All about horse bits
Customer enquiry – “My Connemara generally doesn’t want to take forward the contact in a jointed bit –
he has a fleshy mouth – what mouthpiece may suit him?”
Let’s firstly look at the issue of mouth conformation, as it isn’t something that many of us consider when we purchase a horse. Whilst all horses are different, there are some breed characteristics that can help us ascertain what likely conformation the equine has within its mouth, as follows –
Connemaras do not tend to have a great deal of room for a bit – this is generally because the palate is lower. (Arabs are similar.) Fleshy lips and tongues, again common to Connemaras, don’t help the equation!
Ported bits (like the Bombers Happy Tongue, pictured left in a fixed cheek eggbutt loose ring), are often recommended, and some Connemaras go very well in a simple double jointed bit with a barrel or lozenge, such as a Bombers Ported Barrel, that avoids a nutcracker action.
Thoroughbreds can be fairly easy to bit and often have plenty of room between the tongue and the roof, but this is mainly because their tongues are often small, rather than that the roof of the mouth is generously proportioned.
Because they don’t tend to have fleshy tongues, they do sometimes experience bar sensitivity, and they sometimes also have thin skin on the bars.
Immobile, thin mouthpieces aren’t generally recommended; mullens (like the Bombers Moulded Mullen) and curved mouthpieces, such as the Bombers Ultra Comfy Lock up, can work well to spread the pressure.
Irish Draughts and their crosses, as well as Dutch Warmbloods, are often said to have large tongues – this is easy to spot with a quick look in the mouth, e.g. parting the lips, as you will see the fleshiness ‘bulging’ at the side.
It is best to choose a bit that will not catch and squeeze the sensitive edges of a large tongue, so single jointed snaffles are usually best avoided, not least as they may hinder swallowing with a larger tongue.
Bits with tongue relief via a suitably-sized port may work well. For such horses that are physically large and can be heavy on the forehand, a port with a central roller or lozenge (like the Bombers McHardy horse bit, pictured above left in a 2.5 ring) can help prevent leaning.
Most draught horses tend to have fleshy lips and may be prone to pinching with loose rings, unless they’re scrupulously fitted so the bit doesn’t move about.
Bit guards can help, although eggbutts are usually preferential.
Thicker mouthpieces aren’t generally advised for horses with fleshy lips, as they can stretch the skin at the corners of the lips. Sweet iron may help with salivation to help prevent soreness.(It can be hard to picture what fleshy lips look like – North West Equine Vets has on their home page some pictures of a horse with very fleshy lips that fold over and almost meet in the mouth).
Going back to the issue of not taking the contact forward, this is common in an equine without much room in the mouth, as they experience pressure from all angles, and may even have trouble swallowing.
Taking the contact forward is a confidence in how it feels for the horse to relax across his back, become more ‘through’ in his action, and subsequently drop the head into a pleasing contact without resistance. (Illustrated in this picture of Luke Baber Davies, below left, by horsepowercreative.net.)
While the horse may have the physicality to create more swing and engagement from his hindquarters, if the front end is blocked through anticipation of discomfort, he won’t take that movement forward with confidence, and the rider feels their mount ‘backing off’ beneath them.
In the case of the Connemara that did not take the contact forward, we recommended a Bombers Happy Tongue bit to provide tongue relief.
An eggbutt would reduce additional movement through the mouth, but some horses prefer a loose ring, as it doesn’t have that ‘snug’ fit on a mouth that may be sensitive.
(The tongue relief is the same in both mouthpieces).
The customer chose a Bombers Happy Tongue loose ring, pictured left, and was delighted.
“I am very impressed so far, he seemed to take the contact forward confidently, and worked really well, and ‘through’,” she reported happily.
Retailers – contact us today with enquiries.
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