When starting a young horse there are so many mouthpieces to choose from that it can be a minefield if you don’t already have a tried and tested favourite, so we’ve rounded up a selection of the best bits for young horses. There are designs that appear simple and traditional, while others may appear quite complicated on first look.
It’s important to give your horse a good start when it comes to bitting, as doing so will help you provide him with a smooth introduction to work and give you the best chance of educating him to be light in the hand. While it’s not possible to advise which specific bit will be the perfect match for your horse as each horse’s mouth conformation, temperament and rider are different, there are some designs and subsequent actions that are more suited to bitting a young horse.
It’s important a young horse is comfortable with his bit, which is why ergonomic designs prove very popular. The shapes and materials usually encourage a horse to mouth the bit and accept it, while the different mouthpieces and cheek shapes help to give clear signals and discourage leaning.
What to consider when choosing a bit
Size: In order to make sure your horse is comfortable, it’s important to get a bit that fits well. The easiest way to measure the width of your horse’s mouth if you don’t have a selection of sizes to hand is to use a bit sizer. You should also consider the diameter of the mouthpiece – how much space you have is determined by the height of your horse’s palate and the width of his tongue. Your dentist will be able to help you with this if you’re unsure. Although a thinner mouthpiece applies pressure over a smaller surface area, if a horse has a low palate it may not have room for a thicker mouthpiece without it pressing on the roof of the mouth. Horses with large tongues may be more comfortable with a bit that has a shallow port to provide more room for the tongue.
Cheeks: Snaffles are the most common type of bit for young horses and they are available with a range of cheeks – eggbutt, full cheek, D-ring or loose ring. Eggbutt cheeks are a fixed oval-shaped and help the bit to sit quite still in the mouth. Full cheeks help to reinforce the turning aid and prevent the mouthpiece from sliding across the tongue and bars of the mouth. D-rings are similar to eggbutts, but with a larger D-shaped cheek, which can also helps with turning. Loose rings have much more movement than any of the other types and so encourages mouthing, and discourage leaning or fixing on the bit.
Joints: There are many different types of joints, all of which have slightly different actions, while some bits don’t have a joint at all. Most bits for young horses either have no joint or are double-jointed – the main difference is that jointed bits tend to allow more independent action from each rein, although some single-jointed bits can producing the “nutcracker effect”. Single jointed bits with a curved mouthpiece minimise this action.
Materials: Stainless steel is one of the most popular materials as it’s durable, easy to clean and doesn’t rust. Copper and sweet iron encourages the horse to salivate, while plastic and rubber are often used for horses with sensitive mouths. Non-metal bits are also more pleasant to handle in cold weather (although do warm up quickly in the mouth), but can be chewed, so it’s important to check for sharp points that could cause irritation.
Best bits for young horses
Shires blue sweet iron loose ring with mullen mouth
Sizes: 4½in, 5in, 5½in | RRP: £19.99 |
The medium port on this bit from Shires allows more room for the tongue, which may be more comfortable for some breeds or horses with larger tongues. The sweet iron metal oxidises easily to create a sweet taste, encouraging acceptance and salivation.
Sprenger Dynamic RS full cheek
Sizes: 125mm, 135mm or 145mm | RRP: £196.50 |
This bit is designed to help the horse to accept the bit more easily. The mouthpiece fits ergonomically to provide soft and even pressure on the entire tongue area, encouraging the horse to chew. The bit also supports the contact to the corners of the mouth, which helps to keep the horse on the bit.
Myler 04 Low Port Comfort snaffle
Sizes: 4½in, 5in, 5½in, 6in | RRP: From £78.95 |
This bit is Myler’s alternative to a regular double-jointed snaffle. It has a ¾in port for tongue room and independent side movement for a clearer lateral aid. The centre barrel protects the horse’s tongue from getting caught in the joint and prevents the “nutcracker effect” on the outer lips and bars, giving a more gentle, wrapping effect. The 04 is available on a range of cheeks, including loose ring, plain eggbutt and hanging cheek.
Bombers DC Dressage Happy Tongue
Sizes: 90–160mm, in 5mm increments, or custom sized | RRP: £121 |
This bit is designed to release as many pressure points as possible. The reins are attached to the large dee, which swings open independently of the cheekpiece, while the mouthpiece is fixed to the cheekpiece with a solid surface area to encourage flexion. The loose ring ensures the poll and cheek area are relieved from rein engagement.
In the UK? View now at amazon.co.uk
Expert Bits Comfy Barrel full cheek
Sizes: 5in, 5¼in, 5½in, 5¾, 6in | RRP: £44.99 |
This bit is ergonomically shaped to follow the conformation of the mouth, and at only 10mm thick it leaves room for horses that don’t naturally have that much room for the bit. The barrel centre keeps the bits constant shape and allows the bit independent movement of either side without twisting the rest of the bit. As the barrel is stiller than a conventional lozenge or French link, it doesn’t irritate the palate and prevents pressure on the palate. The full cheek offers stability in the mouth and aids steering by applying more pressure to the face, giving a more definite signal to turn.
In the UK? View now at ebay.co.uk
Acavallo Sensitive bit
Sizes: 135mm | RRP: £39.95 |
This bit by Acavallo is made of an innovative, anti-allergic plastic material reinforced with a flexible steel cable. It has a slightly arched and flattened mouthpiece that ensures that pressure on tongue, jaws, and mouth corners is distributed evenly. The one-piece design prevents one-sided squeezing or pinching, helping it to sit quietly and comfortably in the mouth, which allows the horse to find its own balance.
Jeffries Minos Vision loose ring balancer snaffle
Sizes: 5in, 5¼in, 5½in, 5¾, 6in | RRP: £30.10 |
Ergonomically designed for comfort, this bit from Jeffries has a 90% cooper mouth piece to aid salivation. The angled lozenge facilitates even contact through the mouth piece without the “nutcracker” effect, allowing for light directional aids. Available in two ring sizes – 55mm or 70mm.
In the UK? View now at ebay.co.uk
GS Equestrian rubber flexi straight bar snaffle
Sizes: 5in or 5¼in | RRP: £9.50 |
Designed to be soft and kind on the mouth, this snaffle from GS Equestrian has loose ring cheeks to discourage leaning on the bit and to promote soft self carriage.
In the UK? View now at gsequestrian.co.uk
You might also be interested in:
Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday, is packed with all the latest news and reports, as well as interviews, specials, nostalgia, vet and training advice. Find how you can enjoy the magazine delivered to your door every week, plus options to upgrade your subscription to access our online service that brings you breaking news and reports as well as other benefits.