Shut your mouth! How bit thickness impacts performance.

"My horse is very sensitive so I bought the softest bit I could, its a really thick hollow snaffle - but my horse is still not accepting the contact. Can you help?"

YES! A very common mistake people make when bitting their horse is to purchase the thickest (sometimes its up to 20mm-25mm thick!) and also lightest hollow or thick rubber snaffle they can find. Somewhere along the line they have been taught that thicker bits = kinder bits, as it spreads the bit pressure over a greater surface area - it must be kind right? Wrong. 

Put your finger in your horses mouth between the top and bottom jaw over the top of the tongue and you'll quickly realise that they don't have a lot of room between the top and bottom jaw to accommodate a big thick bit. 

Horses are also considered 'obligate nasal breathers' - their physical anatomy means they cannot breathe orally. The epiglottis sits above the soft palate while the animal is not swallowing, which forms a seal. A thick bit affects the action of swallowing and nasal breathing and often causes a horse to suck its tongue back in an attempt to make the airtight seal leading to:

  • Tension in the jaw and neck
  • Displacement of the soft palate
  • Tongue over the bit
  • Horse can get seemingly 'hot' or 'panicked' unexpectedly

So this lovely thick bit spreads pressure over a larger surface area but the horse cant close his mouth comfortably around it leading to:

  • Fussing with the bit
  • Inconsistency in the contact 
  • Non-acceptance of the bit
  • Grinding the bit
  • Opening the mouth
  • Breathing inconsistencies

As a general rule the thickest bit that an average horse can accommodate within their interdental space is 16mm in diameter, this is measured at the thickest point of the inner mouthpiece closest to the ring/cheekpiece.

There are bits that have been anatomically designed to take up minimal room in the mouth without being sharp or too thin as to cause discomfort to the lips. 

1. Neue Schule Turtle Tactio

The Tactio is 16mm diameter at the lip edge but flattens out significantly through the centre of the bit to take up minimal room between tongue and palate but still maintain a 16mm weight bearing surface on the horses tongue.

2. Myler MB02 Comfort Snaffle

An ergonomically curved, gentle training snaffle that sits at around 12mm thick, great for finer galloway or hack types with small narrow jaws. The barrel join sits very still and flat on the tongue so the pressure is spread over a wider area than a lozenge. 

3. Sprenger Dynamic RS Eggbutt 

The 40414 Dynamic Eggbutt is a generous 14mm thick an excellent alternative to a big fat thick snaffle, its ergonomic shape and flatter wider lozenge has plenty of surface area without the bulk and lays in the mouth beautifully leading to a soft, consistent contact.

As always, we would LOVE to help you with your horses bitting comfort, please contact us anytime! 

Charmae Bell

Bitting Specialist

Bit Bank Australia