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The "Right" bit for your horse- it's a mind game

The "Right" bit for your horse- it's a mind game

Posted by Anita Marchesani on Sep 22, 2014

Choosing the "right" bit for your horse is more about you and your horse than the actual bit you choose.  The Myler brothers famously said "Bits don't train horses, people do."

Changing your bit is simply a part of the solution, and never a quick fix.

If your new bit gives you the response that you are looking for, that's great.  Don't rest in your laurels though and assume the problem is solved.  What the change of bit has done, is given you the opportunity to safely and consciously address the training issue that you had prior to the bit change.

It's too common a story to hear of a rider that has changed from a snaffle to a 3 ring bit, to a pelham, to a combination bit and now has no where to go.  They got good results each time they changed to the stronger bit, but did not use the opportunity to improve the horse's training and education to resolve the problem in the long term.

As the rider it is ultimately your responsibility as to how you use the bits we sell you.  At Bit Bank Australia, we feel it is important for riders to be as educated as possible about how the bits they have purchased works, so that they can apply that knowledge when riding and training.

Here's a common example.  A rider is competing in eventing and finds that with the step up a grade her horse has gotten a bit strong and rushing with his head up at the fences due to a lack of confidence.  To stay safe, they decide to try a Pelham bit.  Now, the pelham bit works on leverage, and so asks the horse to lower the head and increases the pressure felt by the horse to what the rider feels in the hands.  Simply, if the rider has 1kg of weight in their hands, the horse actually feels 3-4 times that pressure.

So they go out and compete in the pelham, and hooray! they have brakes.  But, the horse starts backing right off, jacking up and is now overbending.

Instead of swapping bits again, the rider should think about how this bit they are using is working.  For starters, it has given her the result she was looking for- she can stop and slow the horse on the XC course where before she could not.  The backing off, jacking up and over bending is obviously not desired- but it can be easily fixed.  It is simple a response to too much pressure from the rider and not enough give.

It's a matter of the rider using their head, and working to find the balance between the pressure they have in their hands (which they know is less than what the horse is feeling) and the amount of drive.  Balancing the take with the give.  Allowing the horse release and not hanging on for dear life for the whole round.

It is rare that a single bit will offer the entire solution to your problems, and fix it forever.  The effectiveness of any bit is governed always by the mind behind the rider that is using it.

Keep in mind these two values when considering changing your horse's bit:  the Safety of the Rider, and the Comfort of the Horse.  They are both vital to ensure clear communication and harmonious training.