Let’s Discuss: Bits Bits Bits

After hopping from horse to horse over the last several months, I’ve had plenty of opportunity to try out various bits in my arsenal on my rides.

Foster in a full cheek Waterford for XC

Foster in a full cheek Waterford for XC

Like any other equestrian, I’ve got a fair share of bits in my arsenal, ranging from varying snaffles, to the Wonder bit I ran Foster in, and up to and including Waterfords and a slow twist full cheek snaffle.

Assuming the size is appropriate, the first bit I try on any new ride is my double jointed snaffle. If the horse is young or green, typically I pull out the full cheek version for a bit of stability.

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Smitty and Riley both seemed rather mouthy with this bit, so the next move for me tends to be the single jointed snaffle. Normally this does the trick, and it did/has with both of those guys.

Foster was a bit trickier in the mouth, so we played around with several options before I found what worked for him. That ended up being a shaped Herm Sprenger bit that allowed him space for his fat tongue, but kept all the mechanics of your typical loose ring.

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I definitely subscribe to the idea that all horses are individuals and not ever one is going to appreciate a simple snaffle. As a rider, it’s our job to learn what our mounts appreciate, and don’t appreciate, and pair smart bitting choices with tactful hands. In my opinion, sometimes a stronger bit is a good idea if it prevents unsafe runaways and allows the rider to use minimal tugging and pulling in order to maintain control.

What about you? What bits do you have in your arsenal? Do you have a go-to bit that you try on all horses? What is the strangest or most unique bitting solution you have used?

 

PS, if you want to learn about how bits work, this is a fairly good video showing varying bit mechanics:

 

Snaffles if at all possible, then single link, etc

 

 

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20 thoughts on “Let’s Discuss: Bits Bits Bits

  1. I have a small bit collection, just because, but I seem to always fall back to the same 3 bits – a Nathe, a KK loose ring, and a full cheek Dr Bristol. Those three seem to cover all the bases for me with the majority of the horses I’ve had. I think the “most unique” setup I’ve ever used was a Dr B with a kineton, on a very strong rooter. I tend to keep it pretty simple.

  2. I don’t have a huge arsenal, but I tend to try a single-jointed snaffle first, and then one with multiple joints… although I don’t work with a of of green horses. Right now, both of my horses go best in a single-jointed D-ring (happy mouth for Miles, hollow mouth for Moiya) and they show in a Waterford (Miles) and slow twist (Moiya).

  3. Luckily Roger is pretty straightforward: he goes in either a slow twist full cheek snaffle, or a French link (aka Dr. Bristol) slow twist full cheek snaffle. He’s gone in a 3-ring elevator exactly twice and he REALLY respects that bit, but I do think it’s too much leverage for him, especially since he’s becoming more and more broke. It’s on my bucket list to get him into a hackamore at some point (just for funsies), and I’m also wanting to try a full cheek Waterford on him, but trainer and I both operate by “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” philosophy. I do the jumpers so we aren’t limited to a certain kind of bit, but the two slow twists we use are the standard at this point.

    • Do you mean a side-pull or bosal and not a hackamore? A mechanical hackamore is a TON of leverage and exerts a lot of poll pressure, and if a three ring elevator is too much leverage on Roger, I would think a mechanical hackamore would be overkill.

    • Just FYI, Dr Bristol and french link aren’t the same. The french link is more mild. Kind of agree with Karen on the hackamore though, it’s a lot of leverage, therefore a lot of “bit” even without being a bit.

  4. I am fascinated with bits and bit mechanics, especially how they work in horses with narrower palettes. For the TBs I’ve owned, I keep coming back to the Herm Sprenger bits. Eli seems to like the HS Dynamic RS eggbutt or dee snaffles the best. I haven’t used anything too exotic, because I have typically ridden with trainers who have preferred simpler set-ups. One of my horses went well for a while in a single-jointed Cheltenham gag with leather cheeks and that was about as complicated as it’s ever gotten for me, bit-wise, and I mostly had the curb rein slack as it was. I later had him going in and HS KK Ultra loose-ring with just as much success.

  5. Most horses I’ve ridden go in some version of a snaffle. Dino honestly doesn’t really care too much about his bit; I rode him for a few years in a single-joint D ring, which he went mostly fine in, and then switched him to a french-link eggbutt, which he seemed to be a bit softer in. He also goes great in his low-port, short-shanked western curb bit. Or a halter with reins clipped to the sides. Whatever! Sully is a little more picky – we had him in a fat french-link loose ring for a while, and it was IMPOSSIBLE to get him solidly in the contact in that bit. We swapped him out to a thinner single-joint D ring and the difference was night and day! He just really likes that stability. Chancey, however, looooooves the softness of the french-link loose ring and is much better in the contact in that bit than something more solid feeling. My philosophy is to start with some sort of simple snaffle, and then modify from there as needed.

  6. I think this is one of those interesting topics that so many people tend to have strong opinions on- I’m admittedly not as knowledgeable as I should be on this topic, so I like seeing what people say! Addy went in a D-ring slow twist at home and then a pelham with basic single-joint snaffle mouth at shows for a little extra leverage. Frankie just wears a simple full-cheek single-joint snaffle. All the time. He’s the opposite of fussy, so we don’t mess with it too much.
    However, he is quite dull in the mouth. As I get stronger and he gets fitter, we will likely bump up to a slightly stronger bit to have some more fine control at the faster speeds. But that’s a river we’ll cross when and if we get to it.

