RETAILERS – Stephen Biddlecombe of Equine Management Ltd answers a reader’s question on bitting in POLO TIMES MAGAZINE. See his advice for consumers here….
I have a fairly hot, young former racehorse and plan to get her a Happy Tongue Three Ring, as I gather it has a medium port that helps some horses to relax, due to the extra tongue space. However I am finding the bit sizing tricky. Based on her current bit which is a snaffle gag, I think she will need a 120 mm (4¾”), but would be grateful for any measuring advice. Kit Maxwell, Hants.
Bits are measured from inside the cheek pieces, from ring to ring. There are several options available to you:
1.A ‘bit measure’
You could buy or borrow a bit measure – these gadgets cost around £50 and are fitted inside the mouth – a gauge accurately tells you the size required, and they are available for the different brands of bit available – Bombers Bits does sell a bit measure within its product range. Once in the horse’s mouth, you will need to lift the measure into the correct place; just before any wrinkles begin to form, note the sizing detailed on the measure, just outside the mouth’s lip creases.
2. A straight rod
Using any straight rod, like a wooden spoon handle, can achieve the same result as a proper bit measure. With assistance, lift the rod to the correct place in the mouth, and mark the rod on both sides with a pen, just outside the lip crease. Measuring between these marks gives you the measured mouth size.
3.Borrowing a bit
Whilst you could also try a few other bits that friends or team-mates have for size, this can be problematic, as the type of mouthpiece and cheekpiece of the bit that you measured could affect the sizing; e.g. if the bit you need is a loose ring, which measures slightly longer, and the bit you are borrowing is a fixed cheek piece bit. If however you do have a bit to borrow that is similar to the one you want, and is the right size, you can simply lay it down on a flat surface and pull the rings apart so the bit is at its maximum length. Measure along the full length of the mouthpiece from the inside edge of the ring to the inside edge of the opposite ring with a ruler, choosing inches or centimetres. (You could also ask a reputable bitting retailer about their hire packages, having established the size that you believe you need.)
In my experience, most horses are fitted with bits that are too tight, and this just adds more pressure points to the ‘bitting mix’. With a fixed mouth piece, the size required is the measured size, and with single and double jointed bits, this should be the measured size, plus 10 mm to take into account the joints. In addition to these factors, add 5mm if the bit has a loose ring cheek piece. Nothing additional needs to be added for fixed cheek pieces! The Happy Tongue Three Ring that you’re considering has a loose ring fitting. Photos are also useful if you’re dealing directly with a retailer – you can contact me at the email below with enquiries and photos, if you would like.