RockyBayEquine News
April 2015
Rocky Bay Equine Veterinary Services     (253) 858-4529    (360) 876-1544
Gig Harbor, WA 98394           find us on Facebook
New Format

We're told that most people read newsletters on their phone.  However, we don't really know if this is true for you.  What do you think?  Do you read our newsletter on your phone, ipad or computer?  Do you like this newsletter format better than previous versions (2 column format)?  Would you appreciate more info & less images or vice versa?   We'd love your feedback via email or Facebook, thanks! 

A Bit About Bits

The topic of bits is a lot to chew on.  Controversy regarding a subject basically just means there is more than one way to look at it, so our goal is to stay close to the facts and leave application of those facts to each individual.  Lets face it, use of a bit to control a horse is problematic.  Even in skilled hands some amount of discomfort to the animal is involved and in harsh hands, use of a bit can be downright inhumane.  In the best interest of the horse ridden with a bit, we should have some basic idea of how they work.  Determining the best bit for each individual horse may be as much of an art as a science, but knowing their mechanism(s) of action is the first step.  

Basically, there are two major categories of bits; direct pressure bits like snaffles and leverage bits like curbs or pelhams.  A snaffle bit (assuming proper fit) works by applying varying amounts of pressure to the tongue, bars, palate (roof of the mouth) and soft tissues at the corners of the mouth.  Mouthpieces can be straight or jointed.  Jointed mouthpieces have a "nutcracker" action when pressure is applied via the reins.  They affect tongue, bars, palate & corners to varying degrees.  Straight mouthpieces exert more concentrated pressure on tongue & bars.  Leverage bits include the curb which has a "port" or curved section in the middle of the mouthpiece that applies pressure to the roof of the mouth.  These bits often include a shank of some sort that adds more leverage to the mouthpiece and when used with a curb strap or chain it also places pressure on the jaw behind the chin.  There are a myriad of mouthpiece and other configurations within these basic bit categories, each applicable to different disciplines and with different mechanisms of action.  Neither category is inherently easier or harder on the horse than the other, the key point is that they apply pressure differently.  There are also bridle designs that add more or less pressure at the poll and nosebands that put pressure on the cheeks and jaw.  Ancillary equipment like standing and running martingales and flash nosebands all affect the action of whatever bit the horse has in place.  Knowing how to correctly fit a bridle & bit to the horse you're riding is important to optimize comfort and responsiveness.  Knowing how the bit works allows you to improve the subtlety of your communication while riding. 

From a veterinary standpoint there are several medical issues that can contribute to bit & bitting problems.  Knowing the style of bit you use and your skill level as a rider helps us identify potential problems in the horse's mouth & head that might present as behavioral or training issues such as head tossing, stiffness, lugging out, head shyness, stopping at fences, running off or even apparent lameness.  Dental problems such as sharp points, loose teeth, malalignment, and wolf teeth can cause even more pain with a bit in place.  Jaw or nerve pain and discomfort around the ears & poll from ill fitting or tight bridles can also lead to functional and behavioral problems.  Evaluating the whole horse in relation to all the tack you use is part of comprehensive wellness and goes along with our goal to help your horse function at the optimal end of the spectrum of health.
Nothing nice to say about lice

With such a mild winter it's likely the bugs will be bountiful this year.  Lately it seems like we've seen a rash of animals with lice, especially on those low to the ground foragers, like mini's, goats and alpacas.  Lice are species specific, some are chewers (biting lice) and some are sucking lice, either way they are annoying!  The nits (eggs) are little whitish blobs at the base of hair follicles and they tend to get established over the winter when the animals hair coat is long.  Although problems from lice may be most commonly associated with un-thrifty or immune compromised animals, the little buggers are easily spread by contact with infested animals, by sharing grooming equipment or by contact in the environment.  A good look at the base of the hair might reveal more than just shedding if your animal is particularly itchy right now.  Along with a good grooming, it's also time to catch up on spring vaccinations since bugs can also be vectors (transmit a disease from one animal to another)  for viruses, like West Nile & PHF that can cause serious illness.