Q: I saw a horse at a local show jumping event competing in a bit that looked like a cross between a hanging cheek and a bubble gag, and was told by the rider it was a Dalehead. Do you know anything about it?
THIS is a new bit, so the name is not yet widely known. The Dalehead, which has a sliding cheek and comes with a variety of mouthpieces, is part of Hilary Vernon’s Informed Bitting Collection from Abbey Bits. The range is designed to compliment mouth conformation and improve communication to promote humane control.
The bar of the Dalehead mouthpiece is attached to the bit’s cheek using a “C sleeve” design, to allow the cheekpiece to slide a little without pinching the corners of the horse’s lips. It can swivel freely sideways, but only moves up and down within a short range. There is a loop at the top of the bit for the leather cheekpiece of the bridle, and the bit has three rein options.
“As you attach the cheekpiece into the top slot of the bit ring, the bit sits up in the horse’s mouth and stabilises it, taking some of the weight off the tongue,” explained the bit’s designer Hilary Vernon.
“The top rein option on the bit ring pulls the mouthpiece back in the mouth, without bringing any leverage to bear. If you put the rein down into the bottom slot of the bit ring, you get a more defined signal, and a little poll pressure; the mouthpiece rotates down into the mouth to give a signal to the horse to yield to the action.
“The middle rein option brings a little more leverage to bear than the top ring one.”
Katy Smith from Boreham, Essex, uses the Dalehead on her 16hh show jumper.
“It has provided me with choices so I can adapt the rein position according to the horse’s training,” she says.
“It is a humane bit which is important as, although my horse is strong, I don’t want to fight him.”
A curb chain must be used with the Dalehead to distribute even pressure on the horse’s jaw, which will help stabilise the bit.
Abbey Bits Tel: 01565 633825 www.ridingbitz.com
This Q&A was first published in Horse & Hound (10 July, ’08)