Question: “I have a question in regards to spade bits and smaller horses. I’ve made four bridle horses. The one that will be number five is an 800-pound half-Arab mare that is 14 hands on the mark. She’s going great and will probably be ready for a bit next spring. I’d like some feedback on spade length on smaller equines before I invest in a custom bit. She will need a 4 3/4 wide so should I take in consideration the length of the mouth piece?”
Martin Black: “Years ago in this country, it was common for people to ride half draft, half Thoroughbred ranch horses that would work in both harness and saddle. These horses were ridden with 5-inch mouthpieces, and so were the smaller Morgan horses with narrow mouths.
The lips of a horse are very pliable, so I am more concerned with the adjustment of the bit as to where it fits above the canine teeth to keep it from bumping them. It’s also important to have the bridle loops tipped out so that the headstall is not putting pressure on the cheek, pinching it between the molars on the inside and the top of the bit on the outside.
As far as picking a mouthpiece, I have done a lot of research and thousands of trials picking a mouthpiece for a horse and have come to the conclusion that no matter what I think, I can be wrong and the horse will always give me the correct answer on what feels best to him. A lot of it depends on the rider’s hands and how they present the feel of the mouthpiece to the horse, but also I believe the taste of the metal and a good cricket is equally as important as the shape of the mouthpiece or the height.
I believe it doesn’t matter if you have two bits or 20, given a choice the horse will feel better in a certain bit and that will be the right bit for that horse. All that being said, I have seen plenty of good bridlemen that had one bit that was used on all their horses and work fine. The width of the mouthpiece might seem the most obvious to us looking from the outside, but I think it is one of the least of the considerations of the horse.
The Bridle Horse Series goes into more detail about other bit considerations.
Thanks for your question!”