Bits and Bridles, by Jackie Brittain


(Bits and Bridles)

Tips on Bits & Bridals by Jackie BrittainBits are truly an art form and can be traced throughout the history of mankind and the taming of the horse.  The shapes and purposes of the bit reflect the intended use for the horse for the battlefield, farming and transportation.

Many books have been published depicting the forging of bits through the centuries.  Interesting shapes and designs often seemed barbaric at times but had specific purposes to control many sometimes wild horses in situations that were very critical to a man’s survival in war.  Thankfully man has progressed to designing bits according to the anatomy of the mouth of the horse for comfort and effectiveness.

Modern day horse bits and bridalsModern metals have completely transformed bits for horses.  Plastics, rubber, German Silver, Aurigan a nickel free alloy, Sweet Iron, copper, just to name a few.  I think one of my personal favorites is the Sweet Iron.  It is  not shiny and is rather dark and dull looking metal but it is not reactive and the horses really like bits made of this metal that is often inlaid with copper.  Most of the new metals used today are nonreactive to a horse’s saliva and are quite pleasant to the taste and warm quickly.

Modern bit designs take into account the tongue and edges of the mouth.  Bits now are rotated 45 degrees forward to lay more comfortably in the mouth and the outsides are designed not to pinch the corners of the mouth at the attachment of the ring of the bit.  Also bits come in different widths in millimeters and therefore fit the size of the mouth.

Selecting the right bit and bridleI enjoy learning about all types of bits through the reading and studying of tack catalogs.  There are so many choices for each discipline designed to encourage most horses to chew and salivate, leading to a soft mouth and acceptance of the bit.

Once you have selected the correct bit for your horse, it is time to select a bridle with the correct fit for your horse’s head size.

Leather bridles should have good construction, quality leather and stitching for longevity.  Make sure all parts fit your horse’s head size.  Often the brow bands are too small and it can be very uncomfortable and pinch the ears and puts pressure on the poll.  It is all about size, fit and comfort for each individual horse.

We are fortunate to have a great selection of bits and bridles available to us that have the horses comfort in mind.  In my collection of “keep sake” bits in my tack trunk, I am amazed at the progress in design and yet the “art” of bits still fascinates me.  I would encourage everyone to look into the history of bits.

I would like to suggest a couple of books.  One of my favorite books is “Bit By Bit” by Diana R. Tuke.  She goes into great depth of the history  of manufacturing, purposing and fitting.  Amazon carries this book and another called “The Ultimate Book of Horse Bits” by Emily Esterson.

Another source for the study of bits can be your tack catalogs.  For example “Dover Saddlery” has a large selection of bits for English riding.

Keep in mind that a properly fitted Bit and Bridle can make a tremendous difference in your horses comfort and responsiveness.

Jackie Brittain
Merriewold Morgans Trainer