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Q: A friend recently told me that when the equine dentist rasps her horse’s teeth, he createsbit seats. What are bit seats and what is their purpose?

John Edmunds replies: Creating bit seats involves rounding and smoothing the front surfaces of a horse’s first cheek teeth to create a more comfortable condition for the horse when he has a bit in his mouth, enhancing his performance and improving his attitude to work.

Upper bit seats let the bit ride higher in a horse’s mouth, freeing the tongue and allowing it to maintain a more forward position.

Lower bit seats avoid puncturing, pinching and bruising of the lower area of the cheek.

The combination of upper and lower bit seats prevent loose flesh over the lower bars of the mouth from becoming trapped and pinched between a horse’s cheekteeth.

As the rider takes up a contact on the horse’s mouth, some bits (especially D-ring types) tend to narrow quickly. This creates excessive pressure on the cheeks pushing them against the teeth. Bit seats eliminate this discomfort.

It takes a lot of experience to create good bit seats, and they are easier to maintain than to form. When installing bit seats the dentist should consider:

  • what type of bit the horse is ridden in
  • the heights and angles of the teeth, as the bit will rest on the bit seats when a contact is taken up
  • the length of the mouth and its width and height