Is your horse ‘on the bit’? Is it the right bit?

This horse does not look happy. Eyes bugging out, mouth open and tense. The bit has an extremely long shank and maybe the bit is the source of discomfort. Could it be an 18th C. bit like the one pictured below.

Mercifully we no longer have bits like the one above. Getting the right bit for your horse is one of the most important aspects of having a happy horse who will be able to work with you. Tammy Levasseur is a qualified bit fitter and I spoke with her recently about how she became interested in fitting bits.

At a very early age I had a keen interest in horses and took lessons at a local stable and worked at stables doing odd jobs for lessons and instruction.  In my teenage years was able to purchase my first horse and started showing at local horse shows.  Over the course of my life I have owned many horses and lessoned with many top dressage clinicians and coaches.  I was never overly interested in showing partly due to my location.
In 2016 I launched my retail store On The Bit Tack and Apparel.  It was from this business that my interest in bits developed.  Customers would ask my opinion on bits and I didn’t feel qualified.  I sought out the education which took me to England where I obtained my Lantra Certification in Bit and Bridle Fitting and was awarded the Worshipful Company of Loriners Award for top academic accomplishment.  I brought my knowledge home and launched my bit fitting practice under On The Bit Lorinary Solutions.

I asked Tammy some questions about bits and bitting.

What is the most common mistake riders and owners make when getting bits for their horses?  

At the heart of most common issues is an incorrect mouthpiece based on the horse’s oral anatomy.  For a horse to be properly bitted, an assessment of the horses oral anatomy should be conducted by a qualified bit fitter.  This assessment will drive the appropriate bit selection and make the horse more comfortable in the contact which should be our aim.
Why do most riders worry most about the curb bit with a double? Is it so much more important than the bridoon?

There is a little bit of mystery around fitting the double for most riders.  Which bridoon pairs which which curb.  How do they come together in the horses oral cavity.  There are a lot of questions.  Obviously, the curb is the bit in this combination with the most questions as it is the one that is typically new to the horse (with the bridoon being very similar to the snaffle the horse has been going in for years).  Also, as the curb is a leverage bit there is a little more concern around the amount of force that is being applied.  These questions can be addressed during the consultation which will make the rider more comfortable with the decisions they are making on behalf of their horse.

Tammy also raised an important issue regarding the “social license” of equestrian sport.

 I do believe in our “social license” to continue in this sport.  All the improvements we make to ensure we are doing the best possible for the horses in our care will eventually translate to a more sustainable equestrian sport.  Think of the Pentathlon and how quickly their “social license” was pulled.  As the broader community found it to be inhumane, decisions were quickly made to remove the equestrian component of this sport.  Bit fitting is one area we can certainly improve and I feel a responsibility ensure that we have the best practices and education in place.  

Tammy with one of her horses.

What can I expect from a bit fitting session?

During a bit fitting session many measurements and assessments are taken.  These measurements include: the interdental space height, the palate profile, the width of the mouth and an assessment of the bars among others.  If any of these measurements yield a result that is outside the norm it is considered a limiting factor.  These limiting factors are used to drive the bit selection.  All of these factors are considered as well as the rider’s contact issues.
After the assessment, and only if the current bits are not found to be suitable, a couple of options will be offered.  The rider is able to try the bits and from that a decision is made.
A full report of the findings is provided to the rider.  

These bits are snaffle bits and have a central almond to help the horse to accept the bit.

Above is a collection of my own snaffle bits. I am not using any of these at the moment with Biasini. These are bits that were for horses I have had previously.

This video shows Tammy taking measurements and fitting bits for a dressage horse and for a jumper. Do take a look.

Getting the fit of the bit right is a hugely important part of having a happy horse. Riders understand that getting a qualified saddle fitter out to fit a saddle is important but bits are often overlooked. If your horse has had its dental work checked and is up to date but you are having contact problems with the mouth then find a qualified bit fitter and ask them to help you. I do not have problems with Biasini and contact with his mouth but I will get Tammy to take a look anyway once I get home.

If you feel you and your horse could benefit from getting a qualified bit fitter contact Tammy and she will be able to locate someone for you if you live somewhere she cannot come to.


4 responses to “Is your horse ‘on the bit’? Is it the right bit?”

  1. kiangablog Avatar

    Thankfully we have the knowledge and wisdom of others to guide us in such an important element of riding. While I am almost healed, I am thinking about different things for my return to riding. Thank you for such an insightful blog post Anne.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen Avatar

      You are most welcome!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. David Avatar

    Several years ago, the daughters switched to a bauble bit, which is multi-jointed bit. It’s used in combination with a loose ring mouthpiece and overhead reins. They discovered it by accident. Lilith was a little stiff in the mouth, so Elizabeth was experimenting with different bits during an off season. She decided to try a multi-joint bit. Lilith took to it right away and has been much more comfortable since. Using this bit a few months, they learned Beezie Madden uses the same set-up. In showjumping, some of the tack rules are “looser” compared to dressage.

    Here’s the video of Beezie on the bauble bit:

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen Avatar

      Yes the jumpers are more lenient about what bits they will allow. Thanks for the video link it was fun to see that. I am going to look at the Tackeria to see a bauble bit just to see how they look an feel. I currently use a Verbinden snaffle bit for Biasini when we are not in the Double Bridle. The Verbinden works well for BB as he has a somewhat small mouth and does not like tongue pressure.


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