The Real Deal About Bitting Your Horse- A Horse's Mouth Is A Mysterious Place

Sep 30, 2019



When customers come into the Maryland Saddlery, much discussion revolves around equipment and bit choices that we

are making for their horse’s level of training. I always begin the bitting discussion by asking about the health of their horse's mouth. To many owners, a horse’s mouth is a mysterious place. Many owners never open their horse’s mouth other than to put on a bridle.  

"If I open his mouth up I just might get bitten!"

Hopefully, you are having your horse’s teeth checked by qualified horse dentist at least once and preferably twice a year. Having a horse’s teeth floated or filed may solve many problems such as weight loss, head tossing and resistance to the bit. Painful dental problems can easily distract a horse from achieving your training goals as easily as a tooth ache can distract you.

Be there with the dentist so you can ask a few questions.
  • Is my horse’s mouth a normal mouth?
  • Is there anything abnormal about my horses mouth?
  • Does he have any teeth that would interfere with his bit?
  • Does he have thick lips that would get pinched by his bit.
  • Does he have any scarring on his tongue?
  • Does he have a low palate?



As owners and trainers we should be opening up and looking inside the mouth of all the horses we are training.

  • We need to check for cuts, grooves or scares on the tongue and on the corners of the mouth.
  • We also need to be checking for bruising on the bars of the mouth, the skin-covered bone between the front teeth and the molars.
  • I also test the consistency of the tongue. Is it soft and tender or leathery tough?
  • And don’t forget the wolf teeth, they are the small teeth that not all horses have that grow in in front of the top molars. These may be pulled or they may interfere with the way the bit sits in a horse’s mouth.
  • What about the thickness of their lips on the sides of their mouths. That is where the bit may compress the lip against the molars.


Once I am sure that there are no problems with a horse’s mouth I am ready to watch them train.

I begin analyzing what bit they need taking into consideration the specific structure of the horses mouth in order to achieve that horses specific training goals. Lower palates may mean we choose a mullen type bit with or without a low port. Thick lips may mean a thinner bit. As we consult about your specific training goals we can together choose the correct bit. Mouth pain is extremely distracting to a horse and they surely will not train as well as a horse that is comfortable in their bridle.


Hope Birsh
Maryland Saddlery