Adjusting the fit of your headstall can stop your horse from playing or chomping on the bit, says bitmaker Daryl Davis.
When fitting a headstall and bit on your horse, it comes down to personal preference, says bitmaker Daryl Davis. Based in Brock, Texas, Davis has crafted custom bits under his brand Flying D Enterprises for more than 30 years.
“Everybody’s got a different theory,” he says. “A lot of people like to have a wrinkle or two in the lips when adjusting a headstall with a snaffle bit.” He says tightening the headstall so that the rings pull on each side of the mouth is common practice and isn’t wrong. However based on his experience, he prefers the headstall to be loose enough so there aren’t any wrinkles in the corners of the lips.
“If you take your fingers and [pull back on the corners of your mouth], that’s not comfortable,” he reasons. “My theory is to have a bit sit a little bit lower just to where it looks comfortable in a horse’s mouth.”
Davis is commonly asked what to do if a horse starts chomping or playing around with the bit in its mouth.
“The first thing is to get their teeth checked by a veterinarian,” he says. “After that, loosen the headstall to drop the bit down, and teach them how to carry that bit.”
He explains when a horse is playing with a low-fitting bit and a rider picks up with the reins and then releases abruptly, the bit will fall onto the horse’s teeth with a clank. The horse learns to hold the bit on the bars of the mouth so that when the bit is released, it doesn’t hit their teeth.
“This works especially well with bit as opposed to a snaffle, but will also work with a snaffle,” Davis says.
Once the horse stops playing with the bit, the headstall can be tightened.