‘Bit fitting’. A term that pops up more and more. Can it simply be dismissed as a trend that cannot beat common sense? Or is it the next step in animal welfare and fine-tuning the communication between you and your horse? Hoefslag followed bit fitter Karin Toetenel to watch her work.
THE HORSES WITH THE RIDERS WHO SAY THEY DO NOT EXPERIENCE ANY PROBLEMS ARE THE ONES I CAN SURPRISE THE MOST WITH SIGNIFICANT IMPROVEMENT
This is Toetenel’s (25) opening statement. ‘Those clients are the most exciting.’ The horse that she is visiting today is trained using both a snaffle bridle and a double bridle. Karin: ‘If you buy a double bridle from me, it will always be combined with a snaffle. The bits need to be of the same brand and type, so they are interchangeable. Otherwise, the differences will be too great, and you will experience different contact for each one.’ Karin indicates that each bit has its own specific fit and that each horse has a different preference for what feels right in its mouth. ‘General guiding principles such as ‘a thinner bit is less friendly than a thicker one’ are not true – it all depends on the horse. The jointed and double-jointed bits, for example, provide a different pressure distribution, and each has pros and cons. A single jointed bit has a downside in that it can bend in such a manner that the joint pokes into the palate. A double-jointed bit has more pressure on the tongue.’
After an extensive examination of the head and body, we must also consider the mouth. Karin uses her fingers to feel her way around the palate, the bars, the lips, and the mouth’s corners to check for damage or changes in the bone. Our test subject indicates that he has had enough when Karin takes out her flashlight and moves his tongue. ‘Sorry, buddy, hang in there, it’s for the greater good,’ she tells him soothingly while managing a final look at his teeth. Later she reveals that she already has eliminated many bit options in her mind during this stage, so she knows which ones she’d like to test during riding. This is a relief because one look at her car boot shows that she has an endless supply of options on offer. ‘I am not committed to a single brand of bits. I am here to help the horse, so I need to be able to use different brands.’