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Which are the best bits for horse’s with fussy mouths?

Introduction

Why do we get a saddler for saddles, but hardly anyone gets a bit person to check their horse’s bit? It’s a pretty essential bit of tack!

It is interesting to note how much time, and money is devoted to seeking expert advice to ensure you have a correctly fitted saddle and how little by comparison expert advice is sought and money spent on finding the right bit for your horse.

Master saddlers quite rightly spend many years training, before they are qualified to give expert advice on the fitting of a saddle and there is always lively debate over a tree or treeless saddle, the latest trends, or why a particular saddle does not fit properly.

Whilst saddle fit is of course extremely important, the correct bit is just as crucial to a successful horse riding experience.

Apart from your legs and seat, the horse bit is the only way of directing, steering, and braking your horse. It is a physical bond between horse and rider with the goal of creating a safe two-way partnership, but at the same time making the horse feel as comfortable as possible.

So before we dive into the question of what are the best bits for horses with fussy mouths, we need to explore exactly what the bit does, and common mouth problems before examining the solutions.

So what does the bit actually do?

The simple definition of a bit is a;

“Composition of metal or synthetic parts made up of the shanks, rings, cheek pads and a solid bar called a Mullen. The bit makes contact with the horse’s mouth and the bar (Mullen) sits in the horse’s mouth and aids communication between horse and rider.”

To provide a clearer explanation of how this works in practice, the mouthpiece or bar does not just sit anywhere in the horse’s mouth or on the teeth. It fits nicely in the mandibular interdental space, also known as the “bars” of the horse’s mouth, where there are no teeth behind the front incisors and in front of the back molars, resting on the gums. If you place your finger carefully into a horse’s mouth you can feel the gap where the bit should rest.

The bit is connected to the bridle and reins via the rings on either side. The reins are held by the rider allowing them to communicate commands to the horse through the bit.

No one can say for sure when the first bit was invented, but they were likely to have been used thousands of years ago and made of rope, wood, and bone. Like a lot of historic inventions, the use of modern technology has meant that a bit is no longer just a bar. In fact, there are now hundreds of variations in various materials, to suit a plethora of riding styles and varying degrees of control.

Depending on the style, pressure can be applied in numerous ways, through the bit, on the tongue, the bars, the palate, or, the roof of the mouth, including the lips, and poll (the top of the horse’s head).

As mentioned above, bits provide varying degrees of control and transmission from the rider to the horse. Bit choice is a complex topic and hopefully, it has become clear about the importance of choosing the right type and style of bit, appropriate to you and your horse’s needs as well as insuring that it is fitted correctly.

What is a horse with a fussy mouth?

OK, so now we know what a bit does, let us move on to examine exactly what causes a horse to have a fussy mouth.

I am not sure who coined the phrase “fussy mouth”, only that I have seen it used for years to describe a horse who exhibits excessive bit chewing, not taking the bit contact, putting the tongue over the bit, learning to move the bit with their molars, pulling the tongue back or putting it out, retracting the lips and excessive opening of the mouth. These are all signs that your horse is not happy with the bit and if you notice this happening first of all you need to determine the cause.

What are the causes of horses with fussy mouths?

Unfortunately, there are a myriad of reasons a horse may be described as having a “fussy mouth”

Mouth Confirmation

Although skeletal dimensions of a horse’s head are pretty consistent throughout the various horse and pony breeds, it is the fleshy parts of the face and the mouth confirmation that differ the most. For example, it is widely accepted that thoroughbreds have “easy” mouth confirmation, flatter tongues that lie neatly at the bottom of the mouth allowing plenty of room between the tongue and the horse’s palate. Other breeds will have a smaller mouth but a thicker larger tongue and a lower palate and the bit may be consuming too much space with the tongue bulging through the bars. A horse with a thinner tongue will allow more pressure from the bar. Even if your horse doesn’t have issues with the bit, mouth confirmation will certainly dictate whether you use a thicker or thinner, larger or smaller mouthpiece.

Dental issues

Dental issues can be a very common issue, and happily, one that can be remedied by your equine vet or a specialist horse dentist. Dental issues can be anything from premolars, troublesome caps, and hidden wolf teeth that interfere with the bit, sharp edges caused by uneven teeth wear to inflammation of the mouth, or disease of the gums.

