Bit-Buying Tips

Keep these tips in mind when shopping for your next bit.

Keep these tips in mind when shopping for your next bit.

From The American Quarter Horse Journal

bit in horses mouth
Choose a bit that will not pinch your horse's mouth. Journal photo.

Buying a bit for your horse can be intimidating. There are thousands of styles and brands out there to choose from. To help you narrow down your choice, Tom Balding, Billy Klapper and Greg Darnall offer this advice:

  • Choose a branded bit. The brand gives a guarantee of the product, and if there is a problem with the bit, you have someone to go back to.
  • Run your hands over the bit to give yourself an idea of what it will feel like in the horse’s mouth and to ensure that there are no sharp points or rough edges that could injure the horse.
  • Make sure the bit’s joints move smoothly and freely but are not overly loose. You want close-fitting, nonpinching joints.
  • Check the symmetry of the bit and make sure that one side is not heavier or lighter than the other side.

From saddles and hackamores to grooming techniques and proper trailering, there are numerous ways to enhance your American Quarter Horse experience. So, how do you know what is right for you and your American Quarter Horse? AQHA’s “Tack Talk” DVD can answer your questions about the tack you need for you horse.

Here are a few things to avoid in a bit:

  • Poorly shaped mouthpieces
  • Uneven size and shape of mouthpieces
  • Oversized joints in the shank and mouthpiece
  • Uneven size and shape of shanks
  • Off-centered ports
  • O-rings that are not round
  • Bent or uneven shanks
  • Straight pieces that are not straight
  • Sharp points and rough areas
  • Places that will pinch
  • Cheek pieces too high or low
  • Poor quality metals
  • Improper angles
  • Irregular or discolored metals
  • Unbalanced symmetry
  • Cracks in joints or other metal weaknesses
  • Overly loose joints

Dennis Moreland has been creating and demonstrating tack for more than 30 years, and he shares his vast experience with you on one informative DVD, “Tack Talk,” available exclusively through Quarter Horse Outfitters.

11 thoughts on “Bit-Buying Tips”

  1. This has been confusing to me.. I have a QH that will not relax in a bit and will even throw her head at times.. When I bought her they were riding her in a snaffle.. The snaffle caused head throwing and I had very little control.. I switched her to a Myler with the snaffle feel, but a slight straight port. This wasn’t the worst but, still not the response I was hoping for. I had a trainer that told me to use a Tom Thumb, but even in that she is not happy.. She then suggested I put her in a bosal to get her to relax and that worked.. I want to start showing her in pleasure in the fall and now I don’t know where to go from here.. Do I try a port to relax her at the poll?? PS Just to clarify I have very light hands…

  2. I have the same problem with one of my geldings. He continuously messes with the bit in his mouth while I ride him and cannot get him to pay attention to me. I have tried different bits and none are working. I do not know what else to do. His teeth are done, & ears checked for mites. Any other suggestions?

  3. I also have a similar problem. I have a 3 year old gelding – been using a basic big-ring snaffle. He chomps on the bit, always wanting to stop and rub his mouth on his front legs, or the pavement, or even other horses(!!) or their rider’s legs(!!) when we’re riding. He does not throw his head, and he’s really a good boy, but I don’t have much control when he does get the urge to stop and rub. This was his training bit – and I’ve never changed. He’s lost teeth and had new teeth grow in the last year. Is it time for a change? If so – to what? What are the suggested transition phases?

  4. I would tend to think that a horse that has time to rub the bit on things needs to be put to work. Barring any physical problem–teeth coming in—they do get Wolf teeth- this behavior is fairly common for a newly broke horse.
    Some horses will find things to “do” so you don’t make them work….

    Have an experienced horse person check the fit of the bit. Does it sit in the right spot? Is it wide enough that it doesn’t pinch?

    My young horses tend to play with the bit more.

  5. Use the bosal until the horse is working good. At lest a month or more. Then put on a headstall and bit, but no reins on the bit, just reins on the bosal. Use the reins on the bosal to work your horse and let him just carry the bit until he gets used to it. Then use two reins, one set on the bit and one on the bosal. Work the horse lightly on the bit, if he does not want to work off the bit use the bosal reins and your leg pressure to work him, then go back to the bit. Do this two rein work until he reponds well to the bit. It will be a slow process but it works.

  6. The advice from Rudy Avila is the best I have ever heard. I have an 11yo QH that sometimes has bit issues. I have tried several bits. Had a “trainer” tell me “This horse is too old to be using this bit. You need to use a stronger bit.” I didn’t listen because i didn’t think i should be changing to a stronger bit just b/cuz he’s 11. I started using a very light shanked snaffle and he is responding very well. I have printed this article for later reference. Thanks

  7. @ Lin in my case her teeth are floated annually, and she has no issues.. She is 10 so youth isn’t the problem either.. @ Rudy I love that idea and will try it.. Do you have any suggestions on the type of bit I should start with?? I do want to use her for Western Pleasure, and one other thing I did not mention, she will try to grab the shank in her mouth if she can reach it, while in a jog or canter..

  8. I have two horses different breeds, one AQH, and I changed them both to a Dr. Cook Bitless Bridle about 2 years ago. The non QH played with the bit constantly, making all kinds of noise. She now goes very quietly and round in the Dr. Cook. The AQH never had a bit problem but I just wanted to get the bit out but, he became amazingly soft and round and is even easier to train than before. I don’t know what the AQHA showing requirements are but, the Dr. Cook Bitless Bridle comes in a very nice looking western style made with American leathers, a friend of mine uses it on her QH. These three horses are 5, 6, and 10 years old, respectively. There is a Dr. Cook Bitless Bridle website where you can order them and they come really fast.

  9. Frances, you can use several bits. I use a snaffle bit first, then I go to a medium curb bit. I like the grazer style bits because I do trail riding and sometimes help roundup cattle and I can let my horses eat when there is a break in the ride. Try more than one bit and see what your horse is comfortable with, just make sure the fit is correct, as the article explains.

  10. OK – while I agree with Mr. Avila on trying to transition a horse from a bosel to a bit, there are just some horses that don’t like anything in their mouth other than food. You can watch the international jumping events and even see some of those horses doing the Stadium Jumping in bitless bridles. I made a suggestion to the AQHA last year for a rule change to allow the senior horses to show in a bosel because of this very reason. I have a gelding that was severely abused by a trainer with a correction bit (and have a mare coming home from the breeding shed this weekend that went to the same trainer – thus 2 years lost on her) that tolerates the bit for me because I ride with my legs and very seldom touch the bit, but he just LOVES his bosel. Even showing him as a JR horse the judges would come up to me and say they had not seen a horse in years that actually showed he was having a good time in the pen while enjoying his job. He still placed in top 5 of class. So, send in your suggestions to the next AQHA Rules convention (I believe they are accepting requests now) to change the rules. The rule change they came up with for me was to show SR horses in a bosel but one handed. And this would be fine because it keeps the bit out of the horses mouth and by that age they should be riding on the legs anyway.

  11. Bits come in different widths, if your horse has a wide mouth with a 5” bit they can be getting pinched every time you pick up on them. Measure the inside of your horses mouth and check out the myler website.

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