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Choose your bit, bridle, and bitless bridle fitter wisely!

I am thrilled beyond measure to see bit and bridle and bitless bridle fitting becoming more common and more people interested in this service. There is, unfortunately, a downside. I’ll say this is not at all intended to be snarky, but it is intended to help any horse owner get true professional bit and bridle fitting services and not just a wink and a nod.

I’ve had quite a few people contact me in the last few weeks regarding fittings who have had some interesting experiences and today has been the record for the number of interesting experience requests in one day.

I had 5 people contact me today regarding bit fitting services. Two of them had bits “fitted” by their farriers, 1 had their bit “fitted” by an animal communicator, 1 had their bit “fitted” by their saddle rep, and 1 was “fitted” by a massage therapist. In each instance when I asked what the fitting entailed, each of them told me the person pulled out a bit gauge like the one pictured and took a lateral measurement and nothing more. They were charged for this service, varying from $15 to $45.

Bit gauge, a plastic cylindrical object approximately 6 inches long with markings in increments of fractionss of inches.

If only it were that easy to properly fit a bit. Spoiler alert: it’s not.

There are multiple measurements (not just lateral size) required to properly fit a bit. There are many factors that help determine the right type of bit (mouth and cheek piece) and bit material for any horse. There’s also determining the right place in the mouth the bit should sit based on anatomical markers. There is extensive education required to do this accurately, humanely, and ethically.

To date, I have invested over 1,300 hours (and still going!) in my education as a bit and bridle fitter. That education has included viewing multiple dissections (and I plan to participate in one as soon as I can), extensive study of equine anatomy with extra focus on the mouth, tongue, and teeth, head and neck, study of biomechanics, study of metallurgy and bit materials, study of grades, types, and dyeing processes of leather and other bridle materials, history of bitting and bridling (yes, really!) and other topics relevant to being a professional bit and bridle fitter. There’s been extensive study of the various mouth pieces and cheek pieces and their actions beyond what a bit manufacturer states – and unfortunately many of them and Google results are incorrect at best and misinformation at worst. There’s been reading tomes of peer reviewed studies and re-reading them again and contacting authors with questions.

It’s not just sticking a bit gauge in a mouth and calling it done. Not if it’s being done properly.

Everyone has bills to pay, I get it. I do too. It’s fairly typical when people get interested in something new and exciting to them for them to see another way to make a little extra money, they tend to add that as a “service.” But I wouldn’t, for example, offer to trim or shoe a horse despite having more than a small curiosity of all things hoof, fit a saddle despite having better than a cursory understanding of it, perform massage despite having taken some courses, chiropractic, or veterinary care despite knowing more than a little about each of those things. It isn’t my field of study or certification, and it isn’t ethical for me to offer any service other than those I have been extensively educated in and qualified for.

What other equine professionals do is ultimately their business, until it becomes my business when someone they’ve “fitted a bit” for contacts me.

Please, choose your professionals wisely for the service you hire them for.

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