For the novice horse owner, shopping for a new bit is a daunting and even intimidating task.? Not only do they look strange hanging on the wall of the tack shop, unattached to a bridle, but they come in different shapes, sizes, metals, and strengths.? Coming home with the wrong bit can mean discomfort or even pain for your horse and can result in performance issues as well.
There are two basic types of bits, a snaffle and a curb.? A snaffle bit is the gentlest option, and acts on the principle of direct pressure.? Most snaffle bits are jointed in the mouthpiece, with rings on either side that sit outside the horse?s cheek.? The smaller the mouthpiece, the harsher the bit.? These bits can also sometimes be twisted, which also adds to their severity.
Curb bits are those with shanks extending down out of the horse?s mouth, which the reins are connected to.? Curb bits are normally not jointed, and can be either a straight bar or move into a curve.? The longer the shanks on a curb bit, the more severe it is on your horse.? Many riders move into a curb bit thinking it will give them more control over their horse, not realizing that using a harsher bit can be a way out of improving their own skills as a rider.
When choosing a bit for your horse, it is essential that you get the right fit.? The mouthpiece should be of a good size and weight for your horse to carry, and wide enough to fit your horse?s mouth properly.? The rings should be large enough to not be pulled inside the mouth.? Check your horse?s cheeks for pinching ? they should be soft and have a wrinkle or two around the bit.
Remember, the purpose of using a bit is to correct the horse?s unwanted behaviour with discomfort.? Therefore, if you choose to use one, it is essential that you ensure that it is the right style for you and your horse, and that it fits him correctly.