By Lucy Nicholas of www.thesaddleryshop.co.uk
The concepts of harmonious bitting are the same whatever the horse’s discipline, however it is natural that the faster the horse goes and the quicker the reactions required of him are, the more targeted the bit may need to be.
Before we look at what you may need to consider when bitting the showjumping horse, let’s consider some bitting basics –
The bit is simply an aid that passes on requests from the rider to the horse regarding speed and direction. The mouthpiece of a bit is selected to suit a horse’s requirements – what fits their mouth conformation, and what they are comfortable and happy in – and the bit rings, or cheek pieces, help the rider communicate their requirements to the horse. Finding the right bit for your horse should be a blend of seeking obedience through correct schooling, tempered with the rider’s understanding of the horse’s welfare.
Now let’s look at some trouble-shooting points first, e.g. working out if your bit needs updating-
• It obviously hangs too low / bridle cheek pieces are loose.
• It creates too many lip wrinkles / bridle check pieces appear tight.
• The horse chews or mouths the bit uncomfortably.
• The horse carries his head to one side, or raises his head.
• The tongue is ‘squashed’.
• The horse evades bridle fitting.
• The horse evades the contact when ridden / behaviour changes.
• You see obvious physical issues, like rubs or sore sections.
Bits for jumping
Whatever your discipline, you should always choose the ‘kindest’ bit that meets your needs and your level of riding experience. You may see some riders jumping in more complex bits than a standard snaffle – this is often to help them give more accurate commands at speed – but as generally a bit is only as strong as the hands holding it, these should only be used by riders with a steady, elastic contact.
Here are some of our best-sellers for show jumping:
The Ringed Continental is very popular with adult jumping riders and is generally available with three or four cheek rings;
it is often referred to as the Continental or Dutch Gag.
It is available in most of the commonly seen mouthpieces, in several materials.
The bit pictured here (left) is the Waterford. Continental bits like this aim to emulate the effect of draw reins in the ring.
They help to keep the horse between hand and leg.
Pelhams are also popular bits for jumping riders.
They feature elements of both a curb and a snaffle, and are available with various mouthpiece styles.
The bit pictured left is a Flexible Rubber Pelham.
Kimblewicks (pictued below left, in a jointed style) are similar to Pelhams in their action with the use of a curb chain, but milder, due to the lack of shank, so they do not have the leverage of a Pelham. However they can help to keep the horse’s head up, eg. to avoid leaning, and are popular with pony showjumpers.
Common showjumping evasions
- Head shaking. When pressure is applied to a horse with a sensitive tongue, its response may be to shake the head, or poke the tongue.
- Raising head. The horse may lift the head if he objects to tongue pressure.
- Leaning down on the bit. Continuous pressure may lead some horses to lean their head down or ‘yank’ the reins.
Dental checks by an equine dental technician or vet are recommended at least once a year.