As one of the most majestic,
beautiful animals in the world, the horse is also as misunderstood as it is
revered. Professional care of these wondrous creatures is too often wrought
with unsubstantiated research, treatment by inexperienced medical personnel,
inadequate nutritional approaches and a host of other unfortunate factors. Even
so, enriching equestrian care isn’t a foreign or unattainable concept; it’s
just a matter of sifting through the myriad of information floating out there,
within the pages of equine-themed publications and amongst the conversations
between veterinary professionals.
Beyond proper and humane medical care, the area of horse riding essentials also
plays a vital role in the keeping of these animals. The area perhaps most often
overlooked in this regard is the function of bits. A type of “horse tack” used
in equestrian activities, a bit is traditionally made of metal or a synthetic
material and placed in the mouth of a horse, assisting a rider in communication
with the animal. The bit rests on the bars of the horse’s mouth lacking any
teeth in what is known as an “interdental” region, and is held on the horse’s
head by way of a bridle with reins attached for the rider.
Through the hundreds of design variations, basic bit classifications are
defined by the way in which they use – or do not use – leverage. These include
Direct Pressure Bits without Leverage, encompassing Snaffle Bits; Leverage
Bits, encompassing Curb Bits, Pelham Bits and the Kimblewick or Kimberwicke
Hybrid Design; Bit Combinations, encompassing a type of bridle that carries two
bits, a Bradoon and a Curb, ridden with two sets of reins called a Weymouth or
Double Bridle; Non-Curb Leverage Designs, encompassing Gag Bits; In-Hand Bits designed
for horse-leading only and which encompass the Chifney Anti-Rearing Bit;
Tattersall Ring Bit and the Horse-Show Stallion Bit.
Paramount in classifying bits is the style of mouthpiece that finds its way
inside the horse’s mouth in addition to the type of bit ring, or bit shank,
that sits outside the mouth and to which the reins are attached. For those
horses that tend to exert control with a noseband as opposed to a bit, a
special type of headgear is recommended that is called a hackamore, although the
reference to a “bitless bridle” has become a popular replacement as of late.
Understanding the two major components of what makes a bit tick – the
mouthpiece inside the horse’s mouth and the big rings of a Snaffle Bit or
shanks of a Curb Bit to which the bridle and reins attach – finding the right
bit for a specific rider’s needs is often the next challenge. Though often
considered an intimidating process, purchasing a bit for a horse can be made a
bit less so with these valuable tips:
1. Select a “branded bit” and you will have a greater chance of a guarantee
regarding the product.
2. Safety and comfort of your animal is first and foremost – running your
hands over the bit will ensure there are no sharp/rough surfaces that could
injure the horse.
3. Close-fitting, non-pinching points are also vital – ensure the bit’s
joints move smoothly and freely, yet are not overtly loose.
4. Making sure one side is not heavier or lighter than the other; inspect
the bit’s symmetry carefully and responsibly.
And, when it comes to finding a professional noteworthy trainer for your horse,
look no further than organizations such as the AQHA, or American Quarter Horse
Association. Comprised of an elite team of trustworthy horse experts, AQHA’s
Professional Horsemen, as they are known, specialize in helping individuals
bond with their horse through building a “productive relationship” with one
another. The right trainer to meet the specific needs of the rider is
considered important, and groups like AQHA do just that in addition to
specialized training assistance in riding disciplines such as cutting, barrel
racing, western pleasure, working hunter and racing.