The importance of bit and bridle fitting – Part One
By Stefanija Pankova DVM
ELEMENTS OF SUCCESS IN HORSE RIDING
Many years ago, an interesting pie diagram by a German author, caught my eye. The diagram showed the elements that a successful riding horse requires. The pieces of the pie were divided equally for the following elements: rider, trainer, stable management, veterinarian, saddle fitting, nutrition, farrier, physiotherapist. This simple diagram shows us just how many links of the chain need to work together to produce a good riding horse, or any kind of horse, for that matter.
Recently, I came across this same diagram again – only this time it struck me that something essential was missing. I believe one more piece should be added and that piece is bridle fitting. We are only now starting to realise just how important a properly fitting bridle is to the wellbeing of the horse. When we are assessing bridle fit, we shouldn’t only be looking at the type and size of the bridle, we need to take a whole-horse approach. As an amazing tool for communication between horse and rider, the bridle poses a serious welfare question and needs to be treated as such.
CHOOSING A BIT
Very often the bit is chosen with very little thought, simply by rider preference or what we already have in the tack room. Another important factor in choosing a bridle is the current trend in the chosen discipline. There are so many bit and bridle models nowadays that I believe each horse should be able to have a bridle and bit that will make him feel the most comfortable. With so much to choose from, there is no doubt we can find the right match for our horse, as long as we make the effort of choosing the one that really fits. That being said, of course there are also exceptions when the horse simply cannot work in a bitted bridle.
Fitting a bit should go far beyond that we simply place a bit in the horse’s mouth and check if it’s too small or too big and go for the one that seems ok. Since the bit needs to first and foremost fit the horse, rider preference should not be more important than the horse’s preference. Once the horse is fitted with a bit and bridle that feel comfortable, the rider will reap the benefits too, as the horse will inevitably feel better to ride.