Lorinery is mainly used to refer to bits and the metals that they are made from although it does have a broader context and a Loriner is actually someone who makes the metalwork for all parts of the horse’s tack and harness including the saddle tree. There still exists today the Worshipful Company of Loriners, a livery company of the City of London with a proud heritage dating back to 1261.
Today, most horse owners buy their tack through retail outlets or direct from a saddler, however bitting remains something of a lost art. Most people are driven towards changing their horse’s bit either because there is a new one on the market that they like the look of or because they are experiencing a problem with their horse.
The bit that a horse wears is only one part of the different components that may influence performance under saddle so if the horse is being difficult in the mouth or in the rider’s hand there are a few things to check first.
- Ask your vet or dentist to check the horse’s teeth for any sharp edges, cuts, ulcers or general discomfort within the mouth
- Ensure that the saddle is suited to the work being undertaken and fits the horse
- Eliminate other possible pain or sources of resistance so subtle lameness, back issues or discomfort. This can be discussed with the vet or an animal chiropractor or physiotherapist
- Assess the level of the horse’s education and the competency of the rider, is the horse being asked to do something that is too difficult and for which it is not trained? Is the rider over horsed, struggling with a mount that is too advanced or challenging for their current level?
- Review the horse’s diet, is the horse being fed too much and not worked enough, is the food too high in sugar and carbohydrate which can lead to bad or excitable behaviour?
Good horse management should involve a programme of regular teeth, back and saddle checks so you should be certain that any issues with the horse’s mouth are not emanating from a pain source somewhere else.
There are myriad different bits available and what works for one horse may not work for another. The temperament, strength and training of the horse are so relevant to its way of going and also, the quality of the rider. Here are some top bitting tips to help you through the maze:-
- Try not to follow the latest fashion, look at the anatomical structure of your horse’s mouth and learn about the different jaw types, for example, Thoroughbreds tend to have a long and narrow jaw which means they are better suited to less chunky bits. Narrower bits were always deemed to be more severe but your Thoroughbred horse may well be more comfortable in one because of the shape of its mouth and lack of room
- The old rule of the snaffle is best because it is a mild bit is not always the case although generally it is best to use the softest bit that is appropriate. ‘Bitting up’ so putting a stronger bit in can help a less experienced rider in certain situations and avoids the inevitable tug of war that can occur with a milder bit and which can encourage the horse to pull
- There are different companies called bit banks which offer bit hire for a month and this is a good way to take your time and find out whether your new bit really does make a difference. Some bit manufacturers will allow you to try before you buy through retail outlets. Any deposit paid is used to offset the cost of the bit if you go ahead and buy it
- Always check that the bit you intend to use is legal if you are competing; many bit companies have training versions of their bits and they should be able to tell you if their bit is competition legal. Discipline rules don’t just look at the style of bit but also the mix of metals that it is made from. Always read your Rulebook
- If you change your bit, don’t necessarily expect instant differences in your horse, sometimes this can take time
- As well as looking at the bit, consider the influence of your horse’s noseband. The noseband can affect the response of the horse to the bit either positively or negatively so it is a factor to consider
- Discuss objectively any concerns with your instructor or someone who is professionally qualified. They might feel that your particular issue, for example, turning a horse up to a fence, is due to bad habits from the past or lack of current schooling in which case a change of bit may not be relevant but equally, could prove quite helpful as part of a training package
Bitting is both an art and a science; there are so many factors to take into consideration when choosing a bit. And its worth remembering that at the end of the day, a bit is only ever as good as the hands that sit at the other end of the reins.