‘Biting’ a young horse

canteron

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How do you do it, what bit do you prefer and things to avoid, how much time before you can start to put any pressure on it and hints on frequency!

Horse 3 now and not being backed till next year - aim is to eventually slowly produce a happy confident ride.

All thoughts and experience welcome .... thanks
 

windand rain

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I use a french link but am told a Dr bristol sits better in the mouth even though the first is dressage legal the second not
 
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Ambers Echo

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I bitted mine loose in a field with a snaffle. Removed the nose band and reins. Rubbed her mouth and gums with my fingers first, then with a cotton rope before the metal bit went in. She wandered off every few minutes but curiosity got the better of her and she always came back. Once she was used to me putting it on and off, I left it on for a while to get her used to the feel of it in her mouth. After that she was polite for bridling forever more.
 

vhf

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I always get them checked for wolf teeth etc. before the bit goes in first time, just in case. EDT will say whether to bit or wait... Having coped with one bitted with wolf teeth, it took forever to get her confident in the mouth.
Perhaps think about mouth conformation before making the first bit choice - e.g. a thin bit is technically "harsher" but a fat bit in a small mouth is going to be uncomfortable. For me, a Dr Bristol has too much tongue pressure, (I used one very effectively for a speedy XC tank!!) so I use French link or simple lozenge. A lot of people use a straight bar, but I like them to have more play in the mouth to start with. Not too high in the mouth, especially at the beginning, so that they can move them about, but not to low either or tongue-over becomes a habit.
Then start with short lengths of time, and no contact, and listen to the horse about building both up. I have seen other approaches work without traumatising the horse, that's just mine!
 

windand rain

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I always get them checked for wolf teeth etc. before the bit goes in first time, just in case. EDT will say whether to bit or wait... Having coped with one bitted with wolf teeth, it took forever to get her confident in the mouth.
Perhaps think about mouth conformation before making the first bit choice - e.g. a thin bit is technically "harsher" but a fat bit in a small mouth is going to be uncomfortable. For me, a Dr Bristol has too much tongue pressure, (I used one very effectively for a speedy XC tank!!) so I use French link or simple lozenge. A lot of people use a straight bar, but I like them to have more play in the mouth to start with. Not too high in the mouth, especially at the beginning, so that they can move them about, but not to low either or tongue-over becomes a habit.
Then start with short lengths of time, and no contact, and listen to the horse about building both up. I have seen other approaches work without traumatising the horse, that's just mine!
Wrong as the above link shows the Bristol has less tongue pressure than a French link. It is therefore much more comfortable for a horse. Modern lozenge bits claim to be more gentle but in fact they move far more in the mouth than a simple bit and the bit that sits stillest and with the least upward movement is a myler comfort snaffle
 

windand rain

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Nope research proves that wrong https://www.thegaitpost.com/dr-bristol-vs-french-link/ and bit fitters will tell you the same. the reason is that when you pick up the reins the bit twists so the link on a french link digs into the tongue and the dr bristol lies flat on the tongue. Therefore the Dr bristol exerts less pressure as it is spread across the tongue. The french link is harsher as the edge of the link twists into the tongue when you pick up the reins. Neue schule did the research but their bits move more than myler comfort snaffles so have a greater travel up the tongue but no doubt you will make up your own minds
One of the reasons you should have bridle and bit professionally fitted in the same way you would have a saddle fitted
 

The Trooper

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I have been told by my bit fitter and dentist that the french link requires the horse to have quite alot of room in their mouth. He is a massive advocate of lozenges.

I recommend a full cheek sweet iron with copper lozenge for a youngster.



They are available with the lozenge lying vertical or horizontal. Mine are all horizontal not vertical as pictured about.
 
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Tihama

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With a Dr Bristol the weight bearing area on the link is small therefore it exerts a lot of downwards pressure that's why it has always been used as a bit for strong horses.
I cannot think of any reason you would use one to bit a horse.
 
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windand rain

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Probably not for a young horse but is still kinder than a French link depends on if you would use a french link or not. It is flat to the tongue if fitted properly so the flat part of the link is spreading the pressure across the tongue if you read the research linked it explains very clearly why it is better.
Personally I would always have a bit and bridle fitted to the young horse in the same way as a saddle is fitted by a professional fitter. It is important to make sure it is the best fit and the bit is in the correct part of the mouth. There are a lot of myths and bad practice in the fitting of bridles
 

The Trooper

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I have been told by my bit fitter and dentist that the french link requires the horse to have quite alot of room in their mouth. He is a massive advocate of lozenges.

I recommend a full cheek sweet iron with copper lozenge for a youngster.

They are available with the lozenge lying vertical or horizontal. Mine are all horizontal not vertical as pictured about.
In addition, some research would suggest that horizontal are gentler as they do not apply as much pressure on the tongue than the vertical lozenges.
 

Tihama

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My mare has a large tongue & small mouth - she can't cope with French links or lozenges at all.

We use a Uttoxeter Kimblewick for hacking & fast work on the top slot - she is very comfortable, settled & happy in this bit.

Also have a ported Pelham for fancy stuff & a curved single jointed eggbutt snaffle for lunging and schooling.

I've done extensive bit research myself over the years.
 

Nudibranch

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I use a full cheek sweet iron with copper lozenge. I've always started with a slim rubber straight bar first to avoid teeth banging while they get used to having the bit in and out, but lozenge bits seem to be preferred and full cheeks really help them get the idea of steering. Sorry, but I've never used a bridle fitter...if after 30 odd years I can't do it myself properly perhaps I should give up.

