Western Bits and How They Work

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. 



Horse Articles Index
Like this article? Share it!