The Perfect Driving Bit
Since I am a moderator for the Beginning Carriage Driving Facebook page, I see a lot of questions that new and potential drivers ask of other drivers on the internet. One of those such questions is, “What bit should I use for my horse?” Less experienced drivers may come back and answer that question very quickly citing whatever bit they happen to be using with their horse. Unfortunately, that isn’t very helpful. If there was such a thing as the perfect driving bit that worked for every horse and every driver, there wouldn’t be so many different types and styles of bits available! There is no “perfect bit” or one that satisfies the answer of “it works for me and my horse, and therefore it will work for you”. Bits are like shoes and taste buds. One horse may like a specific bit because of how it fits, his level of training, and his preference. Others may hate it.
When I answer the question about a particular bit, I ask many more questions in return before I ever recommend a bit for a horse and driver. I call these “The Twenty Questions”. There may not actually be 20 questions, but you get the idea. The responses I get to the 20 questions help determine which bit I may recommend for a particular horse and driver. Here are some examples:
- How old is the horse?
- What breed is he?
- What size mouth does he have (and has his mouth been measured?)
- What other bits have you tried?
- How much experience does the driver have?
- What are your goals for the horse?
- And more…
Bits also need to be paired with the horse's and driver's level of training. The bit your neighbor uses for his old Haflinger may not be a great bit for your young Morgan. The bit your trainer uses for your young Morgan may not be a great bit for you to use on the same horse. A good trainer may be able to use what some would consider a harsh bit, and get a completely fantastic, comfortable performance. Your trainer’s hands may have much more “education” than your inexperienced hands!
If someone is looking to solve a supposed bitting problem, there are additional questions I ask such as:
- Has his mouth been looked at by a vet and/or equine dentist?
- What type of vehicle are you using?
- Are you having issues at home, at an event, or both?
- And more...
You may not actually have a bitting issue at all. You might have a vehicle or harness fit issue that is causing your horse to raise or throw his head. You might have a training issue or the lack of training that just needs time and miles. You might have a lack of experience issue that is causing the horse to manifest anxiety in his mouth. The current bit might just need adjusting in the horse's mouth. You might actually have a “driver error” issue that is causing the problem that no bit is going to solve as long as that driver is holding the reins.
The point of this article is to help you understand that there are many parameters to consider before just randomly selecting a bit to use. Another point is to also have you consider who is answering a question you ask on the internet. Those people who have had lots of experience with many different horses and different bits need to be given much more credence than someone who has driven one horse with one bit. Of course, that should go for anything equine related. Take the advice from someone who is very experienced vs. a self-declared “keyboard expert”. Consider the advice from someone who has actually admitted to changing their mind a few times over the years as they learned more. Be cautious of someone who seems to "know everything" right from the start with very little experience to back it up.
Ask who the actual experts are on a forum or social media group, and what their credentials are. When a number of people agree with a specific person, and reinforce that what that person has to say is more credible, that is a pretty good indicator that they probably know what they are talking about. That also being said, there are a whole lot of actual experts who don’t have the time or the desire to be answering a bunch of questions on the internet. Some of the best drivers and trainers I know like to avoid computers and forums like the plague! They are out driving their horses! The answer to your questions may actually lie with someone who isn’t even on the web, and that person’s advice may be tied with a business or service that you may have to pay for. Free advice on the internet may not actually be the best advice.
So what is the Perfect Driving Bit? There isn’t one. This is why the bit you love may not work for your friend’s horse. There are bits for certain horse mouth sizes, mouth styles, training levels of horses, and driver experience levels, but there is no One Size/Style Fits All when it comes to bitting a driving horse. The right questions need to be asked, and the answers need to be considered appropriately to find that perfect bit.
Contact us to get good, appropriate suggestions for you and your horse.
Myrna Rhinehart has been extremely interested in bitting horses correctly since she was a young 4-Her and learned that her first horse was broke in a very severe bit. As a result, she has done quite a bit of research about horses' mouths, and observing how horses behave and perform in certain bits. She continues to learn from other top professionals in the industry. She has also been asked to give bitting presentations to a number of carriage driving groups and national organizations.
- Myrna Rhinehart