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Horse Articles :: Horse Bits

Horse Bits

Stainless steel is the most common metal modern bits are made from, and for good reasons. It is very strong, easy and cheap to produce. Unfortunately, the good reasons are only really good for the pocket and the manufacturers! To the horse, stainless steel is a tasteless, cold, metal that doesn't encourage a soft mouth or salivation. If the horse tends to be tense, fussy or just a general worrier, this doesn't help with achieving a comfortable mouth.

In the past, some bits were made from copper/nickel alloys which helped give the bit an attractive taste to most (but not every!) horse , thus overcoming some of the problems of stainless steel. However, the nickel used to strengthen the soft copper had two potential problems. A reasonable number of horses are allergic to nickel and it caused a rash, and consequently sore mouth. Secondly, nickel has a nasty habit of snapping when put under pressure. There are now a lot of bits on the market, and very few (and certainly not the more expensive brands) use nickel in the make up of the metal- if the bit seems like an amazing bargain just make sure it isn't at your horses cost! These bits are made from alloys that are often closely guarded secrets, but generally include large amounts of copper mixed with other stronger metals and sometimes silicon to make a durable, warm and safe alloy.

Sweet iron is another ‘new' material widely used as it oxidizes (rusts!) with use to produce a sweet taste. This is in fact not a new idea at all as some of the earliest recorded bits were made of iron, but this was not always primarily for the horses benefit! When they became fashionable again around 7-8 years ago, some badly produced imported sweet iron bits were prone to flaking shards of rust which caused sore and cut mouths. Unfortunately this put a lot of people off of using them, while the well made bits were proving to be a very useful and gaining in popularity. Currently, there are some very reasonably prices sweet iron bits, and the problems of flaking have been rectified.

Space age and flavored plastic covered bits were widely regarded at one time to be a very kind alternative to metal, yet stronger and more chew resistant than rubber, also being softer and cheaper to produce than vulcanite. They have been used a lot for young horses to be started in, and also for soft mouthed horses. There is no doubt that some horses do go well in them, especially if they cannot tolerate a metal bit. However, I feel that these bits have a few problems of their own, namely they have a nasty habit of causing sore lips due to friction burns if the bit is pulled suddenly through the horses mouth or from side to side for any reason (a distinct possibility with a wobbly youngster!). They can also be classed as fat bits, which research has found can be less comfortable for horses with big lips/tongue. This in turn can cause further behavioral problems such as yawing (opening the mouth).

Some bit manufacturers have gone a stage further and use a combination of copper and sweet iron, one of the most popular bits we sell is a loose ring copper lozenge, sweet iron bit as it seems to address a lot of the comfort and metal concerns, and it isn‘t expensive! Obviously this is not a universal wonder bit as ever horse (and rider) is an individual case, but in a lot of cases a bit like this is a good place to start.

About the Author
Lucy Nicholas is one of the directors of a family run internet tack shop, that is dedicated to providing helpful personal service for customers by email and phone. An ever expanding hand picked range of quality products from a variety of manufacturers to suit all budgets and abilities and the contacts and knowledge to source the more unusual products when required. Click here to visit our site:









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