Changing bits… For some of us, the concept of swapping bits for winter is a totally foreign one, perhaps something we’ve never even considered before. For others, this is just another seasonal change out that comes hand in hand with the winter months. The big question is, is this something we should all be doing or something that we should all be avoiding? We’ve done some research so that you don’t have to. Take a look at what we’ve found…
Changing Bit – Why?
First and foremost, changing your horses’ bit should never be seen as a quick, easy fix. Every horse is different and finding the right bit for them is usually a real uphill struggle. If you are happy you’ve got control of your horse and your horse is comfortable, it’s probably best stick with the bit they’re in. On the other hand, if your horse is uncomfortable or it’s no longer meeting your needs as a rider, it might be time to re-evaluate. At this point, you may be thinking what exactly has the season got to do with bitting, but it really can make a difference and here’s why…
Have you ever noticed that your mood, and even behaviour changes with the seasons? In truth, this isn’t uncommon! As the cold sets in and we spend more time inside, we often have a completely different outlook on life compared with the sunny months prior. Unsurprisingly, our horses are no different. The thing is, they’re not always quite so happy to be tucked up warm in bed. In fact, as turnout opportunities dwindle and they spend more time stuck inside, they often become what can only be described as a little stir crazy. As owners, sometimes there’s nothing we can do about this. Our only option can be to increase their time under saddle, in an attempt to allow them a much-needed leg stretch. Sadly though, this can prove hair raising (to say the least). It therefore comes as no shock that this is one of the primary reasons to change bit during the winter.
We’re not talking about how well behaved your horse is, but what activities you’re doing with them. Changing bits is a two way street! It’s pretty common for many of us owners to opt for a stronger bit during the winter, but it’s not always the case. For some horses, the winter months provide a welcome and much needed break from competing. So, they may go from a super fit novice eventer to a happy hacker enjoying life in the slow lane. If this marks a more laid back time for you and your horse, you may actually want to consider swapping to a more subtle, softer bit.
During the winter months it’s common practice to change our horses’ feed. With rich green grass a thing of the past and hay or haylage here for the long haul, we often look to their bucket feeds to ensure that they stay looking, feeling and riding at their very best. This sometimes means supplementing their diet with added extras such as balancers, oils and concentrates. These days, feed manufacturers recognise that most owners prefer to feed slow release energy sources, which helps to prevent our horses becoming ‘hot’. But this isn’t always the case. Some traditional and competition feeds provide a short sharp burst of energy. Just like when kids have too many sweets at Christmas, you may find you need a little extra help reining them in!
Let’s face it, if someone asked you to strip back the layers and run around in the cold, you’d probably object, right? Well, you know that first ride after your horse has been clipped… The one that resembles the rodeo? It’s essentially the same thing! Being cold is a common cause for horses to act up. In some cases, simply using an exercise sheet to cover their quarters can help to make them more comfortable. However, more sensitive types may stay sharper during the colder months. This may mean that changing their bit is on the cards.
There’s loads of reasons the changing seasons can mean it’s time to think about investing in a new bit. Before you change bit, you should always have a clear goal in mind, a set idea of what you’d like to achieve. It may be that there’s an alternative way to approach the situation, so there are a few questions to ask yourself first:
- Has your horse recently had their teeth checked?
- Could there be an issue with their tack that’s causing a change in your horse’s behaviour?
- Could a training aid such as a flash help your current bit to work more effectively?
- If you’ve changed your horse’s diet, are any of the new feeds heating?
- Is it possible for your horse to have more turnout?
- Is your horse cold?
Changing bit is no easy task. If you’re still unsure or feel that changing your horse’s bit is the right option, head over to our blog ‘Which Bit For My Horse?‘. Here we run through the types of bit and how to pick the one that best suits both you as a rider and your horse.
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