A key question posed by Neue Schule company founder and bitting guru, Heather Hyde, regarding poll pressure was recently resolved. Heather wanted to know how much poll pressure each bit in the Neue Schule range produces, according to cheek type.
The results are, in some instances, straight forward and in others help to resolve longstanding debates.
Read the Neue Schule Poll Pressure Guide below for more information.
There are various measurements to consider when sourcing and assessing the correct size of bit including length, thickness, ring size and design.
Loose Ring Cheeks
The picture below demonstrates a popular loose ring snaffle bit, the NS Team Up. Other cheeks that are measured this way include the Universal, Beval, Balding Gag and the measurements to consider are here:
1) Mouthpiece Length: The measurement is taken by placing the bit on a flat surface and pulling the rings apart so the bit is at its maximum length. The Measurement is taken along the full length of the mouthpiece from the inside edge of the loose ring to the inside edge of the opposite loose ring and can be measured in inches or centimetres.
2) Mouthpiece thickness: This measurement is taken at the widest part near to the cheek just before the hole that the ring slides through. Again, if you put the bit on a flat surface , you can slide a tape measure below this point and, if you look from above, you can see the thickness. The most accurate way to measure the thickness of your bit is using an set of callipers, which are widely available.
3) Loose Ring Diameter: This measurement is taken from inner edge of the loose ring and is generaly measured in millimetres; 70mm being the average for the standard loose ring bit; 55mm is the typical bridoon ring size.
Fixed cheek bits include the Baucher or Hanging Cheek, Full Cheek, D Ring, Eggbutt, Cheltenham Gag, and Nelson Gag. The picture below, showing the NS Tranz Full Cheek bit, is a good example of the points to measure at for this type of horse bit. As you can see, the only difference is that the mouthpiece thickness of the Fixed Cheek bit is measured directly adjasent to the cheek.
When sourcing a Weymouth for your horse, there are a couple of addtional measurements to consider as demonstrated in the picture.
1)Shank length (lower): This measurement is taken from below the mouthpiece to the bottom of the shank (not the bottom of the loose ring) and is generally done in centimtres; 5cm, 7cm and 9cm are the options available within the Neue Schule collection.
2)Shank length (upper): In the Neue Schule collection this measurement has been scaled according to the lower shank length of the Weymouth. The Neue Schule website has further information on the legalities of various diameters and designs. Visit Neue Schule’s You Tube channel to see Heather Hyde, Company founder and designer, explain in detail how to measure your bit.
Giving a young horse the right start to its training is essential to finding its true potential and making sure you are using the right bit is a major factor in doing this. The support offered by using the right bit for a young horse is essential when starting to build the foundations of the horse’s training that he will need throughout his career.
Riders are realising the horse’s bit is equally important piece of tack .
When finding a bit for a young horse it is also important to consider the size of the mouthpiece. For young horses, Heather recommends mouthpieces with a good weight bearing surface which then doesn’t target a specific area; around 16mm thickness is idea. Heather suggests “A baby might trip or lack balance, or he could be very spooky, but you don’t want them to punish themselves if they take a fright or trip, so you do need a slightly thicker bit.”
Issues that would be a challenge with mature horses are exaggerated with babies and they need to be carefully handling and training in order to prevent it from becoming a lifelong issue. Youngsters can be headstrong and if they don’t understand the aids they are likely to run on. Simply increasing the strength of the bit that you use may cause further problems. Heather says “If you put a stronger bit on a horse who runs off when confused or scared it could be disastrous as it is a trust issue, you do need collection and control but if the first thing that kicks in is a strong bit they’ll panic and try and run through it and this could really set them back in their training.”
To solve this problem, Heather suggests finding a bit that works on different pressure points collectively in order to give you better control, “The basis of a bit for control is to save the mouth, so you don’t have to haul on the reins, once a horse has experimented with a bit he’ll work within those parameters.” Failure to maintain a contact or being tentative in the contact is another common problem with younger horses. Heather suggests trying a fixed cheek bit to offer stability, which will help him to reach for a contact more. She says “It’s not often a comfort thing but a confidence thing, the fixed cheek will encourage him to experiment a bit more and start taking the rein forward and down.”
If you are still struggling to maintain a contact make sure to check there is nothing that could be causing the horse to be reluctant to take a contact – for example wolf teeth. If your horse tends to become over bent or fixates on the bit rather than listening to your signals, Heather recommends trying a bit with loose rings, such as a loose ring snaffle bit, which allows for gentler mouthing.
