Copper Bits

copper bits

A copper bit is beautiful to see. However, it is not just a pretty face. Copper has a use.

Horses are as different as people are when it comes to what tastes they like or dislike. Many horses appear to like the sweet taste of copper and seem to accept their bit better than a bit without it.

Generally speaking, a happy mouth is a wet mouth. When you place a foreign object into a horse’s mouth (the bit), it causes him to salivate (in preparation for swallowing what would seem to the salivary glands to be food). This lubricates the mouth and makes the movement of the bit more comfortable enhancing training. Copper is thought to encourage horses to salivate.

There is some controversy, however, about salivation when it comes to bits (especially about excessive salivation). The adage is that, “A salivating horse is a more relaxed horse.”  He is thought to be moving his tongue and relaxing his lower jaw while relaxing the two most important muscles of his neck. However, some experts (ie: Dr Cook of bitless bridle fame) feel that because a horse can either swallow or breathe (but not both at the same time), stimulating his salivary response happens in conjunction with drawing his tongue back in preparation for swallowing and partially cutting off his airway. A horse with inhibited air cannot perform to his maximum capacity.

I will try to annotate more research as I have time. Suffice it to say, what you decide based on the evidence will affect your choice of a copper or non-copper bit (or maybe a bit at all)

Some trainers believe that copper encourages a horse to chew the bit. Copper is softer and tends to wear more quickly. Thus, copper bits do not last as long as Stainless Steel.

Copper has another desirable characteristic. Copper warms up quickly. If your horse objects to a cold bit (particularly a cold bit on a cold day), you can warm a copper bit just with your hands before you present it to your old pal.

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3 thoughts on “Copper Bits

  1. I’ve noticed that some bits descriptions say that the copper is nontoxic. Are some copper bits made with nontoxic metals and other copper bits toxic?

    1. I am not aware of any toxic copper in bits. However, the manufacturers add that little caveat as if they know something. My guess would be that if you want to be sure about any bit, purchase an American-made one. Thanks for asking.

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