Guest Author - Kim Wende
One of the most challenging tasks you will have is getting the right bit for your horse. There are a lot of bits on the market and you can spend a lot of money trying out different bits. The important thing is to find one that your horse likes and is comfortable with.
Most of the time bad habits can be avoided or eliminated with the right bit. If you compete in the English and Western classes you will need different bits for each discipline. Rider experience has to also be taken into consideration.
An inexperienced rider can cause the horse to become uncomfortable if their hands are not independent of their seat. A rider whose hands bounce around or they balance on the bit will cause problems for their horse.
Sometimes when you buy a horse the previous owner will give you the bit they've been using with the horse, but it doesn't mean the horse is comfortable with it. Some of the ways a horse will display their discomfort is by tossing their head, chewing the bit, refusing the bit, or stiffening their jaw and poll.
If your horse is having problems with the bit have your veterinarian or equine dentist check their teeth. Your horse may have caps or wolf teeth which can cause them discomfort and will need to be removed.
Horses who have had an injury to their tongue or pallet may require a bosal or bitless bridle.
Some may decide for their horse to go bitless. Lately there has been a shift to go this direction, however, if you compete some associations require your horse to wear a bit especially those over five years of age.
There are two basic types of bits the curb and the snaffle. A curb is a leverage bit and the snaffle is a non-leverage bit. With a curb the reins are attached to the cheekpiece and with a snaffle the reins are attached directly to the mouthpiece. Finding the mildest bit that allows you to communicate clearly and is comfortable for your horse will be the best option.
Measure the bit for a proper fit as you don't want to get a bit that is too big or too small.
If you've been using the same bit for a while, but your horse starts acting strange it could be that your horse has an abscessed tooth or sores from a reaction to something they've eaten. If you notice a bad odor or sores get your horse to the veterinarian.
Trying out different bits can get very expensive. Check with your friends as they may have some bits you can try. There are many things to consider when getting the right bit for your horse so if you're inexperienced get help from a professional.