Comparative Exercise Physiology

Research Paper

Fluoroscopic study of oral behaviours in response to the presence of a bit and the effects of rein tension

Jane M Manfredia1, Diana Rosensteina1, Joel L Lanovaza1, Sandra Nauwelaertsa1 and Hilary M Claytona1 c1

a1 Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Mary Anne McPhail Equine Performance Center, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824-1314, USA


This study investigated intra-oral behaviours in horses wearing different bits with and without rein tension. Six riding horses wore a bridle and three bits: jointed snaffle, KK Ultra and Myler comfort snaffle. Lateral fluoroscopic images (30 Hz) were recorded for 20 s for each bit with loose reins and with 25 ± 5 N bilateral rein tension. The videos were analysed to determine time spent in the following behaviours: mouth quiet, gently mouthing the bit, retracting the tongue, bulging the dorsum of the tongue over the bit, lifting the bit and other behