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Take 5 Things- Choosing the right bit for your horse

Updated: Jul 12

Welcome to this weeks edition of Take 5 Things, this week we have qualified Bit Fit and Bridle Fit expert Vicki Wise from Horse Bit Fit® helping us to understand factors that can affect a horses way of going, and points she considers when assessing a horse to see the fit and appropriateness of the bit and the bridle. As with anything equestrian in order to allow the horse to move and work comfortably they have to be happy, comfortable and definitely pain free.

The correct fit of a cavesson nose band and bit

Bitting!

Key points to think about when choosing a bit for your horse from Vicki Wise of Horse Bit Fit®.

Like all things with horses, if you think about making any changes or have problems, you must consider the holistic picture. Don’t just think a different bit will solve all problems or is the only issue! There are lots of factors that will determine when a bit change will help you and your horse. Having a good team of qualified professionals around you and your horse is key. For your horse’s welfare at least, your team of vets, farriers, equine dentists, body workers, saddlers, trainers, behaviourists, bit and bridle consultants, etc, all play a key part in helping your horse so they can perform to the best of his/her ability and be free from any discomfort. The same goes for you as the rider, as you are part of one and the same team! Any weaknesses or issues you have will directly affect the horse. So here goes, five points, but this list could go on forever…..

A correctly fitted bridle, with no pressure points

1. Ensure that you have checked all of the other factors that will impact the horse in relation to bit and bridle fit.

  • Has his teeth and mouth been looked at by your dentist? – things such as sharp points/tooth decay can affect bridle and bit fit.

  • Has your saddle been checked? If a saddle does not fit correctly, it will impact his whole way of going and horses are sometimes unsteady in the mouth as they are communicating their discomfort to a poorly fitted saddle.

  • Has your horse recently seen a equine body worker or equine physio? – any muscle tightness or restriction will make it harder for the horse to perform correctly and want to seek that elusive light contact through the rein. If you have any doubt on a horse’s ability to work correctly it should be investigated by the appropriate professional.

2. Check your bridle fit! There are a lot of new bridle designs out on the market today, but they are only ‘anatomical’ if they fit your horse. The horse’s head is a very complex, sensitive structure and like us humans all have differing anatomical shapes. Many bridles encountered by us are just too tight over the poll, badly shaped behind the ears and brow bands are frequently too small and tight. 3. Nosebands should not be done up tight. The International Society for Equitation Science Taper Gauge 2 as used by the FEI (Fédération Equestre Internationale) 3 measures that any noseband is done up to allow at least two fingers’width (one of top of the other) on the front bony part of the nose (nasal bone). The ultimate aim of our contact with the horse through the bit is to maintain a consistent, free from tension communication from the mouth to the rider’s hands and to complete the circle of connection; a horse with its mouth strapped down cannot ever be relaxed and free from tension in its jaw. This will have a considerable impact on the horse’s whole musculoskeletal structure and biomechanics (way of going). 4. Consider your own ability and body weaknesses. A younger or more novice rider may need a different type of bit than someone more experienced, even on the same horse. For instance, if a horse is shared by more than one person the horse may go beautifully in a bit with the more experienced rider who may have better balance, stronger core, which helps to maintain a more independent seat and hand, but the more novice rider may struggle with it as they will be working on improving their core, balance and seat. A good example is that most of us never learned to ride in a double bridle! 5. Consider the horse and his stage of training, age and behaviour. Similar to the rider, a younger, less developed or more inexperienced horse may require a bit of a different type depending on what stage of training they are at. The horse’s behaviour also plays a big part with fitting bits and bridles. Like us humans, they all have differing personalities and reactions to internal and external stimuli in the surrounding environment, and this can play a part in choosing a suitable bit. (REF: www.equitationscience.com/store/taper-gauge www.fei.org )

A correctly fitted bride and bit

About us: Horse Bit Fit® is the largest group of Bitting and Bridle Fitting Consultants in the UK. We are independent of any manufacturer and have developed a comprehensive and independent training programme. We charge a flat fee for a consultation and don’t make any gains through the sale of any products as part of our consultation process. We now have 13 consultants covering the UK and Ireland. In addition to this we have a trained consultant in Germany and one currently undergoing training in Spain. We have carefully selected consultants with specific backgrounds that complement our approach to bitting and to enhance and improve knowledge base within our organisation. Additional skills within the company include several qualified saddle fitters, an equine physiotherapist, equine body work and massage practitioners, a Mctimony Equine Chiropractor, an Equine podiatrist, Equine Craniosacral Therapist, Biomechanics Specialist, Classical Dressage Trainer, British Dressage Judge, British Horse Society Trainers, Intelligent Horsemanship Trained Consultants, NLP Coach for working with Rider confidence, an archaeologist with a specialist subject in “horse furniture” for an historical perspective as well as a chartered accountant, marketing and social media specialist and a medical doctor to help with the running of the organisation. We have developed a comprehensive training programme for consultants and have achieved External LANTRA Accreditation. (LANTRA are the UK’s leading Awarding Body for Land Based and Environmental Skills Courses.) Copyright Horse Bit Fit® 2020

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