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AskHQ: Head held high

Q: What is a good bit to try for a horse with very high head carriage? He is in an eggbutt snaffle at the moment. 

Asked by Sarah Perome

A: Whenever you’re bitting a ‘special case’ horse, or in fact any horse really, it’s highly recommended that you get a qualified bit fitter out to assess his mouth. If there is no bit fitter who services your area, a vet or dentist should be able to give your horse a basic assessment.

In this instance, however, your vet should independently assess your horse anyway, just to make sure that pain is not the cause of your horse’s high head carriage. It is also worth discussing with your instructor whether schooling issues could be having an impact. Remember also that some breed and conformation types, such as the Saddler, have high-set necks and therefore high head carriage. In these cases you will need to accept the horse for how he is built, as working him in a lower frame can actually do more harm than good.

In terms of simply bit issues, a bit with mild poll action can help encourage the horse to lower his head. Hanging cheek (filet baucher) bits work very well to introduce slight poll action. If you need something slightly stronger, you can try a Portuguese gag. Avoid single-jointed bits, as the nutcracker effect can cause the horse to raise his head.

NOTE: Remember that the solution to high head carriage is not necessarily a change of bit. Ask your instructor if there is something that you need to try schooling-wise to encourage your horse to stretch downwards towards a contact before you simply change the bit.