Bits have been made of just about everything you can think of,
some offering economic advantages, other offering ease of care, and
some actually providing for the comfort of the horse.
- STAINLESS STEEL is the most commonly used bit
material. It is an alloy of nickel and iron, and although we
think of it as being rust free, some varieties DO rust. Its big
claim to fame when invented was that it retained it sharp edges,
and so made excellent knives. Bit makers started using it
because it was manufactured in vast quantities after WWII, and
was cheap and easy to clean-in other words, for rider
convenience and not horse comfort.
- SWEET IRON was the most commonly used material prior
to WWII, and is still commonly used in Europe and by the Western
riding community. Horses do like its taste, but the rust
will discolor the face of a light-colored horse, and the surface
becomes rough and pitted with use, making it less comfortable
against the horse's tongue and lips over time.
- NICKEL has been used in bits for decades. German
silver and nickel silver bits do not contain silver, but instead
are nickel alloys. They do not rust, seem to be reasonably well
liked by horses, but are more difficult to clean and are also
- COPPER is generally a horse's favorite bit metal, but
by itself is weak enough to present a safety issue. Mixed with
other materials, it is a wonderful bit choice. Two common
choices are Aurigan and Kangaroo.
- RUBBER makes for a very comfortable bit, but needs to
be watched carefully for wear. Although vulcanized rubber will
wear more slowly, no rubber bit will last a lifetime and
exposure to direct sunlight and/or cold will make the rubber
wear more quickly. Furthermore, rubber presents more friction
to the horse's mouth and may cause irritation.
- PLASTIC is much like rubber, but can be very useful
when first bitting young horses.