I get questions all the time about what bit would be best for my pony. (or horse or donkey or mule)
My first question is usually what exactly are they doing with their current bit that makes you think they don’t like it?
Then I ask if they have a pony or a horse. Often ponies (and this goes for minis all the way up to Gypsy Vanners) have low pallets and fleshier, thicker tongues. Some horses will also have a mouth that is shaped this way, and this is what makes bit fit a bit trickier.
The ponies and horses that have the fleshier tongues and low pallets have very little room in their mouths for the bit. So the diameter of the bit will really matter in these cases.
We have been told for so long that the single joint snaffle is the kindest bit we can use, but that is simply not true. With all the new science (and lots of old science!) that centers on studying the horses mouth shape and what exactly the bit is doing in their mouth when it’s closed, we are learning that the single joint snaffle acts as a vise, squeezing their tongue and lower jaw when we lift our lines. This can cause a lot of stress for the horse as well as resistance to the bit itself. This leads lots of people to believe that all bits are bad. After all, if their horse is resistant to the very “kind” snaffle bit then the others would be even worse. This is not true.
Those ponies and horses that have the low pallet and fleshier tongues will really benefit from using a mullen style mouth piece. This is just a straight, or curved, mouth piece that gives them more space in their mouths. The straight mullen will still apply pressure to the tongue and the bars, which some horses like, but will not squeeze the tongue or lower jaw. The curved style of bit will work off of bar pressure, but will not put pressure on the tongue and will not squeeze the tongue or the lower jaw. As we get into the different style cheek pieces we will get into different leverages as well. That may be information for another post…
The diameter of the bit will really matter for those with little room in their mouths as well. The larger the diameter the less room they will have and this can make them feel like they are gagging. Some people feel this is inhibiting their breathing, it’s less about that and more about them just basically choking on the bit. Using a bit that is finer, a smaller diameter, will really help them find relaxation, come onto the bit more readily and they will be able to move their tongue a bit more which can lead to further relaxation as well.
Our favorite bit for ponies here at Chimacum Tack is the Bowman Arch mouth (or Victory mouth) baucher bit. This bit offers tongue relief and we can choose the diameter we want which allows us to have a finer mouth piece.
Hopefully this cleared up a bit of the confusion about why ponies and horses mouths are different. OR helped you understand why your pony or horse may be objecting to their current bit.