Fitting Horse Bits
There are numerous types and variations of horse bits available and once you have chosen the one that is most suitable for your horses mouth shape and way of going you need to correctly fit it.
The correct fit is essential so that the bit will be positioned and work correctly within the horses mouth, without causing unnecessary discomfort to the horse, if you unsure about a bit or fitting then have a professional fit it for you. Here are a few things to bear in mind:
Sizing Your Horse
The correct size is essential, if the mouthpiece is too small it will pinch the horses lips causing sores and discomfort and if too large the bit will prove too bulky in the horses mouth making the bits action less effective and incredibly uncomfortable, especially for example if a ported mouthpiece for used.
A useful way to find out your horse bit size is to take a piece of string and holding either side slip it into the horses mouth holding it on each side of your horses corners. Remove the string and measure in between where you were holding, then add approximately 1/2 an inch to your measurement to allow the bit enough room so that it will not pinch at the corners or lips. However this only offers a guide and only once you have the bit in your horses mouth will you know for sure if it is the correct size or not.
Fitting A Curb Chain
Curb chains are used with pelham and curb bits. The curb chain must lye smooth and with no twists in the horses chin groove. The curb chain can be a single link chain, a double chain which gives a sharper response, a chain set in a rubber sleeve or made out of leather or elastic which often suits very sensitive and responsive horses.
The curb chain comes into action when rein contact occurs on the curb bit, this causes the lower arm of the curb bit to be pulled backwards thus engaging the curb chain which applies pressure within the chin groove as well as causing pressure upon the bars and poll.
Fitting A Snaffle
The snaffle bit should sit within the corners of the mouth and depending on the horses lips with either one to two wrinkles. The mouthpiece should extend about 1/4 of an inch beyond the lips so that it will not cause pinching. Fulmer snaffles should also be secured to the cheek pieces by fulmer keepers which will prevent the bit sides form moving.
Fitting Bits For A Double Bridle
The bradoon bit sits like a snaffle bit would in the corners of the horses mouth just causing one to two wrinkles with the curb positioned 1/4 to 1/2 and inch below, but so that it will still act upon the bars of the mouth and so that the curb chain will still act upon the chin groove. When putting on a double bridle ensure that the bradoon bit lies in front of the curb as you put it into the horses mouth as this will help both bits to position themselves correctly within the horses mouth.
Fitting A Gag
The gag bit mouthpiece will rest in the corners of the mouth with either one to two wrinkles, depending on the horses lips.
Fitting A Pelham
The pelham mouthpiece will rest in the corners of the horses mouth with 1/4 inch protruding either side of the mouth. The curb chain should be fitted so that when the lower arm of the pelham is at a 45 degree angle to the horses mouth then the curb chain will come into action within the chin groove.
Fitting A Hakamore
The Hakamore bit should be positioned ever so slightly lower on the horses nose than a cavesson would, however the noseband must rest on the hard bridge of the horses nose and not in any way interfere with the horses nostrils or soft nasal cavity. Ensure that the metal shanks do not rub on the cheek bones when the reins apply leverage and also that the cheek pieces of the bridle do not move towards the horses eyes as this is a sure indication that the hakamore is not fitted correctly. Nosebands that are wider and made of leather or padded are much softer on your horses nose than rope or rubber covered metal nosebands which are much sharper.
The bits that you are using must not only be the right size for your horse they must also be in good working order. Old bits can easily obtain wear and tear such as sharp edges and particular attention should be given to rubber bits which due to their soft chew ability often suffer.
Equine Dental Visits
Regular dental checks by either a qualified equine dental technician or veterinary surgeon are essential and ideally should occur every 6 months in order to ensure that your horses teeth are kept in good condition and any sharp edges or potential bitting problems are quickly resolved. Most equine dentists will also gladly advise you on your horses mouth and the suitability of certain bits.