Q: I ride my four-year-old in a loose ring snaffle with bit guards and want to compete in dressage. Under BritishDressage rules I can’t use bit guards but the corners of my horse’s lips sometimes get rubbed without them. I don’t want to change the bit as he likes the play of a loose-ring snaffle. Is there anything I can do?

Carolyn Henderson replies: Rubber bit guards, also known as biscuits, are useful for protecting the corners of the mouth from pinches or rubs and for keeping the bit central.

Unfortunately you cannot use them in competitions held under BD rules, as, without close scrutiny, there is little to distinguish them from the brush pricker variety which are designed for one-sided horses. However, these are rarely seen nowadays.

Check that your bit is the correct size, has no rough edges and is correctly fitted to lessen any chance of rubbing. Also rinse your bit in clean water after you have ridden to remove any saliva or food deposits as once dried these can easily rub the delicate skin around the mouth.

Does your horse have a naturally dry mouth or does he produce a lot of saliva? Both can cause discomfort.

If he has a dry mouth, try a bit which encourages salivation such as the Kangaroo or Sprenger ranges. Sweet iron bits have a similar effect. If he naturally produces lots of saliva, sponge his mouth and lips clean after untacking to prevent it drying and chaffing.

A flash noseband may help keep the bit central in your horse’s mouth, and is accepted by most horses as long as it’s not fitted too tightly.

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