Reporting from Denmark, AQHA international intern Katy Krshka shares facts about horse bits and their function.
By Katy Krshka, AQHA international intern, Summer 2015
While in Denmark for the AQHA international horsemanship camp, Dr. Holly Spooner, horse science professor at Middle Tennessee State University, gave a short talk about bits and their functions. A few different points were discussed, and everyone walked away with a little piece of information that could be useful to them in the future.
To preface the lecture, Dr. Spooner asked the participants two fairly simple questions. The first, “What is the purpose of a bit?” The most basic answer is communication. A bit works via pressure and is simply a means of communication between the horse and rider.
The second question was, “What is the No. 1 thing that affects how severe a bit is?” Although this might seem like a no-brainer for some individuals, people often have a misunderstanding with this concept. The answer: the person using the bit. No matter what bit you may be using with your horse, it is the rider who contributes to the severity of the bit. Of course, there are going to be bits that have a higher port, longer shank, etc., but it is the individual using it who decides how that bit is going to be used. For example, an inexperienced rider is going to have much different hands and therefore a different feel to a horse than an experienced rider with the same horse and bit.
To follow that, one must remember when selecting the correct bit for your horse, there are multiple factors that go into the process. Two of the most important elements are the horse’s level of training and the rider’s experience level. Nevertheless, knowing where a bit distributes pressure on a horse’s mouth and how it functions is essential for determining what bit is appropriate for you and your horse.
In this lecture, Dr. Spooner first differentiates bits into two main categories: snaffle bits and curbed bits. The difference in the two is the type of pressure they create: direct vs. indirect pressure. In a snaffle bit, both reins and headstall are on the same ring causing direct pressure to the horse’s mouth. With a curbed bit, the reins and headstall will be attached at two different fixed locations, creating leverage and an indirect pressure to the horse’s mouth. There are three main pressure points the snaffle bit can create, and seven different pressure points a curbed bit can create. Read the rest of this entry »