It is a big thing for young horses when they are first bitted and mouthed so it is a good idea to do this as soon as you can (within reason). To them, a bit is a foreign body placed in their mouths which they cannot get rid of.
Between the ages of 0 – 5 and sometimes older in some cases, there is an awful lot of change going on in a young horse’s mouth. Teeth are erupting and baby teeth are falling out, much like human children. One thing that is imperative is that the horse or pony in question has its teeth checked over by a qualified Equine Dentist before any bitting and mouthing is attempted, and obviously every few months throughout the horse’s life.
Mouthing bitsfor young horses are great to start off with and designed to be comfortable whilst giving the young horse something to ‘play’ with. These bits for young horses often have ‘keys’ or something similar attached to it for that very reason.
These ‘mouthing’ bits should be introduced gradually and left in the young horse’s mouth for a short period of time at first, and then gradually building up to longer periods of time. DO NOT attach any side reins or similar at this stage. It is important that you don’t leave your horse alone whilst it is being ‘mouthed’
When choosing a bit for your youngster, consider its breed and mouth conformation. Bitting a young horse has to be done correctly from the offset so it must be comfortable and happy with what you are doing.
Actually putting the bit in the horse’s mouth should be no big deal for either of you as long as you are both relaxed. Don’t storm gung ho into the stable and ram the bit against his teeth – it will not get either of you anywhere. Instead, walk up and put the bridle on as you usually would but wait until the horse takes the bit voluntarily into his mouth. You may have to encourage him to open his mouth with a well-placed thumb, but keep it all quiet with no pressure.
Whilst fitting, make sure the mouthing bit sits comfortably in the horses’ mouth and do not apply any pressure to the bit – he is way off this stage at the moment. If the horse is somewhat reluctant try smearing something pleasant tasting on the bit to encourage them to open their mouths and accept it. All this should be done in the quietest most stress free way possible.
Always check every time that the young horse wears the bit for signs of discomfort and any rubbing on the sides of the mouth, in which case you may have to rethink your size or shape of bit.
You will soon notice how the horse will respond by chewing and playing with the keys on the bit. Don’t worry if this doesn’t happen the very first time you are mouthing your young horse. A loose ring mouthing bit will encourage a him to do this and by doing so they will develop a soft and wet mouth. There are many types of mouthing bits on the market these days, but all of them work in the same way. Remember the young horse will perceive the bit as a foreign body in its mouth so you have to make absolutely sure that the one you use will not cause any discomfort to the youngster which may lead to far bigger problems as you progressively ask the youngster to accept more later on.