Simon Reynolds: Blame lack of knowledge, not bits *H&H VIP*

  • Opinion

    I often get asked what bit a horse should go in for the show ring. In open classes, it is common for a double bridle or a Pelham to be worn. I always say, start simple. Look at the snaffle that you school your horse in at home and maybe use the same mouthpiece in a simple Pelham. Always start with an elasticated curb chain.

    With bitting, though, my philosophy is “never say never”. In an ideal world, we would all like our animals to go with a simple, happy mouth, but the reality can be somewhat different. I don’t agree with people following trends that seem to do the rounds. Only use what is necessary for your particular animal. Our horses are all different and respond to different actions and mouthpieces. Ultimately, it all boils down to the hands at the end of the reins. I would not put an inexperienced, unbalanced rider or a child without the necessary experience in charge of a more severe bit.

    As a kid I remember watching top level showjumping and looking at the ironwork in some of the top horses’ mouths in wonderment. Some people would say that using these sorts of bits is down to a lack of training or horsemanship, but I disagree. These are top riders on top horses at the highest level. Ultimately, these are animals. They just wouldn’t perform well at this level if they weren’t happy. The riders obviously felt they needed that level of control at busy show environments.

    The worry, however, is a less experienced person looking on, trying to emulate their heroes. How dangerous could this be in the wrong hands? This is when these bits get scrutinised, but actually it is the lack of knowledge that causes the problem.

    Obviously, judges are there to judge the horse, its conformation, type and its way of going. I personally would not drop a horse for a bit I didn’t think was appropriate, but if I felt it necessary, I would make a comment — certainly if I could see a horse going badly in a severe bit. The worst thing you can do to a horse’s step is to overbit it. They lose the movement as it restricts and shortens them up.

    There are a few bits of which I am not a fan, but which I have used a handful of times as a training exercise or as a correction for a short period of time. Sometimes you get an awkward horse or a horse that has been hunted hard before, or done another job where the control is needed. There are people though that consistently overbit every horse. They must have a fear of being run away with.

    Time for entries

    The new British Show Horse Association (BSHA) owners’ classes have started. Can I remind everyone to support this series? There are some fabulous sashes and rosettes on offer and the highest two in each class, who are not already qualified, qualify for the final during the evening performance at the national championships.

    See britishshowhorse.org for details.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 20 April 2017