Crown & Bit Attributes & Poll Pressure Guidance

 The purpose of a properly padded and well fitting crown is to further the well being and comfort of the horse by protecting the nuchal ligament.  By providing a highly comfortable fit, the horse can focus on the rider's training instead of pressure points generated by the bridle, and this should in turn eliminate distraction and discomfort.  Additionally, understanding the action of your bit is also important to understanding pressure applied to the poll, and the two (bridle crown and bit) combined generate a combination of effects.

Why is this important?

  • The nuchal ligament is a large elastic structure in the dorsal neck region that supports the self carriage the horse's head and the neck.  Tensile forces are low on this ligament when the head is held up in an alert position and significantly higher when in a deeper position.  
  • Pressure on the nuchal ligament due to some traditional crown styles could exert pressure that could lead to desmopathy of the insertion of the nuchal ligament.  Trauma of this area could also be caused from pulling back when tied. Clinically, these horses may resist the reins and have difficulty lowering and flexing the poll.  
  • In comparison, the most common nuchal trauma in people is known as whiplash.

Crown Attributes

Crown Options

 

Bridle2Fit crown options look to protect and provide a comfortable distribution of pressure across the poll in order to protect the nuchal ligament.

  • The HP1 widens at the top to ensure a pleasant distribution of pressure on the neck. The narrower cutouts of the crown piece ensure the neck vertebra and ears are free, and this is often suitable for a horse with a narrow neck. The crown can be positioned so either side is facing forward dependent on the shape of the head and neck of the horse or pony. This shape can also be helpful for horses that crib and have highly developed muscles in the poll area to prevent the crown from being pushed into the ears.
  • The HP2 has a spacious cutout for the ears, which provides them freedom of movement, and is very wide at the top with soft padding for those horses with a long and muscular neck. The width helps span the distance between the vertebra to protect the nuchal ligament. This crown has a wider top piece then the HP3.
  • The HP3 has a spacious cutout for the ears, which provides them freedom of movement. The widened top piece with soft padding ensures a pleasant distribution of pressure. This has a narrower top piece than the HP2. This is the most popular model for the majority of dressage horses.
  • The HP4 is well suited to a horse with wide jaws and a wide neck, especially at the poll. There are 3 pillows to distribute pressure over a greater distance suitable to the wider jaw. The wide top narrows toward the bands on the side to provide clearance for the first vertebra of the neck.
  • The HP5 is a very soft crown that virtually bypasses pressure on the nuchal ligament as much as possible. The design allows for a bridge over the ligament with only soft padding making contact in that area.

 

Bits and Poll Pressure

Neue Schule has conducted research relative to the poll pressure exerted by bits.  Poll pressure was calculated as a percent of the total forces applied through the reins that were transferred to the poll.  Here are some of their findings

  • Baucher:  provides poll relief by removing pressure from the poll when tension is applied to the reins
  • Loose Ring Snaffle:  exerts no poll pressure as forces applied through reins are distributed to the tongue and lips only
  • Eggbutt:  10% of the pressure applied to the reins is transferred to the poll
  • Turtle Top and Turtle Tactio Snaffles:  20% of the pressure applied to the reins is transferred to the poll
  • 5 cm shank Weymouth: 10% of the pressure applied to the reins is transferred to the poll
  • 5 cm shank Turtle Tilt:  20% of the pressure applied to the reins is transferred to the poll
  • 7 cm shank Weymouth:  20% of the pressure applied to the reins is transferred to the poll
  • 9 cm shank Weymouth:  30% of the pressure applied to the reins is transferred to the poll

Give Dressage Collections a call to discuss your horse and the problems you are trying to solve relative to bits and crowns.  We can help advise you and give you options to try.

 

Fitting a bit to your horse for the best possible performance requires consideration of the anatomy of your horse’s mouth, thinking through the cheek pieces and their intended function, and the opportunity to ride in the bit multiple times.

Examples of Well-fitted Bits

dressage collections bit fitting

The S3 Noseband and Team Up Loose Ring Snaffle.

dressage collections good bit fitting

The S1 noseband,  and the NS Trans Angled Eggbutt Snaffle

Determine the correct size based on anatomy: 

  1. First consider the thickness of the bit.  You can ask your equine dentist, or you can do the 2-finger test.  Hold your index and middle finger together and insert into the mouth from the side in the location where the bit will sit.  Measure the pressure when the incisors are closed.   If there is pressure on both fingers, a thinner mouthpiece is in order (14-16 mm).  If there is little or no pressure on the fingers a thicker mouthpiece can be used (16-18 mm).    Avoid using a bit that is too thick as it can cause pain and bruising to the palate.  Horses might be seen as head tossers, or irritable by snatching away the reins, if the bit is too thick. 
  2. Second consider the size (length) of the mouthpiece and style of the mouthpiece
    • Loose ring snaffles should not have more than 5 mm space between the corners of the mouth and the bit-ring on each side.  The ring should be able to move freely and not pinch the corners of the mouth
    • Eggbutts, Bauchers, and Weymouth bits should fit closely to the corners of the mouth and therefore are typically smaller for a given horse than the loose ring note: the mouth piece of a Weymouth bit is the focus, if you feel the top ring is too close it is quite easy to bend the ring out slightly to provide a better fit.  Going for a bigger size will only make it possible for the bit to slide through the mouth, which is not desirable.
    • Bradoons should be the same as the standard snaffle size and shape because they will lie in the same position with the Weymouth positioned lower.  The Weymouth should be about 0.5cm smaller than the Bradoon. 
    • Single jointed bits exert pressure from the reins to the edges of the tongue and lower jaw bones.  For horses with a flat palate or small oral cavity the joint could cause pressure and bruise the palate
    • Double jointed bits distribute pressure from the reins over a wider surface area onto the tongue and are more anatomically shaped for the horses mouth often making it more comfortable for the horse and more effective for the rider.
3. Determine cheek pieces by their intended function
      • Loose Ring Snaffles transmit pressure from the reins to the tongue and lower jaw without pressure on the poll.
      • Eggbutt snaffles transmit 90% of the pressure from the reins to the tongue and lower jaw with 10% pressure on the poll.  These bits provide more directional guidance to the horse than a Loose Ring.
      • Baucher bits allow more control over horses that evade upwards and help encourage a rounder outline.

    4. Ride in the bit for multiple rides

    Curious about which bit might be best for your horse? Check out our bitting guidance below for information about all our bits' suitability or contact us for advice!