“I really appreciate you sharing a lifetime of acquired knowledge with us.
One of my biggest challenges is getting better with my hands, as all of my formative training was old school Hunter/Jumper. Muscle memory is a difficult thing to overcome. I’ve got a super hot, sensitive horse which is how I started my horsemanship journey. Our relationship has improved tremendously as I’ve learned how to see, and feel things I never was aware of before. I’m just starting to use the hackamore on him as I realize what a big responsibility it is to use it correctly. My eventual goal is to progress my skills until I can ride straight up in the bridle.
My question is this:
I’ve noticed that all the bridle bits are 5”, which seems a bit narrow to me. My guys go in a 5.25” and I imagine some Iberian breeds and larger horses would also need a wider mouthpiece. So, why are they always 5” and where can you get a 5.25”? I do realize the top ring on the cheek piece is angled out and away, is that supposed to offer some comfort and relief on a narrower bit?
Thanks so much Martin.”

Amy via email


The problem in most cases isn’t the width of the bit in relation to the width of the horses mouth. The problem is that at the molars of a horse it is considerably wider than at their lips. You can have a bit that fits comfortable in the corners of the mouth and be too narrow at the top making the headstall squeeze the cheeks against the molars and cause sores inside of the horses cheeks.

This is why I make sure that the loops on the bit can hold the headstall far enough out that there’s no pressure at the molars. Each loop can tip out a quarter to a half inch making a half to a full inch difference in the width at the headstall.

Besides, the lips are very playable and could be pushed in quite a ways without causing any discomfort. A quarter or half inch wider bit will make very little difference where there’s nothing to pinch the lips. On the other hand that same distance could cause considerable pressure to the cheek between the headstall and the molar.

For what it’s worth I have studied and collected a lot of old bits used in an area where I would like to think there was much better horseman then what we have today. A lot of these people rode bigger horses, some with draft in them, and I’ve never found any of them old bits that were over 5 inches wide. Draw your own conclusion.

Martin Black