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Bits have been used for riding for centuries, but in recent years their design and complexity has increased dramatically.

Bits work on seven areas of communication
Bits for Horse Riding

1. The corners of the lips
2. The bars of the mouth
3. The roof of the mouth
4. The tongue
5. The poll
6. The nose
7. The curb or chin groove

Loose ring
This has much more movement than a fixed cheek or eggbutt, and can discourage the horse from fixing and leaning and encourages mouthing
This keeps everything stiller in the mouth – it can encourage horses to stretch into the contact
When you take a contact, it causes poll pressure and reduces pressure in the mouth – particularly useful for sensitive mouths as well as having a head lowering action.
Full cheek
This reinforces the turning aids and stops the bit sliding over the tongue and bars of the mouth – if you use bit keepers to fix the upper cheek of the bit, this stabilizes the bit and will cause some poll pressure.
When it comes to choosing a bit for your horse, make sure you know what you are buying
Materials used for bits in horse riding
Stainless steel
– a popular and common material for many bit manufacturers. It is cold to the touch which some horses don’t like.
– a softer and warmer metal. Can be used to encourage your horse to mouth and salivate.
 Sweet iron
– encourages the horse to salivate and accept the bit. As the metal oxidizes, it produces a sweet taste in the horse’s mouth which some horses like, making them more relaxed
– softer and more flexible than metal bits. Warmer to the touch and some people think they are a good choice for starting young horses. Make sure there is a metal chain running through the bit in case your horse chews through the rubber.
– a form of rubber that is hardened through heat. This material is thought to be milder than metal. They do tend to be quite thick mouthpieces so make sure your horse’s mouth is big enough to accommodate it.
– a mixture of copper, silicon and zinc, which, when oxidized, creates a taste horses love, encouraging them to chew and accept the bit.
– a copper alloy to encourage acceptance of the bit through warmth, sweetness and to promote mouthing and salivation.
– a patented plastic material which is very soft and pliable.
Diferent bits for horse riding
Your horse’s mouth conformation is important in finding the right bit for him.
By taking time to have a look at your horse’s mouth conformation, it can give you clues to which bit may suit him.
First, gently part your horse’s lips at the side and see if his tongue is bulging through his teeth. If it is, this indicates he has a large tongue. Heather believes big tongues are the most common form of mouth discomfort if they are not accommodated with the correct mouthpiece. The outer edges of the tongue are much more sensitive than the middle and these sensitive edges are going to be subjected to increased pressure with certain bits.
Check what room your horse has between his tongue and the roof of his mouth. Do this without a bit and then have another look when he has a bit in his mouth, at rest, and with a contact on the reins so you can see the areas of the mouth the bit puts pressure on.
 Mouth conformation varies according to breed
Thoroughbreds generally have ‘easy’ mouth conformation – the tongue tends to lie neatly on the floor of the mouth with plenty of room between the tongue and the roof. A thin tongue results in more bar pressure from the bit. Choosing a slightly thicker mouthpiece will give more weight-bearing surface and be kinder.
The Irish Draught cross and Dutch warm blood are renowned for having a large tongue – not much room for a bit.
Arabs and Connemaras also have little room for a bit – the tongue is not always large but the roof of the mouth is generally lower, even if they don’t have a particularly dished face.
Trakehners can prove tricky to bit, they tend to have very sensitive skin in their mouths and the shape of their heads means there is less room for the bit.
Shires and Clydesdales generally have very fleshy lips and careful bitting is needed to avoid pinching of this sensitive area.
We take a look at a selection of bits, including the Hilary Vernon range, Abbey bits, Neue Schule bits and Sprenger bits and give you all the info you need.
The Hilary Vernon bit range, Informed Designs, is made up of English bits designed and 
Hilary Vernon Horse riding bit
carefully constructed to complement the conformation of the horse’s mouth to improve comfort and communication
The range is inspired by the theory that a comfortable horse will be a more relaxed horse and therefore a less resistant horse. The range includes snaffles, pelhams, doubles, daleheads, Liverpools and butterflys. A variety of cheeks on these mouthpieces ensures you have a choice to ensure effective bitting for individual horses and ponies.
Abbey Bits are made in the UK and specialise in traditional and unusual bits. With more Abbey bit for horse ridingthan 200 different bit patterns in stock, Abbey are also able to capture and follow bit trends, supplying specialist bits in a wide variety of sizes. The vast range includes snaffles, gags, pelhams, double bridles, driving bits, and hackamores. Bits are available in various materials including copper, stainless steel, sweet iron, rubber and vulcanite. Abbey’s made-to-measure bits can easily be customised from existing parts for comfort and quality.
Nathe bits - These bits are made in Germany from a patented plastic material, and claim Nathe bits for horse ridingto offer a higher degree of comfort and control for all horses. The secret of their effectiveness and flexibility is a unique mouthpiece, protected by a worldwide patent. Each bit has a stainless steel safety wire running through the mouthpiece for total security. They encourage salivation and are kind to the tongue, so are ideal for training young horses.
Neue Schule Bits - Most Neue Schule bits are made from Salox. They produce a range of Neue Schule bit for horse ridinginnovative dressage and competition bits all designed with the shape of the horse’s mouth in mind and the use of their Tranz lozenge for comfort and communication gives even pressure over the tongue and away from the outer edges where the horse is more sensitive.

Myler Bits - Designed by the Myler brothers, this range of bits claims to create a kinder, Myler bits for horse ridingmore of effective way of communication with your horse. The bits have a forward-curve shape. This gives the horse more tongue room to allow for swallowing. The bits have a no-pinch action and each side moves independently to make your aids clearer.
Some of the bits come with slots in the cheeks. The top slots work in a similar way to a full cheek bit with keepers holding the mouthpiece off the tongue and steady – until the rider uses the reins. The bit returns to its original position once the rein aid is relaxed making the reward much clearer to your horse. Using the slots also gives some poll pressure encouraging your horse to flex from the withers.
The range of Myler bits is split into three levels depending on your horse’s level of training. Level one is designed for young horses at the beginning of their training. Level two is for horses with a basic training and level three is designed for more finished horses.
Sprenger Bits - These bits are made from Aurigan - an alloy of copper, silicon, and zinc - Sprenger bits for horse ridingspecially developed for using in horses' mouths. The manufacturers claim that using Aurigan helps your horse become more attentive and relaxed, improving the connection between horse and rider. The range of Sprenger KK bits were developed with the conformation of the horse’s mouth in mind. Research found the volume of the inside of the mouth was less than previously thought, leaving much less room for the bit. Sprenger used this information to develop their KK range of bits.