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  • August 18, 2022 3 min read 1 Comment

    We have all heard of the importance of a correctly fitting saddle; if the saddle doesn’t fit, it can pinch and physically hurt the horse, as well as affect how it moves and develops topline muscle. But, just as much importance needs to be placed on a correctly fitting bit and bridle, as this too can affect the performance, muscle development and physical wellbeing of the horse. 

    But, before we talk more about bits and bridle fitting, let’s look at the role and the importance of the tongue. A horse’s tongue is a massive piece of muscle that extends well beyond the horse's mouth. It increases in thickness, just behind where the bit sits, filling the entire mouth. The tongue is also interconnected with many other muscles, all the way back to the horse’s hind legs. So, if, in fact, you place pressure on the tongue or you move it, this movement or pressure goes all the way back to the hind legs. Yep, you read that right. So, if you have an ill-fitting bit, you place pressure on the horse’s tongue (or the bars of the mouth), which can inflict a considerable amount of pain, but also this tension will transmit directly through the horse, through the neck, back and all the way to the hind legs! Even if your bit isn’t ill-fitting but perhaps is a little heavy for the horse, this too can affect the development of muscles along the topline, but it will also affect your communication with the horse. 

    Now that we understand the role of the tongue and how it affects the horse’s whole body, we can look at the importance of correct bit and bridle fitting. The single most important thing when it comes to bit fitting is ensuring that the bit isn’t too small, or too large. A bit that is too small will pinch the horse’s face, and a bit too large will cause movement from side to side. Both of these scenarios will cause discomfort and possibly sores and physical pain for the horse. The easiest way to measure your horse’s mouth is by using a bit measuring tool (you can also gently use a piece of string as well). Generally speaking, if you have a single jointed bit, you want to leave around 1cm on either side, and a double jointed bit can sit flush to the horse's lips (BUT this will significantly depend on the brand of bit you choose!).

    A correctly fitting bridle is just as important as a bit or saddle. There are so many nerves in your horse's head, and a bridle that is too tight or loose, or too big or too small, can considerably impact your horse's comfort. A bridle that is too tight, can cause too much pressure on the facial nerves, the tongue, and the neck, which then go on to affect how the horse moves and carries itself. To correctly fit a bridle, you must ensure that the headpiece allows for good ear clearance. The browband needs to sit two horizontal fingers below the ears, and you should be able to fit two vertical fingers under the browband at the front to ensure it isn’t too tight. The buckles for the cheek pieces and throatlatch should sit around or above the eye, ensuring you have enough space to adjust the pieces up and down if need be. The throatlatch should be done up loosely, and you should be able to fit your fist underneath it. The noseband must also not be done up too tightly, allowing at least two fingers, or ideally, your whole hand, to fit between it and your horse. Lastly, the noseband must sit at least two horizontal fingers below the cheekbone. There are many anatomically shaped bridles and bridlepiecess that are also available to purchase, which have specifically been designed to alleviate pressure on the horse’s sensitive facial nerves.

    Bit and Bridle Fitting by a Professional

    It is highly recommended that your bit and bridle be fitted by a professional - much like a saddle fitting. This way, you can be sure that your gear fits correctly, resulting in a happy horse and rider! A professional bit fitter will also be able to bring out a multitude of bits that you can try for your horse. They will ensure the bit fits correctly and determine the correct bit based on the anatomy of your horse’s mouth - as each horse is an individual. Further, as you can try an array of bits, you can determine which one enables you to have the best communication with your horse, and the one that your horse feels most comfortable in. This will help your horse be happy in its work, use its muscles correctly and enhance communication with you, its rider. 

    1 Response

    Susannah Thomas
    Susannah Thomas

    October 13, 2022

    Good article. Thank you. Just want to point out that it’s throat LASH not latch(which is something you use for shutting doors 😅)
    Cheers, Susannah

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