With a welcome return to equine activities and competitions, we are seeing more requests for our bitting consultancy service. There is SO much to learn in terms of bitting, with design and technology as well as greater anatomical understanding all having an impact on bit design and manufacture. It’s a fascinating world and one we are very passionate about. After all, your horse’s comfort and wellbeing are paramount to our approach here at Forelock & Load.

We truly believe in education, empowering owners so that they understand the technicalities of our bits and how we achieve the best fit. In our latest series of blogs, we will introduce you to the science and give you a guide to measuring and assessing your horse’s mouth for bitting.

Firstly, we are pleased to introduce Olivia Turner, an animal behaviour consultant  who has a wealth of experience fitting bits and bridles.  Olivia’s passion for animals and their wellbeing is clear when you meet her. She is committed to developing her craft in pursuit of happy and content horses!  Olivia, who will be working with us, contributing to expert blogs and bitting in general. 

About Olivia…

Olivia left university with a first-class BSc Hons degree in Animal Behaviour and Animal Welfare. Whilst treating horses with behavioural issues, Olivia found many were reactive due to discomfort from the bit.  To learn more on the topic, she studied Lorinery Science.  She has since achieved Distinctions, within her Post. Grad Training and Assessments in Lorinery Science (metal work for bits, bridles, harnesses and other horse apparel) and Bit and Bridle Fitting.  Olivia set up her business Olivia Turner Animal Behaviour Consultant and has built a fantastic reputation nationwide.  Her experience as a behaviourist allows her to recognise the emotional state of a horse and what it is reacting to.  By reading body language correctly and applying different training techniques she can enhance the overall success of a session.

Olivia Turner Animal Behavioural Consultant

As we mentioned, this will be the first in a series of “bit fit” blogs. This is a complex topic, but we will break it down into manageable pieces for you to take away and put into practise. 

If you have any questions about bit – fit please send them to us, including some photos. We will pick a handful to answer and share them over the coming weeks – just drop us an email at Forelock and Load or jot it down in the comments section below.

So grab a chair and a cuppa and lets begin with the most straightforward question…

Why bit fit is so important?

The bit serves as a tool for communication from the rider to the horse.  It is helps the rider control their horse, asking the horse to turn or to create certain postural changes, for example, lateral flexion. The bit must be suitable for the horse and not used purely as a replacement for good training. 

Bits work by applying pressure in the mouth and it is this pressure which elicits a response or specific movement from the horse.  This is called ‘negative reinforcement’. An ‘Aversive Stimulus’ is when the rider applies bit pressure to the horse and removes that pressure on the instant of the desired behaviour. 

Horses by choice do not want to have unrelenting pressure in their mouths, it is the release of the pressure which teaches the horse what you would like to achieve.  A good rider should always be aiming to use a light rein aid and have good timing for applying and releasing the rein which in turn releases the bit pressure.

It is important that all riders are aware of how a horse learns through pressure and how much pressure is ethically acceptable.  Bit pressure can easily become a punisher if the horse finds it painful or frightening.

Fun exercise – how heavy are your aids?

Imagine a scale of 0 –10.

0 being no rein contact at all 2 or 3 being a light contact and 10 being extremely heavy.

Where on this scale do you feel you are at when riding?  Do you feel like you create pressure more than you release?  Anything above a 5 is considered a strong rein aid. The further up the scale you go, the more uncomfortable it is for your horse. 

Decide where you are on this scale and ask yourself if you can go down! Use a weighing scale or hay balancer to measure your own rein contact in kgs. This test gives you a ‘feel’ for the pressure you apply.

Were you surprised? We would love to hear your findings.

For the horse to understand your aids the bit must be of a type that it finds comfortable having in its mouth.  Any design that applies pressure points and causes pain will not create a happy, relaxed riding partner. 

The size of the bit is also important. A bit that is too big will be sliding through the mouth and dulling or delaying your rein aid. This can lead to bruising, a dry mouth and friction burns.

Horses often do not get a say in what happens to them. It is our responsibility to ensure their comfort and welfare.  Happy horses last longer, perform better and are safer!

“A horse is an animal of flight – it will never yield to pressure or pain, it will either move away from it or run away.
Pressure = Resistance = Lack of Control
To obtain control we need to remove the resistance.
To remove the resistance one must remove the pressure or distribute the pressure over a larger surface area.”

Bomber Nel  – Bombers Bits

Find out more…

If you would like to find out more about our bitting rentals and fitting consultations please contact us:

For fitting services please go to our BITTING ADVICE page and remember to check the Click & Collect box so you are not charged postage.