Talk to me about bits

Sprat

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I have a mare with a typical warmblood mouth, quite small with a large tongue and low palate. Over the years I've had a couple of bit fit type people out as I've never found quite the right bits, with some success but not completely right. We've been through a raft of them, which have mostly been ok but none that completely wow.

I'd like something that encourages the contact to be taken forward and down, with as little resistance as possible. In terms of training she is working elementary nicely, and has always been a little fussy in the contact. I tend to find she is happier to sit on the contact / brace against it rather than sit behind it. I know contact improvement is on going with training, but I feel like there should be something out there she could be a bit happier in whilst we work on training.

In terms of other health stuff, she has regular physio treatments as necessary, regular saddle fits, teeth checks etc. Nothing screams to me that there is a physical problem. Currently in a NS turtle top, she seems to prefer the warmer metals. It's a minefield even attempting to get my head around how many different bits are out there, so I'd appreciate any recommendations on what to try.
 

iknowmyvalue

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Is it worth talking to one of the bitting consultants at the horse bit shop or somewhere? Or one of the bit manufacturers? (If you haven’t already!) they normally have some good ideas about what to try, and that way you could get a few on trial to compare.

I’ve got my boy (IDx with similar mouth conformation) in a bombers happy tongue, which he seems to like, it’s nothing fancy basically just a ported loose ring snaffle. I think their happy tongue models are supposed to suit horses with fleshy mouths, and think they do a “lock up” jointed bit which looks to have a similar action to the turtle tops.
 

Sprat

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Yes I could do, but having used 2 previously and not getting the ‘perfect’ bit I was looking for real life recommendations 😊
 

be positive

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On a side note, has anyone experienced horses going off certain bits as their training develops?
I am not sure I would say it is 'going off' a bit but as their training progresses they often need a change of bit as their self carriage starts to become better established, sometimes it can be just a different bit ring, going from loose to fixed can make a huge difference to some.

Your trainer who sees what is happening should be the best placed person to advise, you say she is happy to 'sit on the contact/ brace against it rather than drop behind so it may be a slight change is required to what you are doing on top, I far prefer to work with one that takes/ holds or braces than something that drops the contact so it may be you are wanting something the horse is not quite ready for or that a few sessions targeted at this issue trying different bits could help.
 

Littlebear

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TBH the NS turtle top is a great bit for the shape mouth you describe, i had one in with a similar conformation mouth. I played around with bits for a while but ended up moving to a drop noseband which made all the difference rather than the bit x
 

LEC

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I honestly think we make it really complicated with biting. I am just not convinced there is a magic bit out there. I get a fitter out to check I have the right type of bit for the horse so it will be comfortable and then don't tend to worry about it unless an obvious problem as the contact is something which develops anyway over time. I basically have 3 bits and everything goes in it. The nose bands change more than the bit. Most horses I sit on for other people just are not great in the contact and that's down to the rider. Piggy French's latest video is pretty amusing as has hardly any bits in her tool box and she will ride more than most of us. Same with Michi Jung. If the horse is pretty happy and not showing issues I would stick with it and see if it gets better with training.
 

RachelFerd

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I honestly think we make it really complicated with biting. I am just not convinced there is a magic bit out there. I get a fitter out to check I have the right type of bit for the horse so it will be comfortable and then don't tend to worry about it unless an obvious problem as the contact is something which develops anyway over time. I basically have 3 bits and everything goes in it. The nose bands change more than the bit. Most horses I sit on for other people just are not great in the contact and that's down to the rider. Piggy French's latest video is pretty amusing as has hardly any bits in her tool box and she will ride more than most of us. Same with Michi Jung. If the horse is pretty happy and not showing issues I would stick with it and see if it gets better with training.
I thought this was fascinating, watching Piggy's video. Just goes to show you can apply all of the science and logic you like - but sometimes what works, is just what works. Glad I watched it fractionally before I was just about to spend £150 on a bit for a very green 4yo... will get further down the line before I start throwing money at solutions which aren't simply training and riding better!
 

Sprat

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Really valid points above, and interestingly I was having a similar discussion with a fellow livery and my physio the other day. When I was younger, everything either went in a snaffle, or a pelham, and you learnt to school the horse correctly to accept whichever bit it had in it. Reckon I'll give my head a bit of a wobble and work on actually fixing the issue (which granted, isn't massive) rather than chuck stacks of money at many and varying different bits and of over complicating things!
 