When introducing a new bit to your horse it is always important to do so carefully and to always be patient. Heather suggests “Test any new bit methodically in a calm situation like your school. Don’t jump straight in and go flat out. Work in walk and trot at first and work slowly up to what you are aiming to do.” Make sure your other tack is consistent so you can be sure any difference in his way of going is down to the bit alone.
Working on the lunge can help a horse get to grips with a new bit as it is easier for him to take his neck forward and down without having to think of the weight of the rider as well. If a horse has low confidence or if the rider is struggling with contact, Heather recommends side reins as they will help a horse to stretch and take the contact forward and down. “They shouldn’t be tight or restricting his neck, but should offer enough support for the horse to feel secure and confident. By doing this correctly you are introducing a horse to a new bit in a way that is easier for them to accept it.
Regularly switching a horse’s bit between several that are comfortable and effective is now viewed as a positive step in the horse’s training and development. Heather explains that applying the same pressure day-in, day-out will cause a horse to build up resistance towards that bit, but by changing the bit you will employ different pressure points and keep things fresh.
“Horses can get very tense under unfamiliar demand and can revert to old habits or an incorrect ways of going, so if you know the penny won’t drop for a while use a familiar bit to support him and give him confidence.” However, you must ensure that your youngster understands all you’ve taught him before you move on, or you risk confusing him and setting your progress back. Heather says “There’s no substitute for basic training. If a horse doesn’t understand the signals through the rein and the rider doesn’t know how to apply them, there isn’t a bit in the world that can change that.”
On the advice line and during bitting clinics I often talk with riders who recognise that they need extra control in order to remain safe. However, they are reluctant to upgrade from a snaffle. The main reason for their reluctance is that they feel with all the effort and building blocks they have put into their horse’s basic training in order to communicate – this should not be necessary. They many times feel inadequate and that they have failed in some respect. Let’s just cast our minds back to our initial training objectives. We set out through our formative training to physically build our horse’s strength. We develop the muscles necessary for self carriage so as the job we have in mind is easy for them to perform. A lot of our basic training is repetitive school work and not really very exciting. We also teach them to be confident individuals in so many ways. For instance the systematic riding away process which will ultimately allow them to hack out alone confidently. Left to their own instincts and devices they would not stray from the herd or their stable mates for a walk down the main road and a trot round the local park. So we now have this stronger, fitter, more confident partner and we are ready for the next step.
Personally for our first party I would suggest some low key prelim dressage, or riding club flatwork activities, before embarking on fast, fun times such as drag hunting or sponsored rides. It is when we reach this stage that many riders find they do need extra control, and under these circumstances it is a wise move to upgrade the bit immediately. Some horses will ultimately settle once the novelty of these fast, fun jaunts has worn off. But meanwhile the damage done to the mouth by sustained pulling may well be irreversible and permanent. Many of our Neue Schule bits are designed for kind control. Successfully staying mild within the mouthpiece, whilst simultaneously employing many other external pressure points in order to give control and thus save the mouth. We are not over greedy with any specific pressure points. If discomfort is the first thing the horse experiences then he may either fight or simply run through the bridle, and if we don’t bring him back within the first couple of strides he will switch to flight mode, the adrenalin will kick in and he will even forget why he went in the first instance! Using humane bits in order to give the pilot directive, refocuses the horse back on the rider and as he responds this allows us to soften and reward instantly.
When upgrading from a snaffle we shouldn’t just career off to the beach in order to test our brakes! This is not fair to the horse as he has not experienced the action of the new bit. Also bear in mind you may suddenly discover airbrakes and rapidly exit the front door! So, school in the bit first in a safe environment such as indoor/outdoor school or part of a familiar field, taped off. Build up methodically through walk, trot and canter on both reins, employing soft rein aids in order to determine how much pressure you need to exert. Before dropping yourself in at the deep end, set up a test situation with friends who do have control in order to more fully assess your horse’s response.
Continue to use your snaffle for flatwork and save your control bit for faster, fun work. Your horse should be just as responsive on the flat as you have not hardened the mouth through excessive pulling. Also your snaffle mouthpiece is employing different pressure points thereby keeping the mouth fresh and soft.
Riders seeking advice systematically tell me they have worked through ‘every’ bit and nothing has been a permanent solution. Although some of these bits may have initially had the desired effect the horse has then resisted and found his way around it.
