By Lucy Nicholas
Pegasus readers will know that mouth conformation is now correctly identified as one of the main factors influencing the suitability of a bit to our horses. The Irish Draught and Irish Crossbreeds (pictured below) and the Dutch Warmblood are for example renowned for having a particularly large tongue, and this can result in the bit being nearer the palate in ridden work, which is an important factor to consider when choosing a bit for your horse. In order to deduce whether your horses has ‘large tongue’ mouth confirmation he should be assessed when relaxed, and with his mouth shut. Gently part the lips at the side and observe if the tongue is bulging through the teeth. If it is, this indicates that the tongue is large, although your vet or equine dental technician can offer specific advice. A horse with a large tongue is going to experience increased pressure with certain bits, especially with traditional single jointed bits.
The single jointed snaffle has what is often known as a “nutcracker action”, and this bit works on the corners of the lips and bars of the mouth. Horses with a large tongue may object to this nutcracker action, and may display this by lifting their head higher when the rider takes a contact. Mullen mouthpieces also are rarely ideal for the large tongued horses. The mullen style bits function by exerting pressure on the bars of the mouth and lips, and if the horse has a large tongue, this increases the tongue pressure, and can be uncomfortable.
So if we know what NOT to use, what is the solution?
The use of two joints means the pressure of the bit is distributed over both the tongue and bars of the mouth and shouldn’t cause any interference with the roof of the mouth. Also, the more joints a bit has, the less likely the horse is to lean, as the bit becomes more mobile!
For small ponies, the ‘Magic Bit’ can work well; it is a thin, gently ported mouthpiece that is unobtrusive in a little mouth. It is an ‘unvarying’ mouthpiece, which means the pressure on the mouth doesn’t change very much. The port in this bit removes some pressure from the horse’s tongue and redistributes it.