This is a question that can be extremely hard to get an answer to. And this is because as each human is unique so is each horse and the way they behave and react to training.
In the past, we were taught that you always needed to start with something soft so we were told to use a snaffle. In my own experience this has not always been the answer and sometimes it's ok to try other options because what has worked for someone else in the past doesn't necessarily mean it will work for you and your horse.
So if you are having problems with finding a bit that is suitable for your horse there are a few steps that you can have a look at to get the right bit for your horse.
Remember to also take into consideration if your horse has any back, neck or month problems. These are all things that could affect your horse and give you a false reaction to the bit your busy trying.
The most important part of fitting the correct bit is finding the right mouthpiece for your horse. Here it is some examples of what your horse might be doing with its head that tells you what bit is needed.
- The horse sticks his nose up in the air the moment the reins are taken up. This is the horse telling you that it is experiencing pain in its mouth. If using a Snaffle, you should rather try changing to a three-piece bit such as a Control Plate.
- The horse shakes its head, which means that he does not want tongue pressure. From the Snaffle or Control Plate, so you should try going softer to something like the Happy Tongue, designed specifically to take pressure off the tongue. (A great option is this bit from Bomber )
- The horse bringing its chin up to its chest in an effort to evade the bit is a good sign of too much bit for the horse and it trying to relieve the pressure. A possible solution is to either ride with a looser rein, or use a softer bit.
- The horse that pokes his nose forward, trying to pull the reins out of the rider's hands in an effort to relieve the pressure of the bit. Once again the solution is to use a softer bit.
Once you have established the mouthpiece and the width, then you have to establish which cheekpiece would best suit your horse. This can be chosen by two various things including the discipline the rider is participating in and the skill level of the rider. It is important to remember that the longer your cheekpiece is the more poll and mouth pressure it will create for your horse, and the in return the softer you need to be with your hands.
There are literally 100s of bits out there so don't be scared to try new things and listen to what your horse is telling you, no one knows how your horse feels better than you do!
I hope this helps and if you would like some more info different bits go check out the following links-