Bit? Bitless?? Hackamore???

I am currently struggling with finding a bit/bitless bridle that works on my horse.

He is a 12-13yr sport horse and has more go than woah! He’s HATES having a bit; puts his head down to evade, chomps, speeds up… the whole shabang. I usually ride with a light hand until he starts to speed up and refuses to listen so it can also be rider error. We’ve had his teeth done and regular chiropractor appointments to make sure there’s not a more serious underlying issue.

He goes much better in a bitless but there’s still the chomping issue and sometimes disregard for my transition cues. I believe lot of this will improve with consistency but I was hoping to see if anyone had recommendations/suggestions/similar issues

Thank you!

It took trying many bits to find 3 bits my horse will ride in with a quiet mouth. No chomping gaping mouth open shaking his head. He was quite annoying to ride when he wasn’t liking the bit. Here’s what he rides in now responsive light touch on reins,compared to tugging and being just a dink. He rides western not english.[ATTACH=JSON]{“alt”:“Click image for larger version Name: TE007968.jpg Views: 1 Size: 9.6 KB ID: 10053133”,“data-align”:“none”,“data-attachmentid”:“10053133”,“data-size”:“small”}[/ATTACH]


Not sure what you’ve tried but mine hates metal bits. When I first got her we rode in a metal bit and she was always chomping on it and shaking her head. Changed to a double jointed happy mouth and never had a problem. Recently I went to a bitless. I started with just using the halter and than bought a bitless bridle and she’s been happy. If the option is there I’d try borrowing bits from other people until you find something so you don’t end up spending a lot of money and having a large pile of bits that don’t work.

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So glad to hear that Flash/Tazy/TJ/Tango pulled through that colic a few weeks ago – you had us all worried when you disappeared before letting us know how it turned out.

How wonderful that he’s stopped tugging because he likes these very severe bits so much… way to keep your horse from “being a dink” through better horsemanship!

OP, there are a lot of factors that would go into a bit recommendation – what sort of riding do you do with this sporthorse? What have you tried so far? Does he have any unusual mouth anatomy (e.g. low palate, short smile, fleshy lips) that might affect his bit preferences?

And secondly, are you sure this is a bit issue? For example, I’ve known horses who were very fussy with pretty much any bit in a regular noseband, but who are quiet in a drop or certain anatomical bridles. And I’ve known even more horses whose contact issues were 100% training related.

The fact that you’ve had similar results in a bitless bridle suggests to me that this might not be a bit problem after all. Do you have a trainer who can help you work through this? Contact issues can be tricky to solve and sometimes having professional eyes on the ground is the most effective way to make progress. Not to mention that they might be able to help with recommendations or perhaps even letting you borrow from their collection if they think a different bit would help.


The key is teaching the horse the correct response to a cue, not catering to what he “likes” or doesn’t “like.” Sounds like your horse was never really taught whoa. It’s a training issue. If you think he has mouth or teeth issues, stick with a rope halter to work on whoa.

My newish, supposed to be a lesson horse mare, was also very fussy with a bit. She was still obedient, but was always fussing with her tongue, and in those moments, the bit had little effect. I switched her to a gentle side pull to see what happened: she STILL plays with her tongue and flaps her lips when she gets nervous, but it no longer interferes with riding. (She also fusses with her lips/tongue in the barn: it’s just her thing…we call her “Mrs. Ed”.)

The last thing I would want to do was what her old owner did, and tie her mouth shut as the issue will resolve itself when the horse becomes more relaxed and confident in her training/riding.

It’s more complicated as your beast is older, but I would still go back to basics, and I would consider bitless. You could even go with a “double bridle” and have a bitless bridle and a bit. Then you can use the bit for light aids, and the bitless for stronger “do it now” aids. This might help stop the cycle of resistance you have discovered, and give you more confidence to be stronger with your transition aids.

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Just based on what you’ve written it seems like you have two issues: one is a training issue, one is a bitting issue. It’s hard to say which is the primary issue. I had a horse that absolutely hated bits. He had a low palate and a thick tongue. I rode him bitless in an LG bridle, which is kind of a cross between a hackamore and a side pull. He was much happier than he ever was with a bit.

It took me several tries to find a bit that my current mare liked. She was very fussy and didn’t want to take contact until I tried a mullen mouth snaffle (peewee bit). Once I found that bit, she settled in and started taking contact.

Can you post pictures of what exact bits you have tried so far?

I do think you ultimately have a training issue. While it is important to consider the horse’s preferences and use a bit they like the best, you still should be capable of riding in ANY bit with your horse — because you have trained them well enough to go in anything.