There are various devices (mouth measures) available that will enable you to measure your horse’s mouth in order to determine the correct size of bit. We’ll look at three examples.
This design is bulky and it takes time to adjust. This method of measuring is invasive and although accurate when used correctly if the horse hasn’t been bitted previously it may not be the most practical.
Heather with Neue Schule's homemade mouth measure;
This is a better alternative to simply using a piece of string. Position it within the mouth where the bit would sit with the rubber snug against one side, apply some tension and then measure the distance between the rubber disc and the fingertips positioned snug against the corner of the opposite lip. This will then determine the size of a fixed cheek design. Remember that for a loose ring design you need to add half an inch to this value.
The other method of measuring is with Neue Schule callipers. This is non-invasive and is often used for horses that have not been bitted previously. However you may need to take some time introducing your horse to the callipers as the red arrows need to touch the corner of the horse’s lips simultaneously at either side. At that point the measurement is given for a fixed cheek and a loose ring.
The other common method of measuring is to use an existing bit which has been measured and then the fit is assessed in situ. Obviously this is only a good guide if the bit is a near fit anyway.
A poorly fitting bit is a common cause of mouth trauma. Rubs in the corner of the mouth are possibly the most common form of such trauma and they may be caused by using a bit that is too small but also by a bit that is too wide! In the latter case the cause is friction as the bit slides back and forth as the rider asks for turns etc.
You are probably the only person that has the opportunity to check your horse's mouth on a regular basis.
It is important to look for anything unusual, including any signs of bruising, cuts, etc. Check out the tongue and don't forget to look underneath as ulcers and trauma can occur here. The tongue may be lifted gently in order to look underneath but do not grab it and hang on as it is a muscle and damage may occur. Check out the upper and lower palate and bars for any signs of rubbing. Don't forget to look inside the cheeks in case the flesh has been pushed into the teeth by the cheek of the bit. This is not an uncommon injury and is often only found by the dentist. Obviously if the external corners of the lips are rubbing it will be clearly apparent, but don't forget to turn the corner out to check for rubbing inside.
A general guide to ensuring your bit is at the correct height in the mouth would be to aim for 1/2 - 1 lip wrinkles at the corners of the mouth. Please bear in mind that mouth conformation varies and some horses are much shorter from the corner of the lip to the muzzle ('short smile'). In this case it is often tempting to shorten the cheek pieces excessively thus causing the horse much discomfort and to appear to grin like a Cheshire cat. When fitting a bit with a fixed cheek, such as the Eggbutt, the lip should gently brush up against the butt end ensuring a snug, although not tight, fit.If using a very popular lozenge loose ring such as the Team Up then the general rule would be to have clearance either side of no more than one eighth of an inch from the corner of the lip up to the hole that the ring passes through.The fit of the bit needs to be assessed at rest and then with a contact. It is quite common for riders to employ loose rings that are too big.
Neue Schule bits are produced using state of the art design and manufacturing techniques. Neue Schule works with Computer Aided Design and a mathematical formula is inbuilt so as not to lose the integrity of the design with varying sizes. All of the mouthpieces use individual casting molds and the designs are available in quarter inch increments. This ensures that a correct fit is obtained to effectively employ the correct pressure points within the mouth thus maximizing on comfort and communication.
In order to determine whether your current bit is the right size and positioned correctly within the mouth simply photograph the bit in situ and e-mail us.