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Bits for double bridles

Assessing the conformation of your horse’s mouth is important when choosing any bit, but it becomes absolutely vital when deciding on bits for a double bridle. The size and shape of your horse’s mouth will dictate what bits he will be comfortable wearing.

Before fitting a double bridle

Begin by double-checking the width of your horse’s mouth. You can use either a short, smooth dowel (a thin rod of wood or other material) held gently in the mouth, or download Heather Hyde’s free bit measure from the Bit Bank website: www.bitbank.co.uk

You also need to assess how much room your horse has in his mouth. This depends on the height of his palate and the shape of his tongue.

One way to check the palate is to put a finger in your horse’s mouth. (Only do this if you know your horse well and are sure of your safety.) Lie your finger across his tongue, where the bit rests, and crook your knuckle slightly.

If your finger presses against the roof of your horse’s mouth, he has a low palate. This means that, for example, if you use a ported curb, the central arch must not be too high.

Now lift his top lip at the side. Is his tongue enclosed, or does it bulge over the edges of the bars? A thick, fleshy tongue means less room and this horse will probably be uncomfortable with a thick mouthpiece.

The final piece of the puzzle is the shape of the bars. Examine these by holding the horse’s tongue to one side of the mouth and gently hooking back the opposite corner of his mouth with your other thumb. Your horse may have low, wide, fleshy bars, or more sensitive bars, which are high and narrow with a thinner covering.

Once you are aware of your horse’s mouth conformation you can start looking for a combination of bits which he will be comfortable carrying in his mouth.

For more information on choosing bits for double bridles, see the October issue of HORSE.

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