Bit suggestions for fussy mouthed De Niro 4yo

All of my dressage horses are started in Sprenger KK Ultra’s and I have always found them to be a really soft bit. But I have a 4yo by De Niro who is super fussy! I don’t know if it is a De Niro thing so would be interested to hear that as well.

He has been under saddle for around 8 months and is very trainable in his transitions, moving away from the leg, etc but he really does not like his mouth being touched. I have tried to eliminate the obvious such as mouth conformation, he has had wolf teeth removed before he was broken in, has had regular body work and has even had a two month spell.

He will only go for around 30 seconds before he chomps on the bit, has a reef or toss of the head. Any transition or change of direction he gets offended in the connection as well. He has improved as he was terrible when first broken and reefed heaps, but he clearly is still not happy. He has a very light mouth but does not suck back behind the bit. He is just very offended by his mouth being touched.

So I know there are bits that suit horses that don’t like bar pressure, and other bits for horses that don’t like tongue pressure but which are which? He is a very sensitive horse and I think he is worth getting right!

I would try a Novocontact. Probably the single-jointed eggbutt.

Also following because I have a DeNiro granddaughter I’m about to start. She seems to be very light in the face despite being kind of a barbarian in other aspects. So far she holds the bit very quietly, but that might change when it comes to riding on contact.


I’ve had to play around with bits before and a bit bank proves quite useful.

Some prefer more stability from a baucher or other fixed ring bit. Some don’t like double jointed. When my guy was younger he did best in a Myler (low port, Eggbutt), then a single jointed eggbutt, and now a Sprenger RS Dynamic eggbutt seems to he his final choice. This is over the span of 3 years. So maybe preferences can change with growth or training. It’s mostly trial and error, really.


I have my young horse in the single-joint novocontact egg butt. It took six bits to get to that one. She was better in the single joint than any of the double-joint ones I tried.

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My DeNiro guy also liked the novocontact snaffle when he was a 4 year old and somewhat sensitive regarding contact. He actually never exhibited any challenging behavior but I could feel a bit of tension at times in his mouth and he just plain liked the novocontact and took a breath.


My mare (damsire NeNiro) goes really well in a Neue Schule Team Up. I had her in a Novocontact previously, but she is better in the Team Up.

Those using Novocontact, did you go single or double joint? I guess I should try single as the KK Ultra is a double joint.

MOB and I both said single jointed.


Single and double jointed bits will apply mostly tongue pressure, while ported bits (like Myler or Bomber) will apply less tongue pressure and more bar pressure. Mullen bits (Happy mouth style) will apply an even pressure across the tongue and bars rather than in the center of the tongue like a single or double jointed bit. Usually horses who are offended by bits that early in their training go better in something with less central tongue pressure and more bar pressure but it’s not always the case. It kind of depends on the personality - if they tend to be more sensitive to aids, taking away tongue pressure seems to help them be less stressed out or overwhelmed while they are learning.

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I have 2 young horses and I’m using both of these bits. The turtle top was recommended to me as that horse has a low palate. She seemed fine in the KK ultra, but this bit made a huge difference.

my other one would play with her tongue in the KK (but in a good chewing kind of way). Much more settled in the tactic.

i had a De Niro mare that I bought as a very green 6 year old (she had a foal and done the mare shows in Vechta). She was very good in any bit I used. I used the KK ultra and KK Conrad with her. This mare is in my profile photo.

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I have found “fussy mouths” are the result of mental stress or tension created when the horse is anticipating being asked something.

A good way to tell if the bit is the problem is to determine when the horse starts to chomp on the bit and when the horse’s mouth is “fussy”.

Does it carry the bit quietly when tacked…when being led…when walking on a loose rein? When does the horse get fussy? Pay attention to the rider’s hands and what triggers the fussiness.


My mare was super fussy…yes fussy. She started sucking and grinding on the bit as soon as you put it in her mouth. She didn’t like tongue pressure and I think was moving the bit back to her teeth and chewing on it. Only problem then was that she was was pinching her fat inner cheeks between the bit and her teeth…where the bit shouldn’t be. This little circular process resulted in increasing tension, distraction and spookiness.

She does best in an arched Mullen mouth. I found the Neue Schule Turtle Tactio and it works really well for her. It is the only jointed bit I have found that she works comfortably in. Ask my credit card how many bits I have tried :dead:.



My young mare was originally in a Turtle Top that she went well for about six months. Then it didn’t work. I tried every double joint bit my friends had and could not find one that worked. Another friend had a single joint loose ring novocontact that was much better than the double joints, but still just not perfect. I got a tester of the egg butt single joint and knew that bit was the one right away. This was in January-February…the bit is still working in May.

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Rubber seems to make a difference for some of them - I’d try the Happy Mouth with the roller, or a Nathe.

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I loved the idea of the KK Ultras for my girl (R line hanoverian) when she was young (4) but she did not. She just Did Not Like fat bits. We had head tossing, pulling, chomping and just general discontent in an otherwise willing and game youngster.

What she went best in was an old fashioned dog-bone french link that was fairly narrow. Once she was more mature, we eventually moved her over to mylar loose ring, also a thin bit, and she’s been solid in it ever since.

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Re-read the second paragraph of the OP (the first post). :yes:

Today I tried a friends loose ring turtle top. Normally as soon as I bridle him he sucks the bit back and chomps on it while I lead him out and when I walk him. He didn’t do it with the TT so I thought it might be a winner. Fair to say he hated it. I thought I should try and let him get a feel for it so put him through his warm up in walk and trot but he bobbed his head behind the bit, tilted his head and was unsteady the whole time. So I changed him back to his KK ultra and he was happy as his normal fussy self. I don’t know anyone with a novocontact as they are new to Australia so I will take the plunge and buy a single jointed egg butt. I figure it is pretty opposite to KK so fingers crossed.

So you can see what he actually does, here is a bit showing the worst he does in his normal bit, the KK Ultra. He is mostly very light in the contact but every now and again, he does the strong neck thing.


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One thing I’ve started paying attention to that I don’t always hear talked about is the size of a horse’s mouth… My horse has a very small, very shallow and narrow palate, so I had to start looking into bits that would fit in his mouth.


I watched your video!!

i think that will go away organically once the horse has better balance and understanding of his job.

when he gets fussy and tosses his head, I’d ignore the contact and think leg yield from inside leg to get more inside bend.


I saw the video. Look at 00:05 to about 00:15, when you ask for the trot-canter transition

Pay attention to whether the horse is running into the canter and on the forehand…or if you are rushing him into the canter while holding the reins too much for his opinion.

It seems he is throwing his head up because the hind end is not underneath allowing him to push off. He gave a better transition later in the video.

An exercise to improve the balance in the transition and fix this is to try doing transitions within the trot, collect-lengthen-collect then ask for the canter when from the “collected” trot segment.