Leather-covered bits have been few and far between in the American equestrian market, but the idea is not entirely new. Horsemen on the racetrack have employed them over the years, taking their snaffles to a saddle maker to be covered with leather. What is new is the affordability and availability of a wide range of leather-covered bits resulting from design leader Metalab’s new Evolution Collection.
Benefits of Leather-Covered Bits:
1. Effective communication
2. Safe for the horse
3. Relieves discomfort
4. Made with quality craftsmanship
5. Easy to care for
6. Suitable for many disciplines and levels
Leather-Covered Bits Allow for Effective Communication
Wrapping a bit in leather is all about adding comfort and safety for the horse. Nature designed the horse’s mouth to chew food and its tongue to select grasses—not hold a bit. That’s why Partrade created the new collection so riders could better communicate with their steeds with comfortable, precise pressure. Partrade utilized leather for its soft, appealing surface and for its malleability when moistened by saliva. The design allows the horse to relax and enables clear, gentle, and effective communication.
Leather-Covered Bits are Safe for the Horse
Safety is another benefit. Alternative options like silicon or rubber-covered bits can also add comfort, but they can quickly become hazardous if the horse chews and swallows it. With a leather bit, there’s zero concern with accidental chemical digestion.
Traditional vegetable-based tanning methods, like those used in the Evolution Collection, don’t involve chemicals. It’s a natural and organic process. The leather is safe even if the horse gets munchy and starts to chew.
Leather-Covered Bits Relieve Discomfort
Excessive chewing, however, shouldn’t happen with any bit. Contrary to some schools of equestrian thought, over-salivation and excessive chewing are not signs of relaxation, notes lifelong horseman and Metalab bit designer Fabien Bedoucha. They indicate stress and tension.
“If you have pain in your mouth, it’s difficult to think about anything else,” says Bedoucha.
That’s why what’s underneath the leather—or any material covering the bit—is critical to its function and comfort. Evolution bits, for example, are specifically designed to eliminate discomforts. Patented Pinchless technology, Swivel-Free cheekpieces and extra-curved mouthpieces are among the comfort-driven details of the stainless steel bits around which the leather is wrapped and securely stitched. Durable nylon stitching is located on the front of the bit, making it difficult for teeth to interfere with it. Prototypes of these bits have been in use in Europe for some time, and their longevity is well established.
Leather-Covered Bits are Made with Quality Craftsmanship
Beyond the horse-centric design innovations is the old-fashioned appeal to people of high-quality leather and craftsmanship. On display at various equestrian events, the leather-covered bits seem to exert a gravitational pull toward passers-by, Bedoucha notes. The combination of ergonomic bit design and traditional leather workmanship seems to be irresistible.
Leather-Covered Bits are Easy to Clean
Care of leather-covered bits is easy. While other leather tack requires a multi-step cleaning routine after use, the leather on a bit has already been moisturized while being in the horse’s mouth. After that, all that’s needed is a simple wipe-down removing any debris. Leave the bit in a well-ventilated area to dry before storage. As with any leather equipment, they should be stored at a normal room temperature. Extended exposure to extreme cold or heat can compromise even top-quality leather.
Leather-Covered Bits are Suitable for Many Disciplines and Levels
Leather-covered bits are acceptable in many competitive environments, but not FEI-level dressage competition. Check the equipment chapters in your discipline and governing body’s rule book before competing with a leather-covered bit.
Metalab’s goal is to bring leather’s comfort and appeal to a range of ergonomically designed bits at an affordable price compared to the high cost of having them hand made.
Throughout equestrian history, bits have been a primary conduit for the conversation between horse and rider. That conversation varies widely based on discipline, skills, goals and other variables. The more options that horsemen have, the better their chance of striking just the right tone for each horse he/she works with. Leather-covered bits add a new range of gentle, safe and effective communication tools.