Want to Learn a Trick on How to Properly Fit a Bit?
By Dave Robart, Inventor of the Robart Pinchless Bits
The concept and design of the Robart Pinchless horse bit came from the experience of riding hundreds of horses throughout my career. One idea that led me to designing Robart Pinchless bits was that leverage and timing wasn’t everything and that something was missing. Horses are a fight or flight animal and the fight reaction can be generated by conventional bits being built on the theory of leverage. Through this old theory, leverage is usually accompanied by pain for the horse. The Robart Pinchless bit theory obtains leverage while eliminating unnecessary pain.
I believe when building and designing bits the first thing to be considered is the horse’s sensitivity which is contrary to previous beliefs. A good example of putting leverage bit design first rather than sensitivity can be seen when a horse is fighting a bit that is too harsh for its mouth. A common reaction to this problem is resorting to a more severe mouthpiece. This will cause the horse to go into fight mode with the rider which in turn causes the riders timing to be focused on the fight with the bit and not the response the rider is working towards. Timing is an important key to a successful ride, however the rider must look at the reaction they are causing the horse to produce by the mouthpiece they have chosen.
The bit the rider elects to work with needs to fit the horse as an individual. I have learned over the years that no two horses have the same needs when it comes to fitting for a bit. Let’s look at two types of horses, firstly an Arabian and secondly a Warmblood.
One would find an Arabian horse to have a smaller tongue and a narrower mouth in comparison to a Warmblood that has a thicker tongue and can be found to be less sensitive than the Arab’s tongue. Please keep in mind that these are just examples of what can be found when observing these types of horses and their mouths. All horses are unique and need to be treated so when fitting for a bit.
With the example of the Arabian horse- if using a conventional snaffle bit, the horse would be forced to give resistance from the pain caused by the snaffle bit pinching the sensitive tongue. Not only would the horse go into fight mode from the pain of the pinch but also the pain caused by the scissor effect a conventional snaffle bit has when both reins are lifted together. The scissor effect is where the center of the snaffle is forced upwards and the sides collapse around the jaw bone. This will cause the Arab to want to fight the bit by pushing into the mouthpiece and resisting closing its mouth. These reactions to pain can be avoided with the Robart Pinchless bits. The Robart Pinchless Snaffle has an internal mechanism that prevents the pinch in the center of the snaffle and offers a smoother scissor effect. With the Robart Pinchless mechanism in place and the scissor effect no longer constricting, tongue relief is provided. By eliminating the unnecessary pain, the rider and horse are able to work on the task at hand. The horse is no longer in fight mode with the pain caused by the conventional snaffle which in turn allows the rider to adjust their timing for the response they are working towards
For the Warmblood horse with a thicker tongue, I have discovered that there is a fifty/fifty chance of them having a sensitive tongue. This is compared to a thinner tongue which is always found to be sensitive. In order to give this example, I would like to share a trick I have found to be useful when evaluating a horse’s sensitivity. I call this the dime trick and yes, I mean that little old dime found in your pocket!
First, the rider needs to have the horse in a halter and lead rope not tied up, for each horse will have its own reaction to this dime trick. Take the dime between the index finger and thumb with half of the dime sticking out of the tips of the fingers. The rider should hold the side of the halter so they can control whatever reactions the horse produces to the trick. Next, run the dime down the neck of the horse with some pressure. It is here you will find the level of sensitivity of the horse and also be able to observe the type of attitude/reaction the horse will have when pain is applied from the bit. For a more sensitive horse the rider will see the horse jump away from the dime and display the reaction the rider will have to deal with when the horse is caused pain by the bit. With a less sensitive horse, it will just stand there with little to no reaction from the dime trick.
Once it is found that the Warmblood is less sensitive, there are two options in the Robart Pinchless line of bits. The first is the Hunter D: this bit is designed with a mouthpiece that is curved forward. This curve gives pressure around the whole tongue and it is through this more dispersed pressure that a rider has a stronger bit to counteract the horse not being very sensitive. In turn this gives the horse the capability to listen to cues better. The second is the Robart Pinchless Cork Screw Bit. This bit is found to pair best with a horse that does not like pressure on the tongue. This Cork Screw bit is designed to apply the pressure along the jawline and release pressure on the tongue. This still gives the rider the leverage needed to work with the horse in a productive manner.
Through these examples I have demonstrated the first key to fitting a horse with the proper Robart Bit, which is not leverage but the sensitivity level of the horse. In my opinion, leverage still plays a role in fitting a horse with a bit, however to fit a horse successfully the horse’s sensitivity level must come first. When one puts the sensitivity of the mouth first when fitting a bit it allows the riders timing to work for them and not be wasted on problems produced by pain from a conventional bit. Look for more Robart Pinchless articles on the next steps for effectively biting a horse with a Robart pinchless bit.