Should I change my horse’s bit?

Are you struggling to find that perfect bit that your horse will work well in? This common problem often has a simple, but counter-intuitive, solution.

My horse resists the bit.  I’ve tried loads of different bits and none of them have made much difference. What bit would you recommend to try next?

This question, in one form or other, is one that I get asked very often and though it has a very straight-forward answer, it isn’t the one most people are looking for!

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Ok so this isn’t truly the definition of insanity… But the underlying point certainly stands! If you’ve tried dozens of perfectly reasonable bits and your horse is resisting all of them, it doesn’t seem very likely that the specific bit is the problem.

If you’ve gone through a number of fairly ‘standard’ bits that any horse should be fine in and none of them have ‘worked’, there’s something else going on. This is a very familiar pattern and I completely understand why owners keep trying to find that elusive perfect bit. It doesn’t help that bit manufacturers are constantly trying to convince us that their latest design will solve all our ridden problems. After all, if you believe your horse’s ‘dream bit’ is out there, finding it is a quick solution and worth the search and price! 

Of course, you might get lucky and your horse just might figure out what you want eventually… Whatever bit you happen to have in at the time will be the one you come away thinking they ‘like’ the most. Like many others before you, you’ll go ahead and recommend that bit to everyone else looking for their horse’s ‘perfect bit’. And so it continues…

But really wouldn’t it be more effective to just choose an appropriate mild bit and stick with it and work on teaching the horse what it means and how you want them to respond? Because the truth is: this isn’t a bitting issue – it’s a schooling issue. Your horse has a gap in their training and quite simply doesn’t understand what you’re asking!

The mistake people often make is to try to find the bit that their horse won’t ignore rather than training their horse not to ignore their existing bit. This is a problem because you might well find a bit the horse doesn’t ignore and that you don’t have to put effort into for it to ‘work’ – but that will be because it overpowers the horse, not because the horse truly understands it.

And if you go down that route with your bit choice and just use a stronger bit, you’re very likely to find yourself spiraling out of control (both literally and figuratively!). Over time, since your horse hasn’t actually learned how to give to the bit, they will just get accustomed to every successive bit and you will need to keep escalating until there’s no acceptable option left… At that point you may well resign yourself to the fact that some training is in order! But by this point it’s a far bigger (and possibly dangerous) problem to address!

Every horse is different and it is very important to use the bit (or bitless bridle) that is most suited to them. There are many factors to consider and many different bits to choose from. That’s why it’s so very important to understand how your equipment works and if you’re not sure, never be afraid to ask for help! But if you’ve tried a few bits that should be suitable by all accounts and still find that your horse doesn’t respond the way you want them to, it is far more likely that there’s a schooling issue that needs to be addressed than that the bit itself needs to be changed.

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