Deciding on the most suitable bit for your equine friend can cause a headache for even the most experienced of owners. With a bewildering array of bits and mouthpieces on the market it’s really difficult to know where to begin.
While arranging horse rider insurance with Equesure couldn’t be simpler, the same can’t be said for choosing the right horse bit!
What is a bit?
Bits come in a huge variety of types and shapes but they’re essentially a piece of metal that sits in your horse’s mouth. The bit helps you communicate with each other through the bridle and reins.
They should rest comfortably in the space between the incisors and premolars. There’s a lot of debate as to whether or not to use a bit and some horse owners who disagree with their use will favour a hackamore, or ‘bitless’ bridle.
Choosing the right one
When determining what type of bit and mouthpiece should be used on your horse, it’s important to not get too bogged down in the vast number of different choices.
From snaffle to curb bits and from straight bar to ported mouthpieces, it’s all too easy for things to get very complicated, very quickly. Instead, start simple by considering the following questions:
- What style of riding do you prefer?
- If you’re competing, what discipline will you be competing in?
- How experienced are you as a rider?
- What bit was your horse trained with?
- What is the shape and size of your horse's mouth?
- Is there a behaviour you’re trying to correct by changing the bit?
- How does your horse react to rein pressure generally?
Choosing the right bit and mouthpiece combination is very personal to horse and rider so it’s important once you’ve narrowed down your options to try each one to find out what works best.
Rather than changing both the bit and the mouthpiece at the same time, change one and see what happens. It might take a couple of weeks to notice any difference, but always start off with the mildest option first and take it slowly. Your horse’s mouth is hugely sensitive and just as important as its face, back or legs so take your time.
When trying a new bit for the first-time, ride in a safe enclosed area with an experienced helper on hand in case your horse reacts badly to the new sensation. If possible, have an experienced person advise you on how well they feel the horse is responding to the new bit.
An important tip to remember before changing your horse’s bit is to get a vet to check your horse’s teeth and back to make sure there are no problems. Sometimes a horse might already be in discomfort so a new bit might not help. Their teeth might need floating or you might need to tweak your riding technique rather than changing tack.
Just as horse rider insurance will protect you, horse insurance is the perfect way to protect your forever friend and gives you the confidence to act early on any external warning signs.
What if you choose the wrong bit?
Choosing the ‘wrong’ bit for your horse can cause a lot of pain for your faithful friend and can result in a whole host of behaviour and health problems.
Remember, though, that any bit can cause a problem in the wrong hands. Always be slow and gentle when bridling your horse and make sure you’re soft and slow with your hand and rein cues.
A horse in pain is likely to protest about an ill-fitted or unsuitable bit, so look out for these five signs that your horse is unhappy.
- Head tossing – if your horse throws its head up and down or side to side the bit could be causing discomfort on their gums, teeth or on the corners of their mouth.
- Avoiding the bridle – is your horse lifting its head up to avoid the bridle, refusing to allow the bit into its mouth or backing away? The bit may need adjusting but make sure to check your horse’s teeth and mouth for sores and other dental problems.
- Champing at the bit – while it can be a sign of impatience or anxiety, biting or grinding its mouth on the bit could mean it’s too narrow for your horse’s mouth.
- Pulling against the bit – your horse may feel a bit heavy on its front end and might feel like it’s leaning against the bit. This can be a sign that the horse is trying to protect itself from discomfort. Check your tack and your horse’s health.
- Refusing – it may seem your horse has developed a bad attitude to doing what you ask. This could indicate the bit is the wrong size or type or is perhaps damaged and now irritating their mouth.
Risks for horse riders
Whether in the riding arena or out on a weekend hack, communication between you and your equine is essential to how you work as a team. If that communication breaks down then things can get dangerous. Investing in the correct tack is essential for safety even if it can get pricey. Fortunately, you can get your tack covered with good horse rider insurance.
Protection for you and your horse
The specialist team at Equesure will search our varied and trusted panel of insurers to find a policy to suit any rider, whether you own a horse or not.
We offer two types of cover, Junior (5-17 years) and Adult (18-75). Each bespoke policy is tailored to your needs and can come with various options including:
- Personal accident cover up to £20,000 for adults and £10,000 for juniors
- Personal dental treatment cover up to £1,750
- For juniors – school fees
Getting a horse rider insurance quote couldn’t be simpler with Equesure. Simply give us a call on 01480 220089, or complete the ‘request a quote’ form and a member of our team will call you back to discuss your options.