My Horse Has Had Mouth Trauma. What Bit Should I Use?

Q. My rescue Tennessee Walking Horse mare is 23 years old. I am thinking about purchasing one of your 2nd Generation Imus Bits because they are pinchless and have plenty of tongue relief. Should I go with your 2nd Generation Imus Comfort Gait Bit or 2nd Generation Imus Training Transition Bit?

Thank you,


A. As for your approach with your mare, she is blessed to have someone like you come in and take care to do what’s best for her. It sounds like you are doing exactly the right thing. 

An old trick my mom taught me is add a little honey or molasses (depending on your horse’s palate!) to the mouthpiece and it almost always helps them to accept the bit and to realize that when they like and chew with the bit in their mouth that it doesn’t hurt. Sometimes with horses who have experienced mouth trauma it might take several attempts/days in a row of simply putting the bit in with the honey and once she’s done licking, take it right back out. You might want to hold off on attempting to ride her with it until she seems to have fully accepted it from the ground. If this works, I think you’ll be set up for success when you start riding her. 

I'm glad you're looking at our bits because they are so gentle and have proven to be a God send to so many horses who have experienced painful bits. No amount of honey or molasses will work for a horse with a damaged and/or sensitive mouth if the bit you're trying to get them to accept hurts them. 

At 23 it likely will take a little more time to warm her up to the idea of a bit since she hasn't had positive experiences with one. Once she’s accepting of the bit on the ground and is ready to ride with it, I’d definitely start with our pinchless training transition bit and use it just as a snaffle (attach the reins to the side D’s with no curb chain). We want to keep it as simple as possible. You only need the curb chain if you are using the lower shanks, which we can cross that bridge if/when we come to it.

Assuming you get to this point, when you first start riding her in it as a snaffle, I’d try to ride her in an arena or other closed space and do really large circles in both directions using a long, low leading rein and your seat and leg cues. Take it slowly and feel her out. 

Please keep me posted. I’d really love to hear how it goes! I hope this helps.


(This is a recent email exchange edited slightly for length and content.)

If you aren't sure if the bit you are using is gentle, below is an article and video by Brenda Imus that explains how different common bits function that explains everything in a very easy-to-understand way with lots of visuals!

Horse Bit Severity Chart