Approximately six years ago, Bomber Nel of Bombers Equestrian Equipment, started to realise that with modern breeding and the genetic evolution in both European Warmbloods and Thoroughbreds came a rapid change in the shape of the jaw of the modern sport horse and racehorse. The bone structure in the lower jaw was becoming more refined, while the cheeks and corners of the lips were correspondingly becoming fleshier, and especially important was that the tongue was tending to remain the same size. Bomber also noticed that some palettes were convex instead of concave. Because of these genetic changes, horse mouths were becoming more sensitive. This realisation led Bomber and his team to rethink the art of bitting horses.
Reinventing the bit
Bits needed to fit more snugly and should not have the movement they used to have, as the narrower jaws could no longer cope with that pressure. The bits also need to be shaped to anatomically follow the shape of the horse’s mouth and tongue to relieve pressure, especially over the sensitive tongue area. Clever and innovative treatment of various metals and manmade compounds are used to produce different mouthpieces which encourage salivation and sensitivity. Bomber and his team of over 30 staff have built up an amazing business from the KZN Midlands, which currently sees over 1,500 bits and specialist spurs a month being distributed worldwide.
In Bomber’s shop there are literally hundreds of bits to choose from in all shapes and sizes, which have satisfied many happy horses and customers, but Bomber is looking for perfection in the horse’s mouth as well as total relaxation in the horse’s body while the horse is training and competing, so his bespoke service has commenced. This exciting innovation takes bitting horses to another level not seen before in the equine industry.
An equine dentist takes a negative impression of the horse’s mouth with orthodontic grade impression inert material, which is a very quick and painless process. This material is then cast in plaster of Paris to form a positive mould which is posted by the horse’s owner to Bomber and his team along with two questionnaires – one completed by the rider and one completed by the dentist taking the impression. On receipt of the mould, Bomber and his team evaluate it together with the two questionnaires and recommend a suitable bit that is compliant with the rules of the horse and rider’s relevant discipline, together with a quotation for the finished product. Once the quotation is accepted, Bomber and his team currently take about 21 days to handmake the bit specifically to suit that horse’s mouth. For example, if the bars of the mouth are not equal, the mouthpiece may be constructed thinner on one side than the other so that the bits lies horizontal in the mouth at all times.
If the horse’s ultimate bit is a bit that is not currently compliant with the specific discipline rules, Bomber advises training in the bit that is best for the horse and then just for actual competition change to another of his bespoke bits that is within the discipline rules and similar in structure to the bit that is being used in training. After the competition, go back to the perfect bit for the ultimate in comfort for the horse for training purposes.
The full article appears in the May/June issue of HQ (133) > Shop now
Text: Charlotte Houston