Many years ago I had a very extreme experience. I was given a ‘dangerous’ horse that would otherwise have been destroyed. He had undergone a regime of thorough diagnostic procedures that had ruled out any apparent physical cause. His party piece was to rear and on four previous occasions he had gone over backwards and hospitalised his riders. He was a potential event horse, a 16.2hh thoroughbred, grey and with very pinky lips. I took my time letting him settle in and discovered his skin was extremely sensitive, to the point where he could only be groomed with an extremely softly bristled body brush. He was so sensitive, everything that came into contact with him had to be cushioned and padded. After much ground work and bonding I sat on him for the first time. To my great relief everything was great, and he was extremely willing and responsive. I obtained the same good result on the second day. However, on the third day after 10 minutes easy work he went straight up. To cut a long story short I discovered that he could not tolerate being ridden in the same design of bit for 3 consecutive days. Even though there was nothing untoward to see in his mouth, I changed his bit every second day. The problem was resolved and I called this his Comfortable Working Window. He went on to event successfully at a very high level.
Some horses are genuinely so sensitive that they cannot bear you employing the same pressure points within the mouth indefinitely. The advice I give is logical and has proven over the years to work. The simple solution is that out of all the bits you have tried, re-source the ones that gave you the desired effect and rotate them. Whether you need to change every 3 days, 3 weeks or 3 months; this is manageable. Please also refer to the Section on ‘How to diagnose a mouth problem’.
The Turtle name is derived from its central
link shape (shown right), which itself, takes
inspiration from the Box Turtle.
What is so different about this revolutionary method of lorinery design?
Initially, in order to achieve the optimum position and angle for comfort we captured the angles of the horses nose and tongue line (there is 10° difference), and also the angle of the cheek piece and rein.Then we measured the degree of clockwise rotation that occurs when a rider takes up a rein contact on a snaffle. This is what we call the ‘working angle’.Then we factored this in and reconfigured the bore axis accordingly. This means that we changed the angle of the hole that the bit cheeks run through at the ends of the mouthpiece cannons.
So what does this achieve?
1. The concave underside of the bit lays flat on the tongue and remains this way as you ride, offering a smooth profile with more weight bearing surface and reduced pressure. However, there is very little bulk between the tongue and the upper palate meaning that it is no longer necessary to use a fat bit to achieve the large weight bearing surface.
2. The upper surface of the central link in both bits is gently curved and widened. This matches equine palate anatomy fitting neatly under the palatine arch.
3. The mouthpiece remains further back in the mouth negating the need to over-tighten the cheek-pieces. This reduces the pressure in both the corner of the lip and on the poll. This is not only more comfortable for the horse it means your subtle half halts are more readily felt.
The Turtles wrap around the tongue rather than laying along the tongue (shown left).
4. The horse is much less inclined to draw the tongue back or stick it out to the side owing to an uncomfortable mouthpiece. Old habits do however die hard and if he has ingrained tongue evasions (and these do tend to appear when a horse is stressed or excited) then there is the physical restriction of the locking cannons, which won’t lift into the upper quadrant, to help eradicate this. (The lifting of the bit’s cannons is not a rein aid that a rider would give as the hands would have to be directly above the horse’s ears in order to do so.)
Chomping and chewing is also discouraged, helping to prevent damage to the tooth enamel.
So what is the difference between the Turtle Top and the Turtle Tactio?
The Turtle Top offers a very even weight-bearing surface across the whole of the mouth, whereas the Turtle Tactio utilises the centre of the tongue in order to alleviate bar pressure. This is comfortable for the horse as the centre of the tongue is depressed down onto the floor of the mouth whereas the outer edges of the tongue are not pushed down onto the angular, bony bars that are not well cushioned and therefore are much more prone to damage.
Fitting made easier
Turtle Top, Turtle Tactio and the Flex design concept together make identifying the optimum length of your bit easier than ever. The improvement in fit to mouth anatomy means that selecting the ideal Turtle Top or Turtle Tactio with Flex bit for your horse is readily achieved.
Simply use the Neue Schule colour coded measurement chart for guidance.
Products are available in sizes between 108 and 168 mm (that’s 4¼ inches to just over 6½ inches) – so there’s an ideal size for every horse!
Simply lay your existing bit on the chart and the size of the Turtle Top or Turtle Tactio bit you need is indicated. The colour band that best envelopes the mouthpiece of your bit from inside cheek to inside cheek indicates your ideal size.