Bit plastics and what they each do in your horse's mouth February 23, 2015 08:09
Coated and Flexi Bits
Vulcanite is a hard black material similar to plastic. At a quick glance, it looks like a rubber bit. This is a firm material, which is much harder than rubber. It is often used to make a Mullen mouth bit without any flexion because Vulcanite is a hard plastic. Vulcanite is very accepted by horses as they interpret it as a “warm” material. The bit is made with a metal bar for strength that is covered with a thick amount of vulcanite. This is a good bit for a horse that needs a softer touch but that does not chew on the bit.
Rubber is a soft black material similar to plastic. It has many of the same functions as the Vulcanite material discussed above. The difference between the two is that rubber is flexible where Vulcanite is not. It is great for making soft strong bits such as a flexible rubber Pelham that has a metal wire on the inside or a soft Rubber Dee for young horses who have just started light work. The young horses generally chew on the material because they are getting used to having something in their mouths. When horses chew on this material, it will slowly wear away. Rubber bits need to be replaced well before the horse reaches the metal interior of the bit.
*It is important that the horses are salivating and chewing before using these bits or they will not move freely due to the nature of the rubber and will cause the horses to be uncomfortable.
Hard Carbon is similar to Vulcanite. It is not flexible. Hard Carbon is a durable material, which is non porous and therefore moves more freely in the horse’s mouth than a rubber bit would. Hard Carbon is used to produce a narrower mouth piece than Vulcanite or Rubber mouth pieces, which is good for horses that don’t like having wider bits in their mouths.
Trust Flexi Mouth Bits
Trust Flexi are the new kid on the block. They are quickly replacing the dearly loved Nathe bits we have all been using for years. Rumor has it: Nathe has retired and will no longer be making bits (we don’t have any confirmed statements directly from Nathe but the bits haven’t been available for the last two seasons, if not longer). Trust flexi bits are flexible (as the name implies). Their plastic is FDA Approved and non-toxic. These bits are constructed using a Stainless Steel interior core making them reliable and safe. They are available in classic designs and are hand crafted. They have their Trust logo visible on the
end of the bit (so we know we are getting the real deal). We are very excited about this bit replacing Nathe!
Sprenger Duo Bits
Sprenger makes a crisp white colored flexible bit, which they have branded as Sprenger Duo. These bits are made from flexible plastic that bends and adapts to your horse’s mouth. The material does not contain plasticizers, it is food-safe, and solvent-free meaning it is safe for your horse. Sprenger’s Duo bits are made with a steel cable on the inside for added security (should it be needed)! These bits are considerably narrower than a Rubber or Vulcanite bit.
There are many other quality brands that are similar in many ways to the materials discussed above. There are also many other brands that produce rubber type compounds bits, which come with a handful of problems. They can be toxic to your horse and should be avoided even though their price may seem tempting. The problem with a poorly made coated or flexible bit is the construction. Often poorly made bits aren’t made with a steel core or steel wire. This means that if your horse chews on the bit too much, you could end up in a scary situation with a broken bit in the middle of a course (which wouldn’t be fun and could be dangerous). … Please think twice before making your purchases. You usually get exactly that for which you pay!
Bit metals and what they each do in your horse’s mouth February 16, 2015 08:41
Steel bits are very durable. Steel makes a very strong bit that will last for many years to come with virtually no maintenance. Another bonus: steel is can be very cheap, which makes it very tempting! The question is: Do horses like steel in their mouths? Many
horses are content to have steel in their mouth even though it is considered a “cold
metal”. You will run into trouble when you use a poorly made steel bit because the bit’s finish and details can often be rough and even sharp to the horse’s mouth. When buying a bit, take a closer look at the fine detail. Steel bits, which are manufactured with “lost wax” in their casting, have a smoother finish, better details and over all, are well made bits.
Sweet Iron as known as Sweet Metal (and blue bits)
Sweet Iron is a great bit metal;unfortunately, it is often looked down on cosmetically. In reaction to this, recently, they have become more popular because some manufacturers are finishing their mouthpieces with a “flamed” sweet metal, which equals a pretty blue finish. When you put this beautiful blue color beside polished steel cheeks…voila, you have an amazing looking bit! I promise you two things: 1-this will be a great bit for many years to come, and 2-it will not look this beautiful blue color for long!
Un-oxidized (new) sweet iron (also called sweet metal) has a bluish tinge. Once the bit is used, it gets oxidized and the blue color quickly disappears. Over time, the bit begins to look more and more rusty and brown. The Sweet Iron rust will not chip off like rusty steel would flake. The rust is not dangerous or hurtful to the horse. Most people don’t want a rusty bit; this is the part where you shouldn’t judge a bit by its cover! The sweet iron produces a taste that horses love. Bits made from this material will last a long time and are less expensive than bits made out of copper blends. The cheeks of the Sweet Iron bits are usually made from steel and will not change cosmetically.
Copper Blends & Registered Blends:
Copper is a good metal, which promotes the production of saliva and in turn acceptance of the bit. The down side to having a bit made entirely of copper is that it is a soft metal. If you have a horse that chews on the bit, you will soon notice the copper changing shape or even developing sharp points in areas of wear. Copper is better used in accent areas such as copper rollers, French links, lozenge links and even in a mixture of different metals.
Aurigan is a registered mix of copper, silicon and zinc made through extensive research by Sprenger with the help of the Veterinary University of Hannover. The copper mixture, Aurigan, encourages saliva production and even has a smell and taste that horses love (I don’t recommend trying to smell or look for the taste yourself, you won’t find it, I’ve tried!). Aurigan bits are available with a German silver cheek or Aurigan cheek.
