How to Find the Perfect Jumping Bit

There are a bazillion bits out there–which one is right for your horse? Lila Gendal shares a “bit” of advice.

Top: Skybreaker jumping in the gag this fall

From Lila:

Finding just-the-right bit for jumping can be exhausting. Obviously every horse is different, and every rider and horse combination has specific needs. But where does this madness begin? What are we looking for when it comes to bits for jumping? How do we know when the bit is perfect?


For starters, consider your horse. Are you dealing with an aggressive attack machine that sees a jump and locks on a half mile away? Are you dealing with a horse that gets heavy and lazy? Or perhaps are you dealing with a super sensitive horse that can’t handle too much bit? Ask yourself: What category does my horse fall under?

Next, start experimenting. This is when it is extremely helpful to have a bottomless pit of a tack truck filled with a random selection of bits. You don’t always know what is going to work until you try the bit, but here are a few suggestions to get you started:

If your horse is…

  • Hard to turn

…try a full-cheek or D-ring snaffle.

Ribbet collage

  • Strong and aggressive.

…try a textured mouthpiece or a bit with multiple joints.

Ribbet collage

  • On-the-forehand

…try a bit with some leverage.

Ribbet collage

  • Extra sensitive

…try a rubber or plastic mouthpiece.

Ribbet collage

  • Dry-mouthed

…try a bit with rollers or one made of copper or aurigan metal

Ribbet collage

You usually know within a couple minutes whether or not a bit works. Try a wide range of bits before deciding on any one thing. If you have friends who will let you borrow a bit, instead of going out and buying one, that is usually helpful too. Try a bunch of different bits and then go and buy the one that works the best.

still bit searching....Valonia in the Pelham last summer

Still bit searching… Valonia in the pelham last summer

Another piece of advice is to not only try your bit in the jump ring, but also give it a test-run cross-country. Obviously, some horses can be totally different creatures out galloping in the fields as opposed to the ring. Many event riders have a bit for stadium and a separate bit for cross-country. Others use the same bit for both jumping phases.

There’s no magical answer here other than giving yourself lots of options. I cannot say that all heavy and forehand-y horses should go in a gag. This would get me in a lot of trouble. It just so happens that both horses I ride go exceptionally well in the gag for different reasons. I also wouldn’t say that all aggressive horses should be ridden in a tom thumb pelham. I have no idea because every horse and rider has different needs. There are certainly bits that have a tendency to help certain type of horses and then there are those odd horses that those supposed bits don’t work on. You just have to try lots of different bits and find out what works best for you and your horse!

My name is Lila Gendal and I am 27 years old. I am from Vermont and have been riding horses since I was 6 years old. I have been eventing since I was 10. I have been riding and training with Denny Emerson for the last 7 years. My goal is to compete at the upper levels someday. I currently have a 2005 Holsteiner mare, “Valonia” (Contester X Parlona), who is currently going training level, and I am riding one of Denny Emerson’s horses, a 2005 Selle Luxemburg gelding, “Beaulieu’s Cool Skybreaker” (Beaulieu’s Coolman X Une Beaute by Heartbreaker) who will be moving up to training soon! When I am not on a horse or in the barn I am likely working in my office on what I like to call Equine Media… or social media for equestrians and equestrian websites.

V aug jump school!


MORE PLEASE! If you liked this post, check out Anita Marchesani’s “A Bit of Advice” columns in the archives here.




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