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A Bit on Bits

Choosing a new bit for your horse is a complicated decision, but there are a couple of guidelines you can follow to steer you in the right direction. Alex Jeffers-Sample is the office and sales manager for famed bit maker Kerry Kelley. She shares some of the popular choices for shanked bits from the shop, and advice on selecting one for your horse.

Kelley is known for his correction bits.
Correction bits — a shanked bit where the mouthpiece is jointed to allow the port of the bit to swivel from the bars and shanks of the bit — are popular for a lot of different disciplines, especially roping, says Jeffers-Sample.

“A lot of people like a correction when they need to step up from a snaffle or broken bit into a ported bit,” Jeffers-Sample says. “They want to have a port in their horse’s mouth, but they don’t want something that’s solid all the way across. The correction has a bit of movement and a little bit of play to it.”

Jeffers-Sample says the shop’s most popular bit is a 20 Correction. It’s one many ropers and other Western performance horsemen select, and it can be put on any shank in the shop.

“What’s going to be a little different about ours versus a lot of other different correc-tions is Kerry does copper bars on them, and many people like that,” Jeffers-Sample says. “A lot of horses like to take a bit with copper a little easier, and it helps them salivate.”

The 20 Correction bit has another difference — where the port meets the bars, the bit has rounded edges versus a squared-off edge.

“Our customers say that those rounded edges typically give a little bit more tongue relief,” Jeffers-Sample says. “I’d say it’s most popular on our 65 Shank — that’s a seven-inch shank.”

Try Different Ports.

Another popular bit from Kelley is the Al Dunning Correction, which is similar to the 20 Correction, but utilizes an A-port versus a U-port.

“With an A-port, you get a lot more left and right movement out of it, and you can have a little bit more independent shoulder control. That’s why people like that one — if they’re wanting the same feel of a correction but a little bit more movement out of it,” Jeffers-Sample says.

Another correction that’s a best-seller for Kelley is the Milkman Correction, which has copper bars like the 20, but a wider port base and squared-off edges on the port.

“It’s a lower port, so people like it because it gives a bit more tongue relief. It’s a bit more forgiving versus the regular correction,” Jeffers-Sample says.

Consider Your Needs.

Before walking into a bit shop, Jeffers-Sample suggests thinking about what problem you’re wanting to address and what responses you want to see in your horse when you engage the bit.

“Are you wanting to stiffen your horse up? Are you wanting to get a bit more bended movement? Are you wanting to get your horse more collected?” Jeffers-Sample says. “We ask customers what they’re riding with now, what they like or don’t like about it, and we go from there.”

At Kelley’s, they start by talking about the bit a rider is using now, what shape and length of the shank they’re wanting, and then work toward choosing a mouthpiece.

Do Your Research.

The website has a bit guide that lists the mouthpieces and shanks available. Jeffers-Sample points clients to the guide to get a feel for what they’d like and their potential needs. Once the client is familiar with the guide, they are then encouraged to come into the shop to discuss. You can also call into a store like Kelley’s to talk to a salesperson about options, or ask any general questions you might have.

“That way, you have a general idea, and we can say, ‘Yes, that’s a good one,’ or we might suggest a different one,” Jeffers-Sample says.

Try It Out.

Jeffers-Sample encourages riders, if at all possible, to try your new bit on your horse to see if you need to exchange it.
“Kerry does a 30-day guarantee on our bits,” Jeffers-Sample says. “So you can buy the bit and ride them as much as you want within those 30 days. If it’s not necessarily the feel that you’re looking to get, you can send it back, and we’ll swap it out for a different bit.”

Western Horseman curated this collection of products designed to help you keep your horse in peak health and comfort.

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