Bitting guide?

Does anyone have any good resources to learn about the finer details of bit fitting?
I’m not really talking about different styles and how they work, but more like “here’s how you can tell your horse may be more comfortable with a smaller/larger diameter mouthpiece” or “this horse has a big tongue and would appreciate some more tongue relief” type of stuff.

Normally when trying to find a new bit, I’d just try everything I can get my hands on and see how it goes, but my current trainer has pretty much every horse going nicely in variations of the same double jointed snaffle, which this horse just doesn’t seem to like. He eventually works out of it once we get warmed up, but there’s a decent amount of head tossing and sucking the bit up into his mouth and crunching it with his teeth (ew) before we get to that point. We’ve tried a few different variations, some are better, some are worse, so I’m fairly certain at least part of the issue is the bit (having teeth checked is on the to-do list).

Anyways - since I don’t have many bits to try out, I’m hoping to get a little more educated before I just start throwing money out the window to buy a bunch.

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Why not just try him in a simple single joint snaffle and maybe a Mullen mouth and see if he likes that? You could likely borrow from someone or buy super cheap second hand.

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Neue Schule has an online fitting consultation, they used to offer rentals/trials but I don’t see it offered anymore :frowning: https://nsbits.com

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Is there a local equestrian group on FB you could maybe post in and see if there are any bit fitters in your area? They are becoming more available in areas. They usually have a wide range of bits you can try and will be able to size the horse’s mouth for you.

Double jointed bits may not be as mild as advertised.

I read an old book by an English born Austrian hussar (?) commander, “Seats and Saddles, Bits and Bitting” by Francis Dwyer.

This guy was PICKY about fitting the bits to the horses, who were ridden mostly with one hand because the other hand was wielding a weapon. For the bridoon of the double bridle he had a comment that double-jointed bridoons acted like a “twitch around the lower jaw,” causing pain.

Since I read this I have been super light handed with my bridoon rein when I use a double-jointed bridoon on my double bridle, I am using a Fager double jointed titanium snaffle with a roller in the middle. The ancient lesson horse I am riding has shown me that he prefers contact with the curb bit to contact with the bridoon, though he will accept contact with the bridoon (he loves playing with the center roller).

So if you want stronger contact, contact that the horse will willingly reach out for and keep his mouth quiet, try a single-jointed or Mullen mouth snaffle. With the Mullen mouth snaffle it really helps if the rider keeps the bit centered in the horse’s mouth and uses the outside rein to support an inside rein turning signal, then make sure to re-center the bit after the turns.

With a single-jointed bit, as long as the cheek pieces are not made so that the center joint of the mouthpiece of the bit is guaranteed to fold in such a way so it will hit/press against the horse’s palate, has been the standard bit for English riding for centuries. Regular rings, loose ring, eggbutt, D-ring, full-cheek or the driving half-cheek bit, people have been successfully riding with these single jointed snaffles for a long time including at the highest levels of competition.

You are LISTENING to the horse. Good for you! Borrow or buy a single jointed snaffle. If he improves then you can experiment with bit thickness but realize that a lot of horse do not read the advertising copy and do not like really thick bits in their mouths even if they are supposed to be milder.

If I ever use just a snaffle on the lesson horse I am riding I will probably start with a single jointed snaffle just because of the way he is reacting to my double-jointed bridoon, though he might miss playing with the center roller. I am sure with the wide variety of double jointed snaffles I own I could eventually find one he would be happy with but it might take a lot of experimentation. I’ll just start with a single-jointed snaffle first if I decide he would like a vacation from the double bridle.

That’s a good idea - I used to live in a riding dead-zone where the closest tack shop with english tack was a 4 hour drive :sweat_smile: Sometimes I forget that I actually have better access to things now.