It is important to have your horse or ponies teeth checked on a regular basis so that you can rule out dental problems as the cause of “Fussy Issues”

Trauma

Does your horse have any visible signs of lacerations or bruising in or around the mouth or bar area? If cuts or bruising are visible this could be caused by something your horse has eaten or picked up in his mouth, or even by the bit itself. If your horse has just started being fussy, this could be the cause. If this is the case the only cure is time, allowing the bruised area to rest and recover.

It may also be a totally unrelated problem. For instance, it is quite common for horses with back problems to have issues with the bit. If a horse has pain in the back, they are often unwilling to take contact with the bit and will do whatever is necessary to get out of a painful situation.

A Sensitive Mouth or Tongue

Just like a human may have a more sensitive part of the body, horses are unique and some horses have sensitive mouths or tongues. This could be caused by a previous injury or trauma with a previous bit. (thick fleshy tongues are prone to being more sensitive so if your horse has a thick tongue it may be something to watch out for).

Horses with sensitive tongues can develop tongue evasions, by sticking their tongues out, and putting their tongues over the bit or behind the bit.

Unfortunately, a sensitive mouth or tongue is just one of those things, but the solution should match the underlying reason for the bit sensitivity for example a bit that does not put pressure on the tongue.

Behavioral Issues

The problems causing your horse to be fussy may not be pain issues or problems with a particular bit, it may be a behavioral issue. What we mean by that, is your horse has learned behavior where it just associates the bridle and bit with a stressful situation.

In this case, the bit is not the problem and only time and patience will remedy the situation.

A poorly fitting bit

As we have learned, horses and ponies have different sizes and shaped mouths, and bits come in different widths and thickness sizes to accommodate this fact.

A poorly fitting bit can cause a horse to quickly become “fussy in the mouth”.

It is important to check that your bit is sitting high enough in the mouth. Too low and the bit will be touching a more sensitive bit of the tongue.

Check the length of your bit. A bit that is too short will press against the corners of the mouth and rub the skin. A bit that is too long will stick out of the sides of the mouth allowing the bit to slide from side to side causing friction on the bars (especially if you pull hard on one rein).

A poorly fitting bridle

With all the talk about bits and horses’ mouths, as unlikely as it seems a poorly fitting bridle can also be the cause of “fussy issues”. Check to make sure that your bridle fits properly. Is the browband too tight pinching the ears? Are there any underlying areas of soreness where the bridle makes contact with the head or is the bridle pressing against pressure points, causing irritation or pain?

You can see from this article that there is a myriad of conditions that can produce “horses with fussy mouth” syndrome and sometimes it can be difficult to assess the exact cause. Now you know what to look out for let us look at the “Best Bits” to remedy some of these situations.

Best bits for sensitive tongues

The Sprenger KK Correction bit

KK Correction bit by Sprenger

The KK correction bit from Sprenger is perfect for horses with a thick and fleshy tongue as the bit relieves the middle section of the tongue and only exerts pressure when pulling the reins. Can be used for the correction of tongue vices over a period of 2 – 3 weeks.
Bombers Drop Cheek Lock Up

Bomber drop cheek lock up

The mouthpiece on this bit by Bomber does not slide on its ring resulting in light poll pressure. The cheekpieces lie flat against the horse’s face, and the mouthpiece is quite fixed in the mouth and concentrates pressure on the bars. The Lock Up snaffle removes the nut cracker action of the conventional snaffle, meaning no pinch and less pressure on the bars.
Neue Schule Verbindend

Neue Schule Verbindend

The Verbinden by Neue Schule has consistently helped eradicate tongue evasions, encouraging the horse to soften and relax through the jaw.
Sprenger Novocontact

Spregner Novo Contact Bit

The oval shape of the Sprenger bit enlarges the contact surface on the tongue for a soft influence. Designed for horses that occasionally pull against the hand but are too sensitive for stronger bits and for optimal utilization of the limited space in the horse’s mouth.

Best bits for horses with sensitive bars

Bomber Ultra-Comfy Lock-Up Loose Ring Bit

Bomber Ultra Comfy Lock Up Bit

The Loose Ring Bit allows for immediate release and relief from tongue and bar pressure. The bit is immediately reset to a neutral position in the horse’s mouth. The Ultra-Comfy shape is such that it follows the contour of the horse’s tongue. The centre elliptical joints have been double-locked to ensure that the angle over the tongue remains correct, even when the reins are taken up, it retains the individual lateral aids.

Sprenger Nathe D Ring Mullen Mouth Bit

Sprenger Nathe D Ring Mullen Mouth Bit.

