Advice on Lorinery

The Loriners' Company is fortunate to have Tricia Nassau-Williams as a Liveryman and since 2001 she has also been engaged by the Loriners' Charitable Trust as the Lorinery Lecturer & Projects' Manager.

Tricia has also been a BETA Field Officer and trainer since 2003.

She ran her own saddlery business in Kent for many years, specialising in lorinery, saddle fitting and rider safety equipment. She is a qualified saddler, SMS saddle fitter and BHSAI.

As part of her role with the Loriners' Company Tricia provides the lorinery module of the Saddlery Court at Capel Manor College, London and is responsible for strengthening the links between the Company and the trade.

Tricia also lectures at the BETA Lorinery Retailing Course which is run by BETA for all members of the retail saddlery trade.

Tricia represents the Company on the Cordwainers' Industrial Advisory Board and additionally, on behalf of the Company, provides lorinery editorials for equestrian publications and frequently gives lorinery presentations to riding groups and associations.

Bits and Bitting

From earliest times the control and welfare of the horse has been of utmost importance to man's own development. The design of bits has not changed a great deal through many centuries and even today's patterns can be recognised in bronze bits from the 9th Century B.C. discovered in Luristan (Iran).

The comfort and welfare of your horse or pony is of prime importance when you wish to decide which bit and bridle would be most suitable for your own animal.

There are certain factors which may influence your choice and they should be considered carefully, preferably with the help of an experienced instructor, to allow you to work with your horse in partnership.

Types of bridles and bits

The various types of bridles and bits are often classified into 6 families:


2. Curbs (double bridle)

3. Pelham

4. Running Gags

5. Lever Bits (often called “gags” when they are not)

6. The Bitless Bridles

Frequently, various nose bands and martingales may be used which can modify the action of a bit and great care is needed to obtain a satisfactory fitting for both comfort and effect. Most importantly any bit is only as mild as the hands and fingers which hold the reins. Even a simple snaffle can be harsh in the wrong hands. A bridle and bit work by acting together on the following sensitive areas:

1. The poll (top of the head).

2. The nose.

3. The chin groove.

4. Lips and corners of the mouth.

5. The bars of the mouth (a sensitive part of the membrane of the mouth).

6. The tongue.

7. The roof of the mouth.

Irrespective of the overall size of the horse or pony, the shape, general condition and mouth size must be carefully assessed. Sometimes there are sore places on the lips and in the mouth itself. Problems may be caused by sharp, uneven teeth or you may find the presence of additional teeth and a veterinary surgeon or Equine Dental Technician should be consulted about these difficulties directly.

Bits and bitting explained

Bits are supplied in a number of sizes, usually varying from 3.5 inches (9.0 cm) to 6 inches (15.0 cm) in 0.25 inch (0.5 cm) stages. For bits with cheek-pieces, lengths vary usually from 4 inches (10 cm) to 8 inches (20 cm); remembering that using a longer cheek can make the action more severe by providing extra leverage. A snaffle bit should fit so that about 0.5 inch shows, on either side when the bit is held with the joint flat.

Many different mouthpiece designs are available and great care needs to be taken to select one that is appropriate for your individual horse’s mouth conformation. Expert advice should be sought if you are unsure.

When purchasing a new bit look out for Bit Banks so that you can try the bit first. Also check lorinery with care to make sutra that there are no blemishes or rough edges on the bits, especially at the angle of the mouth.

Always aim to choose the best quality materials, such as stainless steel 18/8 to British Standards quality, that are well finished as these will give long service. There are also a large number of the very popular high copper content bits on the market as well as though made from other alloys and materials. It is best to choose good, well-made bits with a reputable manufacturer's name attached so that any complaint can be rectified easily. Your saddler or supplier will advise you.

Finally, make sure that your bit is always kept clean for both hygiene and comfort.

From earliest times the control and welfare of the horse has been of utmost importance to man's own development. The design of bits has not changed a great deal through many centuries and even today's patterns can be recognised in bronze bits from the 9th Century B.C. discovered in Luristan (Iran).

Bit sizes (inches) 4.5 4.75 5 5.25 5.5 5.75 6
Bit sizes (cm) 11.5 12 12.5 13 14 14.5 15


1. Is this bit a strong one?

This is asked of many types/designs of bit. While some bits will have a more acute action than others the true answer is that a bit is as strong as the aids and hands of the rider using it. “A bit is not so much a device put in the horse’s mouth, as one put in the hands of the rider” A quote from Show Jumper and trainer John Smart.

2. Is it kinder to fit a bit to a horse with extra length and extra space at the edge of the mouth?

NO! It is important that a bit, particularly a single jointed one, is fitted correctly to the width of the horse’s mouth. The horse’s lips should fit neatly into the corners of the bit on both sides with no more that 5mm (½") on each side. Too tight and the bit may pinch but too long and the bit can slide adversely from side to side in the mouth. This can cause bruising of the bars and lips. A single jointed bit that is fitted too long (wide) and with a close noseband will cause the bit to push up into the roof of the horse’s mouth. This can cause a lot of discomfort and pain. So get the bit sized and fitted correctly, seek help if you are not sure.

3. How often should my horse have his teeth checked?

It is important to have your horse’s teeth inspected by a qualified Equine Dental Technician or Vet every 6 - 12 months. This will insure that his teeth and mouth are in good condition, are adequately maintained and that any problems can be observed before they become issues. No horse will be happily bitted if he has pain in his mouth.

4. How often should I change my horse’s bit?

As long as your horse is performing well, is comfortable and you feel happy and safe do not change the bit. Make sure the bit is well maintained. Look for loose joints, sharp edges and any other signs of damage to the bit. If you have a change of circumstances or discipline e.g. Cross Country for Dressage, then you may well have to alter the bit that you use. Always seek sound advice.

5. Why is it inadvisable to use my Running Gag Bit on a bridle with half inch cheeks?

A Running Gag bit will have the cheek of the bridle running through the rings of the bit. This will place considerable pressure on the bridle as well as wear and tear. Half inch cheek pieces may look very dainty but when you consider that they have a hole where the buckle is fitted the narrowness of the leather, even if good quality, is not appropriate for the job. Always allow a Running Gag bridle to have 5/8" or 3/4" wide cheeks.

The above information is provided as a guide only. The Worshipful Company of Loriners cannot take any responsibility for its implementation.


For more information and advice about lorinery please contact:

Tricia Nassau-Williams