How to Choose a Bit for Your Horse

“What kind of bit should I use on him?” I am asked this question a lot. My answer is sort of smart assed sounding – “ask him.” This leaves you cold if you don’t speak horse, though, doesn’t it? The truth of the matter is that I don’t really know what it is recommended. I experiment a lot until my horse seems to respond like I want him to. That’s why my tack room is such a train wreck. I have no earthly idea how many bits and bridles are in there.

When I start colts are usually let them “soak”, tied to a ring hanging from a tree limb with a saddle on and a snaffle bit in their mouth. They spend a lot of hours becoming accustomed to the foreign object in their mouths before I actually begin to use it as a signaling device. Then when we start work I usually let them continue to carry a bit while I start work on the longe in a halter cavesson or Hackamore.Finally, before I commit to actually crawling aboard, I work for some lessons doing in-hand work with the double bridle. That is a snaffle or bridoon (we call it a filete) under a leverage bit such as a Weymouth bit. When the colt begins to lick and chew, and get light in my hands and crosses over with both front and back legs smoothly and rhythmically in response to a cluck of my tongue or light touch with the “stick” he’s ready to try riding . Some we actually pony off an older horse first, or hand lead with a ground person.

From there, once the colt has started working, it’s just experimentation with different bits. When he seems happy and light, and isn’t resisting, spitting out the contact or shaking his head, he’s probably accepting the bit. Sometimes the type of bit is dictated by, or related to, the type of work, event, or breed you aim for with your ‘ol pony. 

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