How loose/tight should a bit be? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 11 Old 02-15-2011, 05:09 PM Thread Starter
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How loose/tight should a bit be?

I thought my bit was tight enough, because I was always told that if you could see wrinkles around there mouth where the bit is then it was tight enough. So following that rule I rode my horse like that. But he started throwing his head around and clanging the bit around. He wasn't listening to anything I was asking. So I got off and tightened it another notch and it made all the world of difference. I don't want it cranked up to tight, but I don't want it loose and clanging around in his mouth either! Any thoughts on this!?
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post #2 of 11 Old 02-15-2011, 06:39 PM
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I usually go for 1, maybe 2 wrinkles as an indicator, but by all means listen to your horse. If he's telling you that he likes it tighter or looser than that, I'd humor him.

Something else you can do is just take a look-see in his mouth, and see exactly where the bit is laying in there. It should be resting right in that gap between his incisors and molars, not hanging too low and jangling on his front teeth, not so tight that it's bumping his molars or constantly pulling on the corners of his mouth.

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post #3 of 11 Old 02-15-2011, 06:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Scoutrider View Post
I usually go for 1, maybe 2 wrinkles as an indicator....
Yes, typically 1-2 wrinkles. If your horse has a thick mane where the bridle lays, that can be a place that will create a lot of slack/movement (some folks cut a bridle path to avoid this).

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post #4 of 11 Old 02-15-2011, 07:07 PM
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Also depends greatly on the type and shape of bit. I use 2 - 3 wrinkles for a snaffle, 1 wrinkle for a mullen mouth or a curb.
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post #5 of 11 Old 02-15-2011, 09:46 PM
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It depends on the type of bit and on the horse.

Advanced Western riders and trainers like a snaffle pretty loose and want the horse to 'carry it'. They also want a spade or California style Vaquero bit to hang pretty loose for the same reason. NRCHA horses seldom have any wrinkle at all with any bit, and Sr. horses are required to be ridden with a romal and have to be 'broke enough' to 'carry' a very heavy bit.

Most English horses have very deep mouths from the TB influence in their breeding and they need a bit to be much tighter. Some get their tongues over a bit that is not very tight (2 wrinkles).

The first thing I would do if a horse suddenly started fussing at a bit would be to have a good equine dentist work on his teeth.

Next, I would use a bit with a different diameter.

Finally, I would change bits or change tightness.

Some horses absolutely hate tongue pressure. They need bits with a curve that is shaped over their tongue so they feel little or no pressure on it.
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post #6 of 11 Old 02-15-2011, 10:18 PM
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with a snaffle i like to have it just in enough to prevent the horse from spitting it out. so i like snaffles loose. but with curb bits i usually have 1 wrinkle

it's down to personal preference really. so long as it's safe in that the horse cant just spit it out, but it's comfortable for the horse, there's not much else to consider.
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post #7 of 11 Old 02-15-2011, 10:48 PM
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I'm with the other posters, it depends on the horse. On the snaffle (on QHs) I tend to use the 1-2 wrinkle rule of thumb unless it just doesn't feel right. On my curbs, I will have at most 1 wrinkle on most horses.

Of course, depending on what the horse's mouth conformation is, he might be more comfortable with a pretty tight bit, I rode one that was most comfortable with the bit very loose. You did well by listening to what the horse was telling you.

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post #8 of 11 Old 02-16-2011, 12:20 AM
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I have a question my horse rubs her face alot and sometimes she'll shake her head alot would this be an indication that her bit is to tight? she used to do it more but I put a slobber gaurd on and she seemes to do alittle better but she still rubs her face on her leg alot while I am riding her
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post #9 of 11 Old 02-16-2011, 12:44 AM
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Nate, rubbing her face on her leg can just mean she's itchy, but it sounds like maybe the bit was pinching her cheeks, maybe a bit to small for her mouth. As to the op, I agree that it depends on the horse and rider preference. The warmblood mare I'm riding, I noticed that the bit was in pretty tight, so I loosened it a hole. It seemed to be a bit too loose then, but it made a WORLD of difference with the horse, she stopped trying to stop and go backward, wasn't tucking in behind the bit as much, and wasn't as snappy when she got frustrated. My Arab on the other hand, does not like the bit being loose in her mouth, would rather have it fitting relatively snuggly, and tosses her head around when its not tight enough, thus causing more discomfort, and then tossing more, ect. I notice that a lot of western riders keep their bits relatively loose in their horse's mouths, while english riders tend to have the bits more snug.
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post #10 of 11 Old 02-16-2011, 09:59 AM
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I was taught that the it should be loose enough so the horse has to carry the bit on it's own, but not so loose it falls out of it's mouth or dangles around and accessive ammount. But not overly tight where it's crammed up in the horse's mouth, or the horse shows discomfort.

My horse's aren't the best with the bit, but one because one is the horse equivilant of someone with ADD or ADHD, always needing something to do, and uptight. The other horse I did not train, but she must've been pestered so much, because she will not take the bit at all. But this rule has made it a bit more comfortable for the both of them. I don't like it when people cram a bit in horse's mouths. It should be more of a back-up, not completely relied on.

If a horse isn't carrying the bit well, and it's at the proper length or tightness, then I'd suggest leaving the horse out to pasture or even in it's stall with the bit. Have it eat with it on for a few days, just put on a headstall that isn't for show, if you have one. I have numerous crappy headstalls that aren't very appealing, and I've thrown them on my horse with his bit, and it made a difference come lesson day. He wasn't so focused on that, and I made him do groundwork and stuff, jumping over barrels and sidepassing, etc to give him something to think about. Just what I was taught, and it has worked.

Last edited by ButtInTheDirt; 02-16-2011 at 10:07 AM.
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