In our third Bitting blog we delve deeper into the anatomy of the horse, showing you how to make an accurate observation of your horse’s head and mouth. Thanks again to Olivia Turner our bitting and horse behaviour expert for her contribution to this series.
To help you make accurate bitting observations we have designed a simple chart to print out and fill in. Have a read first. Next, make assessments with your horse’s wearing their usual bridle and bit. To help you understand more we have explained what to look for and included some ‘real life’ photos too!
It is important to accustom yourself with the inside of your horse’s mouth to ensure the bit is fitted correctly and comfortably for your horse.
A great way to improve your observation technique is to look at other horses as you can learn by experience. Please ask the owners beforehand!
Make your own bitting observation
What to look for…
Look for symmetry in your horse’s face? Pay special attention to the ears, eyes, protruding cheek bones, mouth and lips, nostrils.
Note down your findings or take a photo.
On this image we have made a grid of over this horse’s face to look for any asymmetry.
Looking at the muzzle how long/short is the smile, put your fingers on the inside of the corners of the lips and feel how fleshy or not they are. Feel the inside of the corners of the lips and now look inside to see if there are any marks. Cuts or rubs might indicate that your current bit does not fit correctly. Note down your observations.
Tongue Shape & Size
Look at your horse’s tongue (in its natural position), how big is it, how much space does it take up? Does it stick out the side of your horse’s teeth? Thicker bits may not be suitable for horses with large tongues as there is less room.
How much of the tongue covers the bars?
How arched or flat does the palate look? This vial observation tells us how much room the horse has to accommodate a bit. Some horses find the roof of their mouths sensitive and do not like bits that apply pressure here. A high arch to the roof of the mouth provides more space for a bit feature. Look at the ridges on the roof of the mouth, are they deep or shallow? Can you see any marks which might have been caused by the bit?
Bars of the mouth
If it is safe to do so stand in front of your horse and gently run your thumbs simultaneously on the bars, from the molars (back teeth) towards the incisors (front teeth). If your horse won’t safely let you run both thumbs simultaneously down the bars, you can do this one at a time. Feel how symmetrical they are note the length, if they are sharp or fleshy, smooth, or irregular and bumpy? Horses with sharper bars could be more sensitive to bits that give more bar pressure. Research has shown that bony irregularities are present in many domestic horses and not found in feral horses. This proves that the irregularities are from bit wear, if you are interested to learn more please click here
Wolf Teeth / Canines
Canines are more frequently found in male horses but also found in mares and sit in the gap where the bit will sit. They are found on the bottom and top jaw, but your horse will not necessarily have all four. We need to keep this in mind when bitting and sometimes have to alter the height of the bit so we are not touching them.
Does the tongue spill over the canines? Can you see any rubs or bruising on the tongue?
This might be a better question to ask your dentist/vet as they sit most commonly in the top jaw just in front of the molars. They can appear on the lower jaw but this is less common.
These teeth can lead to trouble if they have been removed and undetected tooth fragments have been left behind. They can also cause problems for bitting depending on their location. If the wolf tooth is situated too far forward from the pre-molar the bit can get caught in between. When your dentist is next out, do ask him/her to show you where the wolf teeth are.
This completes our bitting observation! How did you get on? Do you have any questions?
Next time, we look at rein tension and how a bit should sit in your horse’s mouth. So stay tuned!
Find out more about bitting…
If you would like to find out more about our bitting rentals and fitting consultations please contact us:
Telephone: 01284 811032
For fitting services please go to our WEBSITE and click ‘Bitting Advice’.