  7. I have an OTSTB that was a horrible puller on the track and it took a lot of bit and bitless trial and error until we have 2-3 bits depending upon what we are doing. For 90% of our trail and conditioning rides (pointed towards being a 50 miler Endurance horsre) Beaux gaits and trots well in a low port Kimberwick but for arena work, a full cheek 3 piece with a lozenge style bit. For those “Stinky” days I have a 3 piece Wonder bit that after about 15 mins or so he settles down and we are riding on a loose rein.

    Each horse is an individual and have good days and bad days and being able to have the right equipment goes a long way in having a happy confident horse and rider.

  8. I like to start soft and adjust from there. I prefer to start with something really soft like a KK loose ring or kk dee ring. Right now Annie is in a Myler snaffle and a barrel roller full cheek for jumping. I will probably experiment a bit more this winter as I am not happy with our bit for stadium.

    As with others I have a decent collection of bits but always try to at this point stick to less is more.

  9. Bits and the way they work are so fascinating to me. I agree with what you mentioned: I’d rather have a fairly strong set-up and tactful hands than a horse that’s constantly being yanked and tugged on. Everyone ends up happier when small corrections can be made. It took me forever to finally settle on something my guy likes with his little mouth and sensitivity, but for now at least we’ve settled on a Herm Sprenger oval link loose ring. We’ve also played with loose ring french links which he tolerates but doesn’t love, an eggbutt french link which he was almost unrideable in, and a few miscellaneous other things. Even though he’s got a really soft mouth, I had another horse that had to go in a weird contraption that had a single jointed single twisted wire with a thin leather nose piece and an elevator cheek all so that I could ride with a light hand. With everything else I’d tried, he’d been a bit of a run away and got fussy when I pulled on him too much, but with that setup I was able to ride almost entirely off of seat and hand so that he was happier too.

    I love that there are so many options these days, since each horse is so different. I’m a big advocate for finding something that helps the horse go his best, even if it’s something weird or stronger than you might usually pull out.

  10. The most unique I could say is what I currently use on B! I think Emma called it a snaffamore? Essentially a hackamore and a snaffle on the same bridle with two reins. It works wonders. B hates bits and has a hard time tolerating them, so things like 3 rings are too much for him, where he will flat out not listen to a snaffle. The hackamore provides just enough kind leverage, not in his mouth, and the bit gives a little extra precision that that hackamore doesn’t have. Its fantastic.

    Yankee goes in a full cheek waterford for stadium and 3 ring waterford for XC, french link for dressage. He enjoys the broken bits versus unbroken or one break. I think at this point he’s old enough to tolerate anything, but I stuck with what he told me he preferred the most when he was younger and more sensitive. He will go in a hackamore in stadium with a more experienced rider too!

    I second Heather, I love how there’s so many options to play with and find the right combination! Also Olivia makes a great point that people can really get heated about bit setups. I try to not judge anyone on what they use, considering we are all from different walks of life, but I do cringe a little when a horse is obviously overbitted. I also disagree that a hackamore is a “lot of bit” despite not actually being one. Perhaps in the wrong hands yes, as any bit could be, but my super hot/strong/sensitive TB loves it and actually tolerates it versus an actual bit, so there’s that.

    • Mine much prefers a hackamore to a lot of bits, too, but it definitely is still a LOT of leverage. It just acts on very different parts of the horse’s anatomy, which is what makes it more tolerable for the very sensitive-mouthed horses. I’m a big hackamore fan but I try to always remember that the nutcracker type of leverage action on those things can be quite severe, even if the horse is more tolerant of it. As with all leverage bits, it’s crucial to have very good and giving hands. I think sometimes people see a hackamore and go “wow, no bit!” instead of seeing the long shank and understanding exactly how the physics of that setup act on the horse’s face. IMO It’s important that people understand how it works so they can use it correctly, which is why I commented what I did.

  11. Mine goes in a 16mm KK ultra. It’s enough bit where I can stop him from bolting but not so much bit that he won’t connect to it. He’s got quite a sensitive mouth so I’m hopeful that this is the only bit he’ll really ever need. I don’t think we’ll be using a double in the future, if we do, I have a very mild curb (that actually has no poll pressure) that I’m thinking about starting him in. But even the typical bradoons are too thin for him. And a single jointed bit sends his nose to his chest!

  12. Admittedly, I don’t know a whole lot about bitting, so I just use the same bit across the board as long as it stays effective for whatever horse I’m riding. I always reach for a medium width eggbutt snaffle with a french link for regular dressage work. I feel like it’s a good starting point for horses and is a more comfortable option than the single jointed snaffles. If I’m working with a baby or a particularly stiff horse, I occasionally use a regular full cheek snaffle.

  13. I haven’t dabbled much in this area but am planning to. I have a NS veribend bit for RIes that he loves but he can kind of get hard mouthed with it. I think I’d start with a three link and just adjust accordingly.

  14. My horses are fairly soft mouthed, so I have generally soft bits, ie variations on French links.

    I started Chili in a full cheek French link then moved into a Herm Sprenger. A friend had a 4.5″ Myler so I ended up trying that and she seemed to prefer that.

    I do have a variety of French link type bits as well as a happy mouth kimberwicke and who knows what else running around. I do like picking up bits for sale though and am looking for some more Mylers and driving bits now for my young horse. Also looking casually for a jumping hackamore that may be fun on trail rides. I just adapt what I need for different situations. 🙂

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