Friday, July 6, 2012

Bits and Bitting Part 2- Anatomy

What about bits? 

This is something that has always bothered me.  We worry about, discuss, and research; feeding, saddle fit, and hoof care and yet we are more than happy to shove any random piece of metal in our horse's mouth and ride around. 

Why are we willing to take someone else's word and recommendation without any understanding of what we are actually putting in our horses mouths?   It's time we start talking about bits, and the discussion starts right now.  

Egg Butt Snaffle- immobilizing tougue, clamping nutcracker effect on bars, mouth open in resistance 

Loose ring snaffle- pushing through soft pallet, nutcracker effect on bars

I did not just wake up one day and decide that I wanted to know everything possible about bits.  My father's lovely mare was the true inspiration and the beginning of my journey because no matter what bit you put her in mouth she would fuss/fiddle with it constantly. Which after trying every bit we in the barn lead my Mom and I to start looking for a solution, and what we found was a wealth of information and as a result some very happy horses. 

In order to begin to understand bits we must first understand a little basic anatomy. 

Artwork by Cathy Sullins
8yr old mare paint mare

It looks like you have plenty of room for any size bit until you get to the real life photo.  When taking this photo we were astonished at how much room the tougue actually takes up.

While all horses have the same structures (plus or minus wolf teeth) no two mouths are alike, and individual characterists can play huge role in finding the correct bit.  
Would both these horses do equally well in the same bit?

Probably not, the one on the right will require much more tougue relief than the horse on the left.

Factors to consider when choosing a bit-
1. Head shape- Generally the courser a horse's head and muzzle the meater the mouth and tougue, which calls for more tougue relief.
2. Age- A horse's mouth changes constantly throughout it's life. So the bit that works perfectly at age 5 may hurt by age 15.  Check out for a great general write up on equine dentition.
3. Past History- Some horses may have permanent damage from previous bits causing them to not respond to certain types of pressure. 
4. General Dental Health- Young horses may be cutting teeth causing them to react negatively to certain bits at certian times or older horses may have loose or missing teeth.  

Is your young horse being naughty, maybe it's his teeth.
Common ages for tooth eruption.
Type of toothNumberDeciduousPermanent
IncisorFirst (central)birth to 8 days2.5 yrs
IncisorSecond (intermediate)4.5–6 weeks3.5–4 yrs
IncisorThird (corner)6–9 months4.5–5 yrs
CanineAbsent3.5–5 yrs, some around 6 yrs (if ever)
PremolarFirst (wolf)Absent6 months to 3 years (if ever)
PremolarSecondbirth to 2 weeks2–3 yrs
PremolarThirdbirth to 2 weeks2.5–3 yrs
PremolarFourthbirth to 2 weeks3–4 yrs
MolarFirstAbsent9–12 months
MolarSecondAbsent2 yrs
MolarThirdAbsent3–4 yrs

 Unlike hospital sock bits are not one size fits, and should be considered and fitted on a individual basis. 

Stay tuned for Part 3- Resistance

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