A couple of days ago, my national equestrian federation, Equestrian Canada, hosted a free webinar called Bit Fitting the Dressage Horse. It was presented by a Lantra certified Bit Fitter.
This is a topic that I've long been interested in so I quickly signed up for it. The fact that it was free and I could count it towards the development requirement of my instructor's certification certainly helped with the decision!
It wasn't quite what I was hoping for, in that she wouldn't give any suggestions for bits for specific scenarios. She said it was because she would need to see the specifics of the horse's mouth anatomy and how they went in their current bit before she could make any suggestions.
Thus, the information was some basic info. However, there were a few takeaways.
- The horse only needs to salivate enough to lubricate the bit
- There is no scientific proof that different metals (ie. sweet iron) increase salivation. It is a marketing claim.
- Copper alloys (Sensogan, Aurigan, Salox Gold) were developed specifically for bitting. They are a medium-density metal, which has some softness to it (if chewed on the horse will make marks on it which can be buffed out, unlike stainless steel, which is a hard metal).
- Leather bits need to be pre-soaked before every ride and oiled often.
- Inspect your bit regularly!
- The tongue fills the entire oral cavity of the horse. A bit is accommodated only through compression of the tongue.
- In an ideal situation, the tongue sits on the floor of the oral cavity and splays out over the bars, which keeps the bit from sitting on the sensitive bars.
- On a Class 1 bit (any bit where the reins attach to the same ring as the mouthpiece) the mouthpiece rotates backward in the oral cavity upon rein contact.
- The bit is properly tensioned (the right height in the horse's mouth) when the borehole (the hole that the ring goes through) is 90 degrees to the cheekpiece with no rein contact. Bits have been designed to rotate to the proper position in the horse's mouth with rein contact at this resting tension. (Note that in trying to find images for this, I had a really hard time finding many that followed this rule, and most didn't look like they could follow the rule.)
|Enjoy my poor drawing skills from my note taking.|
- On a Class 2 bit (any bit where reins are attached to a ring lower than the mouthpiece) the bit rotates forward in the mouth upon rein contact.
- The curb chain should be adjusted so that the shank will rotate no more than 45 degrees to the lip line so as to prevent excess poll pressure.
- Loose ring snaffles should be .25" wider than the horse's mouth measurement. Fixed ring snaffles should be the same width as this measurement.
- The most common problems she sees are bit tension and bit size.