Bit for sensitive horse

Hey Y’all,

I have an OTTB I hunted last season in 3rd. I started out with what the person who gave him 30 days of training used-a happy mouth Dr Bristol. It super soon got rough so I moved to the regular Dr Bristol. The horse had an unerupted tooth when I got him and was sensitive. He tossed his head a lot but after the tooth was removed and just with time got better.

He still tosses his head in the field though and in lessons-last lesson (trainer riding and she has nice hands). She recommended a rubber bit. Which I’m fine with getting but the reviews I read said the bit got rough quickly-like the happy mouth. What would y’all recommend? Blue steel? Rubber? Copper?

He does have a really sensitive mouth and to this point in time is not hard to stop at all. He doesn’t toss his head usually at home. He doesn’t really put any weight on the bit tho.

Huntin’ Fool

oh and I’ve had him for around 4 years now. He was 4 when I got him and now is almost 8.

I have a very sensitive critter who likes a Neue Schule turtle top eggbutt. It probably depends on what he’s sensitive to. You could look at the Nathe or HS Duo if you need a soft mouthpiece.

If it’s overall pressure, take a look at Herm Sprenger Novocontact or Neue Schule turtle top or turtle tactio. If it’s tongue pressure, try a Myler with a port.

As you can see, I’ve had a few horses with distinct preferences :slight_smile:

Dr. Bristol can actually be quite a strong bit.

Maybe try a double jointed oval link.

Also maybe get a padded crown piece if you don’t already have one.

And keep the teeth up to date.


My OTTB mare is pretty sensitive and she’ll evade contact sometimes. I’ve tried several bits, double and single-jointed, rubber and happy mouth. What I’ve settled on now is a coreless leather bit. She’s steadier in the contact, and I’ve ridden in the bit perhaps 20 times and it’s holding up well.

Thank you for the good ideas! His teeth have been checked but I didn’t think of a padded headpiece. For whatever reason I think it’s the bars of his mouth-tho of course I’m not positive.

GreyDes I’m looking at those bits-they’re pretty proud of the turtles! But I found a place that’ll let you try one for $15 so that’s good.

And, Lord, y’all, he is in a French link-not a Dr Bristol. I was just thinking of bits and typed the wrong thing! I’ve never used a Dr B 😁.

MegBackInSaddle I have heard of leather bits but never even seen a pic! Does she stop ok? And does it last? I’m looking it up. 😁. And I guess ‘core less’ means it’s just a piece of leather? Not leather wrapped around a metal bit?

You might just wrap some latex on the bit you have been using, to pad it a bit. Lots cheaper than buying a bunch of new bits that may not even work. I have heard a number of stories about some of the rubber bits failing after some use. Others get the rubber chewed to shreds.

I suggest just a couple latex wraps on the mouthpieces that lay on his bars. I cut the latex to fit the width of part i want covered, not the entire mouthpiece. This lets bit joints work easily when reins are applied. I pull the latex as I wrap it, to get stretch in making thinner layers, plus it sticks to itself better. Cut it off, then squeeze the latex for best adhesion to itself. Horse will probably foam up wearing newly wrapped bit, new latex seems to cause that. Everyone will think he is really using the bit well! Ha ha

Not sure how much you practice ride, but you sound like horse needs practice with bit contact. He is refusing to “give”, drop his head, when rein pressure is applied. Probably does not know how. I call it an “untrained mouth” over being sensitive. Practicing this giving and release in the arena, at a walk, will help him understand better. You take up reins, apply steady pressure but not halting. Then " throw reins away" when he drops head removing pressure even the tiniest bit! He learns that giving lets him get the REWARD of no mouth pressure! You have to watch carefully for the give, it can be a twitch or almost microscopic, to give him the loose rein reward.

It is a learned response, getting into self-carriage as you get better with that rein reward. He has no reason to give if the pressure never goes away. Do you use any vocal cues for stopping? Many horses are quite willing to help stop, when vocal cues let them know stopping is next! Not all halting with reins. He may already know Ho, from being led, not walking over the handler. Try using Ho with firm rein pull, for stopping. Then release reins as he stops, for the reward of his halt. Pat his neck if possible, to make it clear he did the right thing right then!

Good luck with him.

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Goodhors-you mean like vet wrap? Or some other latex sheet? If not vet wrap where’d you get it? That sounds like a good idea!

He does give to the bit of asked. Tho I ride around on a loose rein too-rewards! I honestly think his head tossing is for the most part nerves-it happens in the hunt field or in a lesson. But he doesn’t feel like he ‘takes’ the bit or settles in it. He feels a bit behind A lot of the time and he really has the softest mouth! I think he may like a softer bit-or I’m willing to try 😁

I believe the latex is called Sealtex. Available at larger tack stores or from catalogs. Vet wrap is NOT recommended for wrapping bits, way too rough on sensitive gums. We use it on a couple horse’s bits. Watch latex for browning, getting hard, then cut it off the bit and replace it. I usually do that rewrap a couple times a year. Each horse using a wrapped bit is different. We do not share bridles here, so no effect from multiple horse use.

Horse needs to accept contact, even just light contact not hide behind the bit. So maybe giving him all the rein is not the way to go, could make the hiding worse. Head tossing in original post sounded like he did not like contact or stopping. I see lots of ridden horses who never get any reward when they do give, so they quit giving. Lots of hanging on the rider’s inflexible hands. Horse is willing to let rider hold his head up!

