Be Bit-Savvy

Horse & Rider - - Practice Pen -

•Even if your horse isn’t show­ing any signs of dis­com­fort, al­ways care­fully con­sider how your bit-and- bri­dle con­fig­u­ra­tion acts on his mouth to make sure it’s com­fort­able and not pinch­ing. Fa­mil­iar­ize your­self with the com­mon be­hav­iors as­so­ci­ated with bit dis­com­fort, and pay care­ful at­ten­tion to your horse’s ac­tions and de­meanor on an on­go­ing ba­sis, not­ing any­thing new or un­usual. If your horse shows signs of bit dis­com­fort (such as toss­ing his head, re­fus­ing to open his mouth for bridling, or chomp­ing or grind­ing on the bit), thor­oughly ex­am­ine his mouth. If you dis­cover any signs of ir­ri­ta­tion or in­jury on his lips, cor­ners, bars, palate, or chin, sched­ule an exam with your vet be­fore you ride him again. If your horse has re­cently lost weight, is drop­ping feed, or has a poor ap­petite, es­pe­cially after you’ve rid­den him, sched­ule an ap­point­ment with your vet or an equine den­tal tech­ni­cian. The bit could be ex­ac­er­bat­ing an un­der­ly­ing den­tal prob­lem. Be aware that head toss­ing and bit chomp­ing can also be signs of pain or sen­si­tiv­ity in an­other part of your horse’s body, or of poor sad­dle fit. Then, too, bit chomp­ing is some­times a re­ac­tion to bore­dom— es­pe­cially in young horses. When in doubt about the cause of chomp­ing, check with your vet. If you’re un­cer­tain about how a par­tic­u­lar bit should fit or act on your horse’s mouth, or you’re un­sure about what type of bit would be best for your horse, seek help from a pro­fes­sional. Any bit can be prob­lem­atic in the wrong hands. Al­ways be soft and slow with your hands and rein cues— never jerk or torque your reins. Re­tire worn or dam­aged bits; even ex­pen­sive, high- qual­ity bits can en­dure wear and tear over time and de­velop sharp edges, chips, or grooves that could cause ir­ri­ta­tion to your horse’s mouth.

When you ap­ply di­rect- rein pres­sure in a

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