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This page has been sourced from REC.EQUESTRIAN, the body of the text has been unaltered as far as possible. The information is for use at own risk.

How do you know your snaffle fits?

From Tue Jan 11 13:09 PST 1994
Date: Tue, 11 Jan 1994 14:15:24 -0700
From: Wendy Milner 
Subject: (fwd) Re: How do you know if your snaffle fits?
Newsgroups: rec.equestrian

Subject: How do you know if your snaffle fits?

In a side bar to her Apr 1992(EQQUS 174) article on bits, Dr Deb Bennet
discussed bit fitting. There is also a chapter in De Carpentry's "Academic
Equitation" on selecting bits(size and shape, snaffle and curb). There are 
also several books on the subject which may be of interest. I highly
recommend Elwyn Hartley Edwards' "Bitting: In Theory and Practice"
published by J.A. Allen(who else?).

As a public service, I'll summarize Dr Deb's side bar and De Carpentry's 

1. The correct width is important for all bits but especially so for
jointed snaffles. A bit that is too wide will pinch the tongue(the dreaded
nutcracker effect) more than a correctly fitted bit. A too wide bit may also
poke the roof of the horse's mouth with the joint. To get the correct
width, use a wooden dowel or metal rod about 8" long. Put it in the horse's
mouth where the bit would go and, after the horse stops playing with it,
mark the stick outside the horse's lips. The distance between the marks
indicates the correct width. Actually, you'll have to get the
nearest size that's at least that wide(e.g. a measurement of 4 7/8"
requires a 5" bit, not 4 3/4"!)

2. To check the room inside the mouth, you have to check the jaw width,
palate(roof of the mouth) and tongue. Put your fist between the horse's
jawbones. If your fist doesn't fit easily and you wear a size 10 or smaller
glove(Men's medium or Ladie's large), the horse has a narrow jaw.
To check the roof of the mouth, put your straightened index finger where
the bit goes and wait for the horse to stop playing. Crook your finger and if
it hits the roof of the mouth, the horse has a low palate. To check the
tongue close the horse's mouth and lift the upper lip. If the tongue slops
over onto the bars, the horse has a thick tongue.

Any of these situations will require a different type of bit than a horse with
a wide jaw, thin tongue and high palate. In general, French link or Dr Bristol
type snaffles, mullen mouth bits and/or curbs with low broad ports will help.

De Carpentry shows a bit designed by James Fillis for horses with thick
tongues. It looks a little like a French link but, instead of a plate in the
middle, the bit has a large arch or 'hoop' to provide more room for the
tongue. De Carpentry says that such a bit works well but only if the horse
has a high enough palate to accept the 'hoop'. It may be necessary to use a
slightly thinner bit to get tongue relief if the roof of the mouth is low.

3. Check the bars of the mouth. Various bit designs(especially those that
provide relief for the tongue) but more pressure on the bars of the mouth.
If the bars are thick and relatively low, that's no problem. If they are
thin and/or high, such a bit would be uncomfortable(at best).


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  Wendy Milner                     HPDesk:   wendy_milner@hp4000
  Hewlett-Packard                  HP-UX:
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