By Fiona Dearing, Bit Right Equine Bit Fitting

One of the questions I ask groups at Pony Clubs when I’m there is if they clean their knife and fork after eating dinner each night.

It’s a question that often produces some interesting answers, ‘my mum does’ is a favourite, cue aghast parent in the background! It leads me to ask my next question of how often do you wash or clean your bit? Again, there’s a mix of answers but often just lots of blank looks.

We are ALL guilty of not washing our bits after each ride – I know my hand’s up! The nicest thing you can do for your horse is to rinse or dunk your bit in water after you get off. We don’t want crud to accumulate on our bits and potentially then rub on sensitive lips causing abrasions and sores. We need to bear in mind that the horse’s lips and mouth are home to a huge amount of nerve endings and vascular activity. We need to ensure our bits are clean, suitable for use and cared for so our horses can be as comfortable as possible.

Here’s a guide to caring for bits made of different materials:

Stainless Steel
These bits will literally last forever! A quick rinse after riding will keep them in tip top condition but don’t be afraid to give them a good scrub to really make them shine. Stainless steel is super hard so you won’t damage it at all. You can use Bit Wash on them or any good anti bacterial wash.

Copper Compound

The copper compound bits include the Neue Schule Salox and the Sprenger Sensogan, previously Aurigan. We do need to keep an eye on wear with these metals as copper is a ‘soft’ metal and will, over time, wear. Regularly check for sharp edges where there are moving parts like lozenges and the bore axis where your loose ring moves through. Again, rinsing or washing in water with a Bit Wash works for this metal and if you’d like to freshen them up for competition day the Sprenger Diamond Paste is a miracle worker!

Sweet Iron

The rusty bit! I’ve received so many phone calls from clients saying their new bit has gone rusty and what have they done wrong?! Nothing is the answer! Sweet iron is designed to rust, it’s the oxidisation that makes it taste sweet for the horse. Again, a simple rinse to remove the crud is suitable after use. If you’re not working your horse for a while you can give your bit a light spray of vegetable oil to stop it oxidising too much. If your sweet iron bit starts to feel lumpy under your fingers a quick rub with a kitchen scourer or a very fine wet/dry sandpaper should see you right.

Non Metal Bits

Obviously non metal bits have a much shorter life span than their metal counterparts. It’s important these are kept out of the sun which can shorten their life and cause them to become brittle. A bridle bag is their best friend. Along with rinsing after each ride with Bit Wash you need to regularly inspect these bits for marks or sharp edges. Your fine wet/dry sandpaper will usually be able to file these back so they don’t cause your horse any discomfort but if your horse is regularly marking or chewing rough edges through your synthetic bit it may be time to consider if this is the best option for your horse.