Taking the time to warm up your horse’s bit during the cold winter months is more important than you may think.
Do you remember the scene from A Christmas Story where the little boy and his buddies gather around a frozen metal pole? One of the boys succumbs to peer pressure from the group and decides to lick the pole. Sure enough, his tongue gets stuck. Ouch!
The same pain (and damage) could occur when shoving a frozen bit into your horse’s mouth. That’s why it’s very important to take a few minutes to warm your horse’s bit prior to riding in cold temperatures.
There are many ways to warm your horse’s bit, so we’ve compiled a list of options below (some that we’ve tried, others that we haven’t) to help you next time you head to the barn.
1. Pockets or hands
Your pockets or your hands are a great and economical option, however, it takes a while to get those bits warmed up using either of these methods. It can also be tough on your already-cold fingers! Personally, I prefer to stick the bit in an inside sweatshirt pocket while we’re grooming and doing other things in the barn.
Typically, the closer to the body you place the bit, the warmer it will get. When you’re ready to tack up, if the bit still feels too cold, hold it in your hand for a few minutes until it warms up.
Note: If you’re riding multiple horses during a day, having a pocket full of bits could be a bit cumbersome (and loud!).
2. Space heaters
A lot of people will stick their bits in front of a heater in a bathroom, tack room, etc. for a few minutes to warm it. It’s worth noting, however, that a bit can get too HOT and cause burns to the tongue and inside of your horse’s mouth.
If you’re using this method, check your bit frequently to ensure it’s not getting too hot. Many veterinarians will tell you they’ve seen more damage from bits that are too hot vs too cold, so always check your bit before you tack up. If it’s too hot to hold, it’s too hot for your horse.
TIP: Always remember SAFETY FIRST when using a heater in a barn. Make sure the heater is far away from anything flammable, never unattended, and unplugged when not in use.
3. Rinse under warm or hot water
This is a good option for individuals who have access to warm/hot water in their barn. Holding a bit under really warm water can warm it up quite quickly! Once finished, dry thoroughly and stick the bit in an inside pocket until you’re ready to tack up. We don’t personally have warm/hot water in my barn, so we haven’t used this method, but it can be an excellent option for those who do.
Some riders will take an old crockpot out to their barn, add water, their bit(s), and turn it on low while they ride for the day. This always ensures a warm bit and all you really need to do is dry the bit off before using. Always check to make sure the bit it not too hot before tacking up. This method certainly sounds like a viable option, but like heaters, crockpots are also a fire hazard (cue the memories of the fire caused by a crockpot in NBC’s hit show, “This Is Us”). We don’t have that many horses to ride so this probably isn’t an option we’ll use.
5. Bit Warmers
A bit warmer is exactly what you might think: a warm blanket for your bit. There are two primary types that we’ve seen thus far – one that contains white rice already sewn into the warmer, and one that contains pockets in which a purchased hand warmer can be inserted. Here are the differences:
RICE WARMERS – If you’re using rice, you will need access to a microwave. Simply toss the bit warmer into the microwave for a ‘bit’ until the rice is warm. Then wrap the bit warmer around your bit and secure it with the velcro closures. The rice will warm your bit up and if the warmer is constructed well, it will help hold the heat in for a little while until you’re ready to use it.
POCKET WARMERS – If you don’t have access to a microwave, you would choose a bit warmer that contains ‘pockets’ inside. These pockets house hand warmers that are available at most farm supply stores, Amazon, Walmart, etc. All you need to do is activate the warmers, insert them into the pockets, and wrap the warmer around your bit. These warmers also utilize velcro closures so the bit warmer can be securely held in place and attached to your bit. Quality construction will ensure the bit warmer provides the insulation to keep the heat in and keep your bit warm.
Keep your horse happy with warm bits this winter
It’s important to find a solution that works well for you and your horse. Share your tips to warm up your horse’s bit on cold days in the comments below!
Originally published January 29, 2019 and updated December 9, 2020.