Can you “push” him forward into contact during practice or lessons? Trying to get his nose ahead of the vertical, holding the bit. Hiding behind the bit is a terrible habit, takes away control if his chin is already on his chest (worst case) because you have no further to pull him back for stopping, very hard to turn him.

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French links have a reputation as a gentle bit, but for some horses the link doesn’t lay completely flat across the tongue and it can dig into the tongue. If he is one of those he may go better in a double-jointed snaffle that has a lozenge.

I’ve used the KK snaffles on all my horses for years. They are made of German Silver or Aurigan, which the horses seem to accept well as far as how the bit tastes. I’ve always heard that rubber has a horrid taste and it can easily get nicked up. A bit with an oval link is probably the kindest you can try. Making sure the bit size - length as well as size of the mouthpiece is also important as well as how it is fitted in the bridle and in his mouth. Make sure you have giving hands as well - maybe take some lessons? I was a licensed trainer and exercise rider etc at the track and started alot of babies for the track and retrained a number of OTTBs. Many of them have trust issues with the bit and hands of the rider from rough riders at the track. It takes time, but the above suggestions might help. Good luck!

IME it depends on what he is sensitive to. My TB despises anything like a French link – I guess it lays too heavy on his tongue. He now goes in a Mullen mouth Myler baucher and does really well. Though I will say he went nearly as well in a single-jointed baucher. The baucher cheek provides extra stability and poll relief when he is in contact. What cheek is yours currently in? I find a lot of TBs really prefer the stability of a dee or baucher rather than a loose ring.

The nathe bits are really nice but softer than the HS Duos. The Duo’s are a harder type of a plastic but still “soft”. Both can get eaten up if the horse is too chewy/active with their mouth. Mine really like the nathe but when he got too amped he would chew.

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My OTTB will be super light on the contact and curl and toss his head and root…almost always the cause is saddle fit. As soon I correct the fit, he becomes consistent in the contact. I have a pretty good bit collection…regular snaffles (different diameters, different curvatures, different bit rings), French link of different varieties, waterfords, mullen (rubber and steel). For the most part, he will go similarly in each one.

If you go to the Bomber bits Utube page you can view several videos that show and discuss how the different mouthpieces work.

NS bits are very well designed.

Those are good suggestions! I’m going to look into all those bits. Especially in the site that will let you try them.

Tho I’m probably not doing a great description of exactly what’s going on he is not curled in, never roots, he is actually very easy to turn and stop-even hunting as a greenie-who was also wound up. And he is rewarded for giving his jaw etc-it’s just that all that takes place a wee bit above the bit-not head up or anything just not taking it.

And he does toss his head when he’s in a new setting-not just riding around here, or even on a trail ride-which he likes. But for a while hunting, tho he’s much better about it, and on his way to a jump when the trainer rode him. I don’t think it’s bit as much as nerves but I think a bit he likes would help. And not like ‘broken nose’ head tosses-just a bit of head throwing.

I do take lessons when available and I will be the first to say I need them-I think most of us do. Certainly when I got him he had no idea about bending his poll etc and we went very slowly! My father always said no one ever ruined a horse by going too slow. 😁. Oh and I had the saddle refitted in Feb.

All good suggestions tho-and I am going on a bit search!!

Huntin Fool

A martingale, standing or running, will help the head tossing. It might be something he needs in new situations for a bit until he gains more confidence. It will help to keep him from being able to avoid the rein aids.

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I got my bit here, and they have pics. Correct, while Twinholm sells both coreless and metal core leather bits, I went coreless. Partially because it’s cheaper, but also because I was looking for the softest possible bit, and it seems like the lack of a rigid core would make this softer.

I’ve worked a lot on my seat, and my Winnie B is very sensitive, so most of her stop comes from seat and not hands. I find that, since she’s happy with this bit, she probably actually stops a little better than she did with the double-jointed lozenge lose O-ring we used before.

I’d tried a NS on her previously, but it really didn’t seem to suit her any differently that the $45 korsteel I was using. I know they (and the comparable Herm Sprengers) are night and day for some, but Winnie didn’t have a strong opinion on the NS.

As far as it lasting, so far, so good. But a horse who chews the bit (and you mentioned roughing up a happy mouth) could certainly tear it up over time. If my mare chewed the bit much, I’d have gone with a cored leather to try.

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The Neue Schule Turtle Tactio is a really nice bit, particularly for horses with a fat tongue and a sensitive mouth. My Irish Draught mare prefers it to other bits that I’ve tried, including a KK Ultra and a very nice Stubben double-jointed baucher.

My horse is big, and she had an unpulled wolf tooth when I first got her, and remained quite sensitive even after the tooth was removed and the gum healed. She can get strong outside of the ring (I haven’t hunted her but just cantering on trails or in a large field), and the loose ring snaffle Turtle Tactio is a good fit for her.

It also comes in a number of sizes.

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Hackamore? I went to one, the horse was 'way more forgiving to my errors, didn’t take exception too my blunders, but still willing to listen. I felt no lack of control, perhaps less than with a bit. Odd feeling to rider who is used to a bit, but nice to know an inadvertent misstep in hunting terrain is not a terrific mouth punishment to the horse. Took some getting used to the airy feel.

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I’m going to put in my regular plug for checking to see if a fussy-mouthed horse has a low palate. I went through dozens of bits on my mare thinking she was sensitive when in fact her palate is low and everything was banging her. (No wonder she was sensitive!)

A mullen solved the problem at home and a jointed mullen (Myler MB32-3) fixed it in the hunt field for us. :slight_smile:


THIS…A Dr. Bristol is a very unpleasant bit!! It is nothing like a French link!

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