The mouth and tongue-friendly bit lies steady in the horse’s mouth, providing steady and even pressure on the tongue. The lateral contact helps horses that tend to fall out whilst riding.
Beris Filet Baucher Mullen Mouth Thin Comfort Bar Hanging Cheek Snaffle

Beris Filet Baucher Mullen Mouth Thin Comfort Bar Hanging Cheek Snaffle

This bit places itself perfectly in the mouth, with rein contact the mouthpiece changes its angle and puts pressure on palate and tongue.
When a contact is taken the upper arm is angled forwards causing the mouthpiece to lift – thereby suspending it in the mouth and reducing the pressure across the tongue and the bars – this is often beneficial for cases of over sensitivity. Any extension above the mouthpiece causes poll pressure – this in itself has a head-lowering action. However, if the horse is going forward into a contact and active behind this will encourage a rounding action and help tremendously with the outline. The form of the mouthpiece, as well as the soft transition to the rings prevent any pinching and make it also very stable in the horses mouth. This bit can be fitted to almost any horse.

Best bits for horses with crowded mouths

Neue Schule Turtle Tactio Snaffle

Neue Schule Turtle Tactio Snaffle

Specifically engineered to accommodate the larger or sensitive tongue. Often negates the need to shut the mouth.
The design focuses rein pressure on the central part of the tongue whilst diverting pressure away from the sensitive regions near the bars. The unique central ‘Turtle’ link brings the proximal ends of the cannons to their closest separation possible. The Flex ™ concept of widening the surfaces that lie parallel to the plane of the tongue reduces the pressure further.
Sprenger CM Mullen Mouth

Spremger C M Mouth Mullen

The Sprenger mouth mullen relieves the middle of the tongue, exerts pressure only when pulling the reins and is ideal for horses with a thick and fleshy tongues. It can be used for the correction of tongue vices for a time period of 2 – 3 weeks and is suitable for horses that are strong and wilful.
Bomber Eggbutt Moulded Mullen Mouth

Bomber Moulded Mullen Eggbutt

The Eggbutt cheekpiece prevents pinching of the lips and gives a solid feel against the side of the face. It also prevents the bit from being pulled through the mouth. The release is slower than the loose ring and also introduces light poll pressure. The moulded mouthpiece has been uniquely shaped and flattened. It is angled at 45 degrees to offer an exceptionally soft and evenly distributed pressure over and around the tongue.

Best soft bits

Trust Flexi Soft eggbutt

Trust Flexi Soft Eggbutt

Bits with a flexible mouthpiece can be used for all horses but are especially suitable for young horses and horses with sensitive mouths. The plastic is FDA-approved, which means that the material is non-toxic and contains no
plasticizers. In addition, the bits are very sturdy due to the use of a flexible core made of stainless steel.
Happy Mouth Shaped Mullen Loose Ring

Happy mouth shaped mullen bit

The shaped Mullen mouthpiece has an inner core of twisted wire for more flexibility. The space-age polymer provides a gentler bit for a happier horse. The unique Apple scent encourages horses to accept the bit.

The best bits for horses with fussy mouths

Neue Schule Turtle Tactio Eggbutt

Neue Schule Turtle Tactio Eggbutt

Specifically engineered to accommodate the larger or sensitive tongue. Often negates the need to shut the mouth.
This design also adds stability often proving a confidence giver leading toward more consistent contact. The Eggbutt reinforces the straightening and turning aids. Particularly useful for the young horse in order to establish the bend etc. Also highly recommended for the novice rider who may not fully support their inside rein as the Eggbutt will not allow the mouthpiece to slide across the mouth to the inside.
Neue Schule Turtle Tactio Baucher

Neue Schule Turtle Tactio Baucher

Specifically engineered to accommodate the larger or sensitive tongue. Often negates the need to shut the mouth.
This combination of Baucher cheek and Turtle Tactio mouthpiece usually helps the rider to achieve and maintain a rounder and more correct outline. If your horse is constantly resisting, strung out, or coming above the bit the usual response to the Turtle Tactio Baucher is a head-lowering action and a softer feel through the rein. This design often proves beneficial for the over-sensitive mouth.

We hope you have found this information useful and if you have a horse with fussy mouth problems, that we have been able to give you some options. As discussed at the top of the article, finding the right bit for your horse is just as important as a correctly fitting saddle and we recommend that you test several bits until you find one that suits you both and if in doubt speak to a bit fitting expert.