@Jackie_Cochran that’s an interesting take on the double jointed snaffles. I’ll try a single joint out and see how he likes it. He does reach into the contact really well after a long warm-up (he’s an old man, and it’s cold out!) but he has a little bit of an oral fixation and likes to play with things with his mouth quite a bit. Makes me wonder if he’d like a roller instead.

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My first horse’s favorite bit of all time was a double jointed stainless steel snaffle with a center copper roller. How did I know it was his favorite bit of all time? The second time I bridled him with it he voluntarily opened his mouth for this bit, and he voluntarily opened his mouth for this bit every time I bridled him.

You could have knocked me over with a feather the first time. He had never made any move to voluntarily open his mouth for any other bit.

No other horse did this for this bit or any other bit I ever used on a horse. I had to poke my finger in their mouths to get them to open every time.

I am riding an older horse too, my current lesson horse is 28 years old. I coddle him in the cold weather, Fenwick saddle pad (far infra-red radiation “liquid titanium”), a Smart-Therapy exercise sheet (far infra-red radiation again, this one is with ceramic like BOT) and if it is really cold I put a Shires wool exercise sheet over it. He also has BOT and Fenwick boots on his front legs and a BOT poll cap and a Fenwick Face Mask with ears. Since I ride pretty early in the morning before the sun has warmed everything up he really appreciates all this stuff in the cold especially when the wind is blowing. I asked my riding teacher to dig up the BOT neck rug I got him too since we are sure to have some bitterly cold days and the old guy with all his creaky joints really likes huddling under his coverings in the cold. The BIG bonus of getting him this stuff is that it takes me like 5 minutes to warm him up in the winter instead of half an hour, the length of my riding lesson.

Yeah, it cost me a good bit of money to get him all this stuff, but with it on I can get a really decent ride on this ancient horse even when there is a bitter north wind blowing when it is in the upper 20s and lower 30s F. I do take it home with me, if I think he needs something with his other rider I just give it to the horse and buy myself another one so I don’t have to search the stable trying to find these things that make him so much happier with me riding him.

Happy horse, happy rider.

If you need advice on mouth conformation then ask your horse dentist or whoever floats his teeth. They should be able to tell you whether he has a fat tongue or low palate.

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I second the dentist, since it’s sometimes hard to know what’s normal, mouth-wise, from just a rider’s perspective.

Super-dumb question, but have you tried a Happy Mouth (of any bit variety)? They even make flavored versions now, from what I understand!

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There are all types of “bit fitters” popping up locally. Like OP, I’d love to learn more about the finer details/finesse involved with mouth conformation and types of mouthpieces and actions. With the dearth of knowledge available on this topic I wonder how this knowledge is obtained? Is any of it academic or researched? Or is it years of experience and a little feel? Most seem trained by a specific brand. I’d love to learn more too - so much of my bitting knowledge has been trial and error.

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It’s funny you ask this because I was pondering the same thing the other day.

I was riding my new mare in a French link loose ring and she was not loving it. Her previous rider used a Myler level 1 baucher with a curved mouthpiece; I broke down and bought one and made a world of difference in her comfort. I never would have gotten around to trying that if it weren’t for the info from her previous rider.

My other horse is positively wretched unless you use a low port Mullen for tongue relief. It took me years to figure that out. She was like a new horse when I put her in the right mouthpiece.

For years I believed every horse should be able to go well in a basic variation of a plain snaffle, yet I’ve learned later in life that is just not true. It would be wonderful to learn how to predict horses’ preferences apart from just trial and error or expensive bitting clinics.

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I have also been pondering this. I have a handful of simple snaffles and my horse doesn’t seem to care for any of the ones I’ve tried.

Going in a different direction here, what kind of metal is the mouthpiece made of? I have met a few horses that could not manage the nickel mixed metals. Did not matter the mouthpiece shape, the metal irritated their mouth, fussing never quit. Same bit styles made of stainless, he liked them all, went better in some than others.

