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Buying a Bit for Your Horse? Here's How to Choose a Safe One

How to Choose a Bit for Your Horse
What makes the right bit for your horse? Here, we tell you how to choose one.
Mukulika Mukherjee
Last Updated: Feb 28, 2018
Did You Know?
While choosing a bit for your horse, you should consider whether you're a beginner or an expert rider.
A bit is a piece of metal that fits inside the mouth of your horse that is attached to the reins. It allows you to steer the horse and convey other commands. In other words, the bit is an equipment that helps you build an effective communication with your horse. Needless to say, the bit you choose should be such that your horse does not feel uncomfortable having it in his mouth, and it should not cause injury to the horse.

It is recommended that you always begin with a mild bit, if it's a young horse you're going to train. However, choosing the right bit is not as simple as it sounds, because there are several different factors involved. So, what are they and how can you choose a bit that makes both, the rider and the horse happy and comfortable? Let's find out.
Choosing a Bit for Your Horse: What to Consider?
We know that our objective is to find a bit that makes it easier for you to command your horse and at the same time, does not strain your horse in any way. Here are a few factors that you should consider when choosing a bit for your horse.
There are different types of bits out there, and they are classified on the basis of their severity, material used, size, thickness, etc. However, bits are classified into two major types: snaffle bits and curb bits.
Snaffle Bit
Snaffle bit
A snaffle bit, just like the one shown in the image to the above left, is the mildest bit. These bits do not have leverage, and guide the horse by direct contact. They exert pressure on the corners of the mouth. There are different types of snaffle bits, some of them being more severe than the others. It is always recommended that you begin with the mildest snaffle bits. Most horses who have been trained using snaffle bits from a young age, do not require to be put on more severe bits.
Curb Bit
Curb bit
Curb bits have two vertical shanks attached to the mouthpiece of the bit, and a ring is present at both ends of each shank. Curb bits work with the leverage action directly proportional to the length of the shanks. These bits, otherwise known as leverage bits, exert pressure on the bars of the mouth, and amplify the force applied on the reins as per the leverage ratio. Most curb bits have a leverage ratio of 3:1, which means they are severe bits that amplify the applied pressure three times.
Anatomy of the Horse's Mouth
The part of the mouth where bits exert pressure are known as bars. It is the gap between the front and back teeth on either side of the jaw, and it is covered with pressure-sensitive cartilage. Every horse is different, and the structure of the mouth differs among breeds. Hence, it is essential for you to understand what type of bit will be most suitable for your horse, taking the shape and size of its mouth into consideration.
Your Style of Riding
Knowing whether you're a gentle or harsh rider can go a long way in determining the right type of bit for your horse. Even a mild bit in the wrong hands can cause severe discomfort and injury to the horse's mouth. If you're a beginner, it is best to go for a mild snaffle bit, as it is relatively safe for your horse. This is because it does not amplify the pressure, and hence, there's no risk of injury.
Are you going to ride for competition, or is it just light riding on your mind? This can be a key factor when choosing a bit for your horse. A horse meant for more vigorous exercise or complex training, might require severe bits.
Another factor to consider is the type of bit that your horse is accustomed to. Note that the comfort level of the bit affects the performance of your horse. Hence, you should choose a bit very carefully.