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EQ Life January Magazine: Making sense of all the bits and pieces

A loose ring snaffle bit


Making sense of all the bits and pieces

By Dr Kerry Mack

Last month we looked at hands. This month we are looking at bits. Of course, the main thing that determines the severity and effectiveness of any bit is the hands that are using the rein.

There is a huge range of bits available, which can be quite confusing, but there are a few first principles that can help you choose a suitable bit for your horse. This article seeks to explain the fundamentals, so you can evaluate the different bits available and work out what best suits your horse.

Whether you are training racehorses, dressage horses or leisure horses, the main strategy we use is the application of pressure – and when the horse does what we want by yielding to the pressure, we release the pressure. This Pressure/Release training is also called negative reinforcement, because we take something away to reinforce the correct response, and to therefore teach the horse what we want. We can put pressure on with our legs, with our hands via the reins and the bit, or we can use our core muscles or aids such as the whip.

The most skilled riders are able to use light aids (pressure) with exquisite timing to help the horse understand what is wanted. Bits are simply a way of applying pressure so that we can remove the pressure (release) when we get the response we want. If we want the horse to stop from a rein aid, we put pressure on the rein; and when he slows down, we ease the pressure to teach him to yield to it...


Read the full article in our January magazine here.




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