There is an old saying: “The best bit is the one in the wisest hands”, and this was never more true than today, when riders across the disciplines are using ever-more elaborate bits.
Particularly at novice level, bitting tends to follow fashion, even though many horses are clearly unhappy in their tack.
Top three-day event rider Andrew Nicholson, renowned for riding most of his horses in snaffles, says: “I think people get obsessed with control. This stems from the dressage phase, where riders have control of every stride, then when they go at cross-country speed, they feel out of control.
“It’s a very fine line between having a horse on the verge of running a little free, and actually taking off.
“A horse is overbitted if he bobs up and down and doesn’t go anywhere. I think quite a few stops can be attributed to this. If you are going to shut the front end down, you have to be very secure in your leg, otherwise the back end runs out of diesel.
“I only ride in a snaffle because I’m a lot stronger than many people. A bit that I find light and sensitive would probably not be strong enough for, say, an 8st girl.
“Also, a horse I find light may be strong for someone else, or vice versa; you have to go on your own feeling.”