Riders and veterinarians alike tend to react to new techniques in equine dentistry with a healthy bit of skepticism. This is especially true in the cases of the use of motorized equipment and extensive corrective procedures. However, the creation of a “bit seat” — a relatively simple new procedure that is said to make a noticeable difference in your horse’s performance — may well be worth your attention.
Your equine dentist creates a bit seat in your horse’s mouth by rounding off and beveling the front surfaces of the first cheek teeth, technically the second premolars, on both the upper and lower jaws. However, it doesn’t really have anything to do with where the bit sits in the horse’s mouth. The change you get is in what happens when the bit is applied in a horse’s mouth with a bit seat.
The rationale is that when the rider moves the snaffle bit, it wrinkles the tissues of the corner of the mouth and the gums in such a way that they become pressed between the bit and these teeth. Hackamores and tight cavesons may also apply pressure in this area. By rounding the edges of these teeth to a smooth surface, there’s no chance of the gums being cut or pinched. Bit seats are said to make horses easier to stop and steer, with a reduction in head tossing or elevation and fighting the bit. Some descriptions liken bit seats to putting “power steering” into your horse.
We found one study that looked at the effects of bit seats on chewing. It included 20 horses, ages three to 14. The horses first had routine dental floating and correction of any misalignments done, followed in four weeks by a dental visit just to create the bit seats. Ten of the 20 horses in the study had bit seats created.
Riders were asked to evaluate performance and bit responsiveness after the first dental work and then again after the bit seats. Riders were not told which horses had the bit seats. No changes were reported in how well or comfortably the horse ate after the bit seats compared to the routine procedures.
However, six out of 10 horses that had bit seats created were felt to have improved performance, compared to two out of 10 of horses that did not have bit seats. Although this is a small sample, if you put it together with other favorable reports being talked about in barns across the country, it suggests that improvements in bit responsiveness after a bit-seat procedure may be real.
Horses that may benefit would include any that show bit resistance, whether it’s poor head carriage, pulling, dropping behind the bit or any other of the myriad ways that horses have of avoiding bit action. The finding of ulcers in the mouth in areas where the gums are pressed against these teeth is another indication the procedure may be useful.
Before you consider this procedure, however, you should do a complete inventory of your riding techniques and your horse’s tack. Check the bit metal for rough edges. Make sure the bit isn’t too small or too large and that the bit hangs at the correct height (see sidebar). Check the design of the snaffle against the conformation of your horse’s tongue and palate so that the bit doesn’t gouge the roof of his mouth or crimp his tongue. Examine the noseband so that it isn’t pinching or rubbing. Make sure the action of your own hands isn’t causing your horse’s resistance.
Also With This Article
”Proper Bit Placement.”
”Is It Worth It’”