Horse-Riding Dressage Equipment: Bits

Bits serve the primary purpose of allowing the horse to feel the termination point of his kinetic energy, which develops from the haunches and transmits through longitudinal flexion toward the bit. The horse should only feel the combined weight of the bit and the reins. The rider’s seat influences are transmitted to the bit by the unity of his torso with his upper arms and elbows. The rider should only hold the reins and not his horse. The horse must seek a gentle contact with the bit because through it, he can sense his rider’s thoughts. The rider does not “take the contact,” the horse does. The rider’s intentions are transmitted from the seat to the bridle only when the reins are held lightly. When the horse flexes toward the bit correctly, he changes the position of his neck and hangs his head loosely from his poll. This physical position, when coupled with mental relaxation, and pleasure, produces saliva by activating the digestive salivary glands at the base of the horse’s tongue. Thus, horses have a wet mouth when they contact the bit correctly.

The most gentle and therefore the most appropriate bit is a simple jointed snaffle. It should be correctly measured to fit the horse’s mouth and should not hang out of its corners too far. It should be as thick as the horse’s mouth structure will allow. The slimmer the metal of the bit, the stronger its effect. Outfitting the horse with a gentle bit requires the thickest possible mouthpiece. A bit with only one joint in the center is recommended.

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