He who owns horses has to deal with a lot of uncertainties… Will I get my mare in foals? Is my foal healthy? Is my horse talented? Is he sweet? … These are some of the hundreds of questions you ask yourself as a breeder and rider. But there are many more questions to come up with. An important one, for example: “with which bit should I ride my horse?”

To find out more about bits, we met Géraldine Vandevenne from Equibitfit. In daily life she mainly works as a dental caregiver where she often encounters problems associated with the bit. Due to more and more questions from riders about the bit in combination with their horse, Géraldine decided to delve even deeper. “May I clarify something,” Géraldine begins our interview. “For me, bitfitting is not just about looking at the bit, but also about looking at the bridle that comes with the bit. You would be amazed at the effect of a browband that is 2 cm too small! ”

The emergence

“Actually bitfitting was created because we regularly saw injuries in the horse’s mouth and there were also many riders who asked what type of bit I could recommend for their horse. However, I am only human and I did not know all disciplines and all types of bits and so I decided to find out more about that. That was about 8 years ago. In the beginning it was very difficult, because there was little literature or scientific research about bits, let alone an education to learn more. There were some people who talked about the effect of curbs, for example, but they really talked purely about the bit and actually not many people listened to them. They were the pioneers! (laughs). ”

“Luckily, we have already become smarter and we now know that the bridles also have an important influence. We even do bit-less fitting, because there is also a lot of difference between bitless bridles. Especially in the last 2 years, a lot of scientific research has been done into the influence that a bridle can have on the biomechanics of the horse. ”

A fitting session

How do you know as a rider whether your horse has a bad position on the bit because of his bit, bridle or his back? “That’s a good question,” says Géraldine. “Before I come for a consultation, I like people to have already completed a checklist: a report from the dentist, but also the osteopath, physio and veterinarian can have important information for me. For example, a horse that has just had a tendon injury will compensate. This may lead to different bit problems than before the injury. Ideally, as a rider you also exclude that your saddle isn’t fitting well, because that can also cause many rideability problems. For me, the bitfitter is the last to come; all the other things must first be in order! ”

“The influence of the rider is of course also great on the bit. I have enough customers where, for example, the horse is ridden by two different people and they often need a different bit and, also regularly, a different bridle to achieve optimal comfort. All riders have a different style, strength in their hand, a good side, … These are all important things in the search for the right bit. Sometimes people are also confused during a fitting session, because then I end up with 2 double-jointed snaffles and then they say: ‘Yes, but those are two identical bits, I do not have to fit both’, but it is not that simple. They may look very similar, but there are small differences that make the pressure distribution completely different for the horse. I always try to explain it using shoes. You may love Nike Air Max’s in terms of comfort while your best friend may really hate them to walk on. Just as every foot is different, every horse’s mouth also has its own needs! ”


“Such a consultation takes an hour or two and while we can solve a lot, we cannot work miracles. To give an example: suppose the rider rides with a very strong right hand, then the trainer has probably already paid a lot of attention to that. That is not something we can solve in two hours. But what we can do, is optimize the situation. Ensure that the material is optimally adapted to the horse and the riding style so that it is easier for the horse and rider. We then try to get rid of imperfections and make it all more harmonious! This makes it easier for the rider and makes riding better and easier for the horse. And very important: we ensure that no injuries occur! ”

Breaking in

What is the ideal bit to train a young horse comfortably, without injuries? “That is a frequently asked question. There is no perfect bit, because, just think of the shoes, there is no shoe that suits everyone. That said, there are bits that suit a rider well. What we often do with riders who train young horses is to search with them for a set of basic tools, bits that are already tailored to the rider and that we can try out with the young horses. Often the advice is given to start a young horse with a full cheek snaffle, but experience shows that there are enough horses that do not find that pressure on their cheek comfortable at all. It’s a bit of a quest. Some horses accept any bit, while others protest vehemently. If you only have one horse, it is of course easier to do a consultation at the start of their training, but I know that it is simply not feasible for professionals. And that is also understandable. But the more comfortable a horse feels on the bit, the easier the training will go, that is a fact. ”

Eureka! Or not?

You undoubtedly recognize it… You try a new bit and your horse is going like never before. It’s easy and you’re sure: this is what you’ve been looking for all along! Until you are three weeks later… The bit no longer has any effect?! “A horse can of course react very differently at a competition than at home, but for starters, the horse must be comfortable on the bit in its mouth, let’s put that first. Sometimes horses are very heavy in the ring and riders think they need a heavier bit, while the horse is actually very uncomfortable and just tries to escape from the bit. Its is always a pity to see that things escalated to this situation… In addition, many riders do not know that by playing with the rings you can already change a lot in the intensity of a bit. Exactly the same bit with fixed rings, can give a very different reaction than the same bit with loose rings for example. Switching to a heavier bit too quickly can cause a horse to really die in the mouth. That is a pity, because often horses become lighter in the mouth of a lighter bit. When a horse is comfortable, it will become light in his mouth. If he feels uncomfortable, he will weigh heavily. And sometimes, with a bridle pressure gauge, you can really be amazed at how heavy it is. Then we are really talking about kilos! ”

“Sometimes riders put a new (heavier) bit in the mouth and then the horse goes very easily in the first weeks. That horse is now thinking “Ai, that hurts a bit so I will stay away from it”. After a while he will start to push to resist and then most riders will react by switching to an even heavier bit… You can already see it: a vicious circle! Sometimes you better go a step lighter: keep it simple! You just have to find the balance between what is comfortable for the horse and still safe for the rider. ”


“Riders are often guided by fashion. Then they call me and say, “I bought an anatomical bridle.” But there are 100 anatomical bridles in the shop and they are all different, each with their own effect … The riders don’t always think about that! Sometimes their bridle is worn out and then they buy a new bridle and say: the bit is no longer working. But what they don’t realise is that their new bridle works differently than the model they had before. Also new type of bits make riders want to try and switch, but I only have one advice: keep it simple because at the end of the ride, it is often best! ”

Source: Hippomundo.com