Long reining is the most useful activity imo.
 

Goldenstar

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I would use a loose ringed bit with an angels lozenge .
I might move on to a cheeked bit in a while but I prefer a loose ring at first because the horse can move the mouth piece and I use a thin mouth piece .
Before I bit the horse the first time I make sure it’s used to a brow band and I warm the bit usually by putting under my clothes .
Horses likes for bitting is very very personal to them so you need to watch them carefully and be prepared to swop snaffles to see and horses change over time and bitting will often change .
You need to look in your horses mouth for instance if a horse has a big fat tongue it’s unlikely to appreciate a thick bit .
I like the ported bomber bits as well they are always worth trying .
 

windand rain

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I have been a horse owner for 50 years but it doesnt mean I cannot learn something new and research new ideas. I am of the old canvas rugs and oats and bran feeding era. I have moved on to researching what is best for the ponies not stuck in a nothing beats the old ways. I am a bit like ester in that I am a curious scientist so like learning. I would have thought that making sure your horses head, neck and mouth are comfortable is as important as making sure the saddle fits after all 50 years ago no one dreamt of using a saddle fitter or have a horses teeth and back checked unless there was a veterinary problem.
 

Tarragon

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I hope that this isn't hijacking this post too much but I would like to know if any of you do any any exercises with the bit in place once the correct bit has been chosen and the youngster has accepted having a bit in their mouth? I am interested in any exercises that are a precursor to backing that would help the horse later when ridden.
 

Goldenstar

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I don’t take on horses that young any more but when I did we would sometimes feed them in bits just a small amount of something nice .
We would use the reins gently and reward the horse when it yielded generally we just gently worked on to ensure the horse was unworried by the bit .
 

ihatework

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Over the years I have decided that the theory of bitting generally goes out of the window as soon as you stick the bit in the horses gob. The horse generally tells you what it does and doesn’t like. I have a huge bit box of a variety of snaffles - some old fashioned, some new fangled. They all have their place.

For the initial first bitting, I don’t think it actually matters too much to be honest as you are literally just getting the horse used to the bit in its mouth and not exerting pressure. So single/double joint, loose ring/eggbut/cheeks have minimal impact. My preference is a simple jointed happy mouth but that’s only personal.

Moving onto the initial work with a bit my preference is a D ring lozenge of medium thickness - hedging my bets!
I like them to have a bit more stability and direction than a loose ring offers but try to avoid full cheeks early on just to minimise the chance of the prongs catching on stuff while the horse figures things out, only takes a momentary lapse in concentration from the handler.
 

Tarragon

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Would you say that getting the horse to salivate more and to encourage them to "hold" the bit in their mouth (badly worded I know but I am hoping you know what i mean!) is more about the choice of bit or can it be encouraged with some exercises?
 

ihatework

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Would you say that getting the horse to salivate more and to encourage them to "hold" the bit in their mouth (badly worded I know but I am hoping you know what i mean!) is more about the choice of bit or can it be encouraged with some exercises?
My gut feel is that in general, the correct acceptance of the bit and contact is probably 70-80% riding/training and 20-30% bit.

There will always be notable exceptions when the actual bit plays a far more significant role but I do think there is a tendency to use bits as an excuse for inadequate training.
 

Tarragon

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Thanks IHW :)
I agree with you. That is why I was wondering if there is any training that can be done in hand to help this correct acceptance.
Though in my case, I want to try these exercises on my 14 year old pony to help in his ridden work! I backed him myself when he was 4 and took "happy to have a bit in his mouth" as "bitted" and probably missed out a whole load of basic training that I am trying to rectify retrospectively...
 

windand rain

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Gentleness is the key yanking a bit about or using one to punish a forward horse are my pet hates. Often seen in showing colts, as two year olds they have to be bitted and the number of handlers you see yanking on and pulling about their heads is tragic especially as many just go straight to curbed stallion bits
 

Hexx

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I've just started bitting my youngster - he is three next month.

He's in an eggbutt snaffle with copper lozenge. I just pop it in while I am doing jobs round the stable - he has a chomp for a bit then settles and that's when I take it out.

He's not being backed this year as he is a late foal and is going to be big, so I would prefer to take it slowly and get him long-reining this year, then sat on next year when he is 4.

He's had a roller on for about 5 minutes and wasn't bothered by it at all.
 

Dollbird

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Just incase it helps anyone. I always smeared a bit of honey on the bit when first introducing. Stopped my youngster,who when I first got him, tried to evade by lifting his head, to happily opening mouth and taking without any probs.
 

canteron

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I hope that this isn't hijacking this post too much but I would like to know if any of you do any any exercises with the bit in place once the correct bit has been chosen and the youngster has accepted having a bit in their mouth? I am interested in any exercises that are a precursor to backing that would help the horse later when ridden.
Yes I agree - this seems sensible but the information is quite hard to come by. I once saw a Linda Parelli video clip that was quite useful at this - but now I need it cant find it - and also one of the classical masters (can’t remember his name) demonstrate - if I ever find them I will pm them to you!
 

Tihama

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My gut feel is that in general, the correct acceptance of the bit and contact is probably 70-80% riding/training and 20-30% bit.

There will always be notable exceptions when the actual bit plays a far more significant role but I do think there is a tendency to use bits as an excuse for inadequate training.

With a horse like mine - large tongue & small mouth the choice of bit makes a very significant difference to how she accepts the contact - I suspect there are many others the same.
 
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