BIT. The iron attached to the bridle, and put into the horse's mouth, is called a bit, or bit-mouth. In the middle there is always an inched space for the lodging of the tongue, which is called the liberty. As little iron as possible should be put into a horse's mouth; we therefore seldom use any other than snaffles, cannon mouths jointed in the middle, cannon with a fastmouth, and cannon with a portmouth, either round or jointed.
Of the bits in use, beside the snaffle or small watering bit, there is the cannon-mouth jointed in the middle, which always preserves a horse's mouth whole and sound; and though the tongue sustains the whole effort of it, yet it is not so sensible as the bars; which are so delicate that they feel its pressure through the tongue, and thereby obey the least motion of the rider's hand. The larger it is towards the ends fixed to the branches, the gentler it will be. We should make use of this mouth to a horse as long as we can; that is, if with a simple cannon-mouth we can draw from a horse all the obedience he is capable of, it will be useless to employ any other.
The cannon with a fast month is all of one piece, and only kneed in the middle, to give the tongue freedom. It is proper to secure those mouths that chack or beat upon the hands, and this will fix them, because it rests always in one place; so that the horse loses his apprehensiveness, and will soon relish this bitmouth better than the last; which, being jointed in the middle, rests unequally upon the bars. The middle of this bit should be a little more forward, to give more play to the horse's tongue; and the bit should rest rather on the gums, or outsides of the bars, than upon their very ridges.
The fourth sort is called the cannon-mouth with the liberty; after the form of a pigeon's neck. When a horse's mouth is too large, so that the thickness of it supports the mouth of the bit that it cannot act upon the bars, this liberty will a little disengage it, and suffer the
mouth of the bit to rest upon his gums, making him so much the lighter upon the hand.
The port-mouth is a cannon, with an upset or mountain liberty. This is proper for a horse with a good mouth, but a large tongue working its effects upon the lips and gums, it will control a horse that hath high bars, and in some degree sensible. This useful bit, if well made, will never hurt a horse's head.
The scatch mouth, with an upset or mountain liberty, is ruder than a cannon-mouth, because not fully so round, but more edged; and preferable in one respect; namely, that those parts of a cannon-mouth to which the branches are fastened, if not well riveted, are subject to slip; but the ends of a scatch-mouth can never fail, because of their being overlapped; and therefore much more secure for vicious and ungovernable horses.
Harewood, Harry. A Dictionary of Sports. London: T. Tegg and son, 1835.
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