Bits: Protect Your Horse’s Mouth

Learn more about how bits work, common bit construction, and choosing the right bit for your horse.

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A simple metal shape–and a complex tool of communication between horse and rider. Inside the horse’s mouth, the bit’s motion sends messages to the horse. The message can be as subtle as a twinge, obvious only to the horse. Or, a harsher sensation can result in the animal’s gaping mouth and visible pain.

The bit is a control device, a piece of equipment accepted as essential. Riders think about putting a bit on a horse, while a more humane approach focuses on inviting the horse to respond to the bit.

To the horse, the metal appliance is a foreign object inserted in a small space in his mouth. The bit’s movement stimulates a response in the horse’s body: immobile, forward, backward, left, or right. The design affects action, and the art of bitting matches the horse with the most comfortable bit.

Effective Yet Humane

The mouthpiece of the bit rests on the horse’s tongue. Through training, the horse learns to respond to sensations in his mouth. A feeling that begins on the tongue results in how the horse places his feet

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Written by:

Award-winning writer Charlene Strickland lives in Bosque Farms, N.M. She has published 8 books and over 600 magazine articles, and is a member of the International Alliance of Equestrian Journalists.

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