Sensogan is Sprenger’s new registered material and will slowly be replacing Aurigan. Sensogan is a mixture of copper, manganese and zinc. The copper content has been reduced slightly so there is still enough to maintain the production of saliva. This material will not discolor as easily as other copper blends. Prevention of allergic skin reactions, muscle tension, even stress are some of the added benefits of using magnesium. The list of benefits goes on and on; basically magnesium is good for all kind of things! Many training programs include magnesium in their supplement or even in some feeds. Does yours? Either way, we are very excited for this new material!
What is your bit doing for you? February 10, 2015 08:27
A rider should always use the most simple and mild bit, which allows them to control their horse safely and get the desired performance out of their horse. Your bit should be
soft enough to encourage your horse to move forward, take your hand a little and even to pull a little. This does not mean to pull you around and not respect your hand.
Bits are used for stopping, turning and for controlling the impulsion the rider creates with their leg and seat. Out of all the tack we use, we rely heavily on bits for our safety. We want to know we are in control and capable of stopping our horse should they spook or take off. When purchasing a bridle or a saddle, safety is a very distant if even present thought. Yes, we want good quality leather and to be in the correct position and have comfort so we can stay on but safety is not our top priority when making these purchases. Yet time and time again riders spend four thousand to six thousand dollars on their saddle and thirty dollars on a poorly made bit. Why is this? We often hear people saying they are looking for a specific kind of bit and some thirty dollar bits work well and some bits are only available at a higher price, meaning one hundred dollars and up. What makes a bit cost more? Where is the value of a well-made bit?
At a quick glance, a thirty dollar bit and a two hundred dollar bit can look very similar. When you have a closer look, you will start to notice different materials, finishes and hand-fabricated parts. Put the two bits side-by-side and look at the material from which they are made, feel the finish of each bit. Pick up both bits and feel the weight of each. Look at the detail and shape of the mouthpieces. Next time you buy a bit have a closer look!
Next week we will go into the different materials used to make bits and what each material means to your horse.
Anatomy of the Horse’s Mouth February 2, 2015 07:56
Different types of bits work on different pressure points of the horse’s mouth. Applying pressure on each area in conjunction with the rider’s leg and seat has a different effect. For example, a Hackamore applies pressure to the nose and chin; whereas a Mullen Mouth applies pressure to the tongue and bars. Different horses require different pressure combinations to encourage them to bend at the poll. When a horse bends at the poll and is in a frame, it uses its entire body by engaging its neck, back and hindquarter (bum) muscles. This allows the horse to be balanced and results in overall improved movement.
The diagram below labels each pressure point:
The Poll: The poll is located behind the horse’s ears. The crown of a traditional bridle will lie behind the ears and in front of the poll. Pressure on the poll encourages the horse to lower its head and flex into a frame. When flexed into a frame, the horse will use its neck, back and bum muscles, which will allow it to build more strength in those areas
The Roof: Can be extremely sensitive to pressure. When a low-ported bit gently touches the roof it, if done correctly, will cue the horse to lower its head. If done wrong, it will have the opposite effect and produce a negative reaction. All bits will, in some way, touch the roof of a horse’s mouth. Their mouths are relatively small and a bit has no other place to go. Often people consider ported bits cruel. This is not true because ported bits allow room for the tongue.
Nasal Bone: The area where the nasal bone ends and the cartilage begins. Pressure on this area arises on horses daily even when we are not riding them. Halters and lead shanks with chains apply pressure to this area. Pressure on the nose is achieved by the use of a Hackamore in conjunction with a chinstrap, a Hackabit otherwise known as a Combi and or through a normal or specialty noseband. The nose bone is covered by a very thin layer of skin therefore it is sensitive. Pressure to the nose will create flexion at the poll.
The Bars: Are the flat space after the front teeth and before the cheek teeth. A thin layer of skin covers them. All bits lie over the bars. Horses generally respond well to bar pressure because they can swallow freely contrary to when tongue pressure is applied. The lips protect the bars from direct pressure by cushioning them from the bit.
The Lips: Contrary to popular belief, the majority of a horse’s lips sit inside its mouth protecting its bars. The lips are pink and fleshy. The lips take a substantial amount of pressure off the sensitive bars. The bit actually sits on the lips and not directly on the bars. It is important to make sure each bit fits properly and that the cheek pieces of the bridle are adjusted correctly so that the bit does not pinch and cut the lips.
The Tongue: The horse’s tongue is very similar to a human’s. It fills virtually their entire mouth. It’s a very strong yet sensitive muscle. It is used for swallowing, eating and drinking. When not being used, it gently rests on the roof of the mouth. Applying constant pressure to the tongue restricts swallowing. When the horse gives to the tongue pressure of the bit, the rider releases or softens. The horse learns to listen because the softening of the bit pressure rewards them. Gentle tongue pressure encourages chewing and saliva production that in turns encourages flexion.
The Chin: Pressure on the chin alone would cause the horse to raise its head. This is why pressure on the chin is used in conjunction with nose, poll and or tongue and bar pressure through a chinstrap or various types of curb chains. The cheek pieces move back towards the rider when the reins are engaged. The curb chain or strap tightens into the chin, pulls on the cheek pieces and applies pressure to the poll. This causes the mouthpiece to put pressure on the tongue, lips then bars. Pressure to all the above points at once causes the horse to give, bend at the poll and into a frame.
It is important to choose the right kind of pressure for each horse. The correct pressure on the horse’s mouth along with your leg and seat will encourage the horse to use and strengthen their entire body while exercising them.
When a horse lacks muscle in their neck, back or hindquarters, a simple task such as picking up the correct lead could seem overly complicated!