Five simple steps to find the ideal bit for your horse
The perfect bit: is it out there? Where is it hiding? No matter your level, you want to find an appropriate bit for your horse that both maximizes the quality of his performance and permits you to have enough control to train and compete safely.
Follow these steps in your bit search:
1) Know what your end goal is. An appropriate bit will encourage the horse to connect to both reins evenly. It will also provide the rider with enough influence to turn and slow down in a safe manner. If you have a particular problem that you want your bitting choice to help address (for instance, a lack of control while jumping), add that information to your criteria.
2) Know your horse. Not all horses are created equal. A rubber snaffle on one thoroughbred might not work at all on another thoroughbred. Discuss with your trainer the issues your horse faces. If he evades the connection by sucking back, it will not be wise to use a bit with leverage. If he becomes strong and unresponsive on cross country, perhaps a twisted mouthpiece or different action will work.
3) Try it out! See how your horse reacts to different bits you try. Does he connect better in this one? Does he respect the half-halt more in that one? Is he easier to turn in that one? It is also important to try the bit out in the environment in which you plan to use it. If your horse becomes especially excited on cross country at a show, you’ll probably have to try out the new bit in competition to procure information about its efficacy. Use a process of elimination to narrow down to the best fit.
4) Be open to new ideas when it stops working. As your horse changes, the once ideal bit may prove ineffective. It might be a couple of months before the bit stops working; it might be a couple of years. He might get fitter and stronger throughout the season, and by his fall three-day, the plain snaffle that was once sufficient will not be enough. Just as your horse changes, as your riding improves, you may be able to ride with a different setup. If you develop tactful and independent hands, you might be able to try a stronger bit that before you would have misused.
5) A bit won’t fix everything. Good training is good training, and good riding is good riding. A stronger bit might give you more reliable brakes across the country, but it won’t make you ride any better. The bit is only one piece of the larger training puzzle.