Bitting is probably the thorniest equestrian tack subject. That didn’t stop Olympic Champion Charlotte Dujardin from imparting a few thoughts on the subject via her Facebook page.
In a recent post, the British rider paid tribute to the humble snaffle and how it features into her training regime.
“I don’t know if most of you know this, but most of the time when I was training this beautiful horse [Valegro], I mainly did it in a snaffle. Only really putting the double bridle on every few weeks, or the week leading up to the show,” she wrote.
“My feeling is I always want to be able to do everything in a snaffle to the highest level and not ‘rely’ on a double. For me, it’s so important.”
Bits are one of the most ancient pieces of horse equipment we have. Most of the great museums have examples of the bit in their collections. Although the horses of the ancient Greeks, Romans and Persians seem to be smaller than our current steeds, judging by the size of these relics, they are undoubtedly the same bit we know and love today.
Snaffle bits are now a family of many variations on a theme, which all primarily have an upwards, head raising effect by principally putting pressure on the corners of the mouth and, to a lesser extent, the bars.
These effects can be changed by different design or by using different items of tack. For example, by threading the rein through holes in the rings, the gag was created. This version of a snaffle acts almost solely on the corners of the mouth and exaggerates the head raising action. On the other hand, using a snaffle with a dropped noseband puts more emphasis on the bars of the mouth and encourages the softening of the jaw.
Dujardin continued her post by offering advice on fitting these bits.
For a loose ring snaffle, “the ring should always be able to move freely” and there should “not [be] more than 5mm space between the corners of the mouth and the bit ring on each side,” she advised.
For bits with fixed cheek, she continued, “the side part should be close to both mouth corners” and “must therefore be chosen one size smaller than loose ring snaffle. “
The British legend concluded by sharing that she uses Sprenger bits on all her horses.
This German company revolutionised bit manufacturing in Europe, not by reinventing the wheel, but by slightly tweaking traditional designs for a better fit and changing the shape of essential components. Sprenger bits also feature Sensogan mouthpieces, which is toxicologically tested and well tolerated and results in a consistent flow of saliva, promoting bit acceptance.
The full line of Herm Sprenger bits is available on Equishopper.com. Including, of course, the humble snaffle.