LEC

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I thought this was fascinating, watching Piggy's video. Just goes to show you can apply all of the science and logic you like - but sometimes what works, is just what works. Glad I watched it fractionally before I was just about to spend £150 on a bit for a very green 4yo... will get further down the line before I start throwing money at solutions which aren't simply training and riding better!
I think some of it is individual preferences as well. I don't like loose ring snaffles or hanging cheeks. The 6yo I have is very inconsistent in the contact but its coming. It would be very easy to say oh she doesn't like the bit but actually a lot of it is she has a massive hind leg, is slightly unbalanced still and I want her to take more contact forwards so have upped my expectations about how much weight I want in the hand and where I want her neck. She is one where for nearly 2 years she has had very little contact as totally backwards and not off the leg or changing shape so had to stop, so its inevitable it was going to be a change when I wanted more.
 

Breagha

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My husbands ID has got a loose ring happy mouth bomber bit and it is the only bit he has "settled" in.

My horse, however, is happiest in a pelham. I use two reins but tend to leave the curb rein alone. I bought a hanging cheek in the same mouth piece but she isn't as settled but we are working with it.
 

milliepops

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I am not sure I would say it is 'going off' a bit but as their training progresses they often need a change of bit as their self carriage starts to become better established, sometimes it can be just a different bit ring, going from loose to fixed can make a huge difference to some.

Your trainer who sees what is happening should be the best placed person to advise, you say she is happy to 'sit on the contact/ brace against it rather than drop behind so it may be a slight change is required to what you are doing on top, I far prefer to work with one that takes/ holds or braces than something that drops the contact so it may be you are wanting something the horse is not quite ready for or that a few sessions targeted at this issue trying different bits could help.
this sums it up for me.
I think there are some that benefit from faffing to find the right shape but often the biggest change comes from what the rider teaches the horse.

I do think they can change with training and also fitness, my welsh is currently really light in the contact in her snaffle whereas normally she takes a really firm hold, she's been off for a few months and the change in the contact is the biggest change I've noticed. I ride her in a double normally in order to have enough influence but had avoided using it for now to make sure I don't get carried away before she's fit.

she's always been a bit of a yawpy horse that goes against the hand and bitting really makes little difference to that, i experimented with the contents of my bit box a few years ago and settled back on the simple stainless combination that we started with. it's very much about basic submission with her!
 

Sprat

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she's always been a bit of a yawpy horse that goes against the hand
Yes this is how I would describe Bean. It's frustrating as she can go incredibly sweetly and be wonderful in the hand, but it is interspersed with yawpy grabbing on the less than good days. We need a bit more consistency in getting the contact right more regularly, but this is all part of training so we shall trundle on.

My instructor hopped on her a long time ago and got her very sweet in the contact, so I know it can be done - sack the jockey!
 

milliepops

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when covid allows maybe it would help to do that again, trainer could hop on and set her up and then you could take over? sometimes you just need a really good feel in your mind so you know what you are aiming for next ride.

Kira got very upset with me when I changed the contact-goalposts again last year, she was going along quite nicely but needed to give only about 1/4 inch more to REALLY be soft enough for the advanced work. She happily goes with poll at the highest point, nose slightly IFV, positive in the hand but because of her crest she really has to appear a touch poll low to really be through, and I need her to be softer in the hand otherwise she yawps me off my seat when the work is difficult.

we did get there but it was against her religion for a fair while. I had a last gasp faff with her bits then as FEI had banned french link and that's what she's in, but it made no difference whatsoever, the problem is in her head, not in her mouth!
 

Sprat

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You could be writing about Bean (albeit at a lower level), I get pulled out of my seat when she finds the work difficult, and the contact becomes really grotty and brittle. I very much have to let her think that the contact I want is her idea or we just get into a battle. I would love for us to move up to medium before the end of the year, and I need the suppleness and submission in the contact to be able to do so. Especially as we get a bit of stage fright when out at parties and the quality of the contact decreases by about 30%.

Good call on instructor hopping on, though I do need the tools in my box to be able to reach the right outcome myself I do think it's worthwhile having a pro hop on every now and then, I'm quite a visual learner so I'm sure I'd see the benefit in watching from the ground.
 

milliepops

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You could be writing about Bean (albeit at a lower level), I get pulled out of my seat when she finds the work difficult, and the contact becomes really grotty and brittle. I very much have to let her think that the contact I want is her idea or we just get into a battle. I would love for us to move up to medium before the end of the year, and I need the suppleness and submission in the contact to be able to do so. Especially as we get a bit of stage fright when out at parties and the quality of the contact decreases by about 30%.

Good call on instructor hopping on, though I do need the tools in my box to be able to reach the right outcome myself I do think it's worthwhile having a pro hop on every now and then, I'm quite a visual learner so I'm sure I'd see the benefit in watching from the ground.
yeah even if it's just to get some visual cues i think it can be helpful - my trainer really helped me with that, as described above, i need to not be able to really see Kira's headpiece from on board because when she is round enough then it disappears behind her mane, from the POV of the rider. if the poll is the highest point then because of the shape of her neck she's still a little hollow. being able to see that for myself really helped because otherwise I'd have felt she was overbent.
 
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