I learned here on COTH that copper can give horse mini shocks continuously. @RayAyers wrote the scientific reasons why that happened, in that old thread. Similar effect with Augarian (gold color metal, expensive ) mouthpieces because they are a copper based, mixed metal. The alloy was used in bit mouthpieces because copper was not allowed at the time, in Dressage Rules at that time. Augarian was work-around copper metal in bits, that no one seemed to care about. Copper inlays in stainless can cause the shocking effect too. Copper inlays are found in most Myler bits. Also seen in many western bits. Sweet iron, another metal that seems to cause mouth reactions, plus it will rust if not cleaned and dried after EVERY use. Many people like it. I think it is @Jackie_Cochran who likes titanium metal bits. Not something I have tried or know anyone else using to ask them about how titanium works…

So there are lots of things to consider, in trying bits, beyond the ring sides! Ha ha I do not have a big selection of “magic bits” anymore. They really did not do much for our horses in getting better responses, being more happy in their work. Ours go in the basic, old fashioned snaffle and curb bits. We have 2 and 3 piece mouthpieces, a couple mullens, all with ring sides in various sizes. The curb bits tend to have thicker, low port mouthpieces with swivel sides. Husband modified some straight bar mouthpieces into a Sweetwater mouthpiece for me. Sweetwater is an old Western mouth that has a short straight piece across the bars with a wide curved upward port across the tongue. We have 3 horses that prefer that type bit to the low port on their curb bits. All the curb shank lengths are quite small, reins just below the mouthpiece, so not much “curb action” with the reins. We do not have anyone used in a double bridle, though they go easily with vertical faces, “on the bit” when asked.

We think a lot of bitting is teaching horse to “give” to allow hand-to-mouth communication. Not setting your hands and expecting horse to quit laying on you. We find it easier to train self-carriage, talking to my hands, with a curb bit than the “kindly” snaffles. Snaffles are a step in training here, finished horses go in curb bits with VERY short shanks. Heresy I know, but they go so nicely for us!!

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I have better luck with single jointed bits personally. My appendix mare is in a Fager titanium Baucher and my big WB is in a Sprenger Novocontact eggbutt single jointed. Both have said no to fancy double jointed bits. A fellow boarder has been struggling with finding a bit her OTTB will accept, and my Fager titanium mullen mouth seems to be pleasing him.

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Love this - figuring out what I can do to help him warm up in less than 30 minutes in the winter is something I’ve been pondering this week too. This gave me some decent ideas.

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@Mander don’t forget in cold weather that the metal bit can be cold too. Sometimes warming up the bit under a human arm can make things more pleasant for the horse.

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There is a reasonable amount of scientific literature available if you know where to look. Most of it of course funded by bitting companies, but realistically who else is going to fund?

If anyone is particularly interested in the theory and research, there are some lorinery science courses run through ns-academy (uk based but all online). Run by Neue Schule but not in any way an advertisement of their products. The courses are accredited by LANTRA which is a UK nationally recognised awarding body. I have done both, really enjoyed them but just a warning - there is quite a lot of science and maths! I didn’t use a single NS bit in any of my case studies. They also run bit fitting training courses but those have a requirement for in-person training.

I found it most interesting to see how much of the ‘old horseman’s knowledge’ has now been completely debunked.

ETA: changed lots of buts to bits and it’s definitely not lorikeet science

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If you have a microwave at the barn (most boarding barns I’ve been at have one in the tack or feed room) a clean sock filled with white rice and put in the microwave for ~1 min makes a fantastic bit warmer.

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It’s there

https://nsbits.com/online-bitting-consultation

Honestly look on Youtube, there are a lot of great biting videos, just search “bitting advice” or “horse bits” etc

I agree some horses can’t take certain metals, one of mine is like this. She foams insanely if she has nickle. She has to have a fancy expensive metal.

Also consider that the mouth opening and chomping can also be from soreness, typically back pain, or a strength thing. Could also be tension. How does your horse go otherwise? How long under saddle?