters, Hackamore and Side Pulls are primary examples that work on this area.
Poll – Shank bits and draw gag bits.
Chin Area - Loose chain: slow timing of pressure Tight chain: faster timing.
Cheek Area– Full Cheek, Ring Snaffle, Dee Ring and Side Pull
Corner of the Lips – All mouthpieces.
Bars – All mouthpieces.
Tongue – All Ported bits, Chain Mouth and 3-Piece Mouthpieces
Palate – Higher ported bits.
The Snaffle Bit is a broken mouth bit that does not use mechanical leverage to add strength to the pressure applied by the rider. This bit is recognized by the fact that the reins and headstall are attached to the mouthpiece on a ring or other attachment point that is even with the mouthpiece. This construction means that there is no magnification of the pressure exerted on the horse. If the rider exerts 5 pounds of pressure, the horse feels 5 pounds of pressure. This type of bit works well on the Cheek Area, Corner of the lips, Bars and sometimes the Tongue. Most English Bits are Snaffle Bits.
A two piece snaffle works on the bars and the lips and cheek areas of the horse. A three piece snaffle offers tongue pressure in addition to bars, lips and cheeks.
1. The thinner the mouthpiece, the more severe the bit.
2. The rougher the texture, the more effect on the bars.
FITTING - A Snaffle Bit should sit squarely in the horse’s mouth with minimal distance between the horse’s mouth and the rings(less that ¼”). The bit should be attached to the headstall so that there is a small wrinkle in the lips of the horse. This is done so that the bit rests in the mouth, and not on the bars. As a result of the snaffle construction, a curb chain is not necessary, but some prefer to use a leather attachment below the jaw so the bit cannot rotate through the mouth and applies more cheek pressure to the opposite side. Reins are loosely attached to the bit.
This type of bit uses cheeks or shanks in order to create mechanical leverage to magnify the pressure applied by the rider to the horse. This is recognized by the fact that this bit has a shank, or cheek, of various lengths attached to the mouthpiece. The reins and headstall are attached at different points on the bit which creates mechanical leverage which magnifies the pressure exerted by the rider before it gets to the horse. This magnification is calculated using the ratio of the purchase divided into the shank measurements (see attachment details). The higher the ratio the more the magnification of the pressure before it gets to the horse. If the ratio is 3:1, then 5 pounds of pressure exerted by the rider is magnified 3 times, and becomes 15 pounds of pressure being exerted on the horse. Curb Bits apply this leverage pressure mainly to the pole, which affect neck and head carriage.
FITTING - In fitting a Curb Bit, It is necessary to examine each area of adjustment and fit, because it is crucial to the proper action of the Bit.
1. Headstall: When a solid mouthpiece is used, adjust the headstall so the bit just touches, or creates a minor wrinkle in the lips. When a loose jointed, chain or 3-piece mouth is used, slightly more wrinkles are necessary to prevent the mouthpiece from being loose and moving around the mouth.
2. Curb Chain: Adjust the curb chain so that there is room for two fingers between the chain and the bottom of the horses jaw. A loose chain provides for a slow timing of pressure, a tight chain reduces or eliminates this reaction time.
3. Reins: Reins should be attached to the bit at the desired attachment point on both sides of the bit. In some cases, such as Argentine, there are multiple attachment points, some closer to the mouthpiece. When the reins are attached to the end of the cheeks, this gives that maximum leverage available for that bit. Attachment closer to the mouthpiece will give less leverage. It is the riders choice on where to attach the reins, and how much leverage the horse requires.
GAG BIT-Cheek with Sliding Mouth
Gag Bits are identified by a sliding mouthpiece. There are two classes of Gag Bits. The first a sliding mouthpiece that is loosely attached to a sliding mechanism on a cheek of some sort, which provides poll pressure first and then, mouth pressure. This is accomplished by a sliding capture point on the bit, and there are cheeks on the bit. Wonder Bits, “6” Style cheeks, and other sliding mouth bits are included in this classification. This bit is a hybrid between a curb bit which uses leverage, and a gag bit that uses the sliding mouthpiece to provide pole pressure prior to mouth pressure.
FITTING - In fitting this type of Gag Bit, it is necessary to examine each area of adjustment and fit, because it is crucial to the proper action of the Bit. The adjustment of this type of Gag Bit closely resembles that of a Curb Bit.
1. Headstall: Adjust the headstall so the bit, when centered in the slide area, and held by the horse just touches, and does not create any wrinkles. This adjustment must be made so that the bit is not too tight, but still does not move around in the mouth.
2. Curb Chain: Attach and adjust the curb chain so that there is room for two fingers between the chain and the bottom of the horses jaw. The curb chain must not interfere with the sliding action of the bit. A loose chain provides for a slow timing of pressure, a tight chain reduces or eliminates this reaction time.
3. Reins: Reins should be attached to the bit at the end of the cheeks; this gives that maximum leverage available for that bit. Do not attach the Reins or Curb Chain anywhere it may interfere with the sliding mechanism or action of the bit.
GAG BIT-Rope Crown Sliding Mouth
This class of Gag Bits is more conventional. The sliding bit is on a rope crown headstall. The bit is not connected directly to the reins. The reins connect to the rope headstall, below the bit. When the reins are used, it actually provides more pole pressure, rather than pressure on the bit.
1. Headstall: Adjust the rope headstall so the bit is centered in the horse’s mouth, and just touches the knot at the end of the apparatus. Throat latch should be attached loosely, not tight.
2. Curb Chain: Normally not used because it could restrict the sliding action of the bit on the rope headstall.
3. Reins: Reins should be attached to the end of the rope headstall, below the bit, which allows full bit function and slide.
All bits are training equipment that is subject to wear and potential failure. Inspect all equipment for wear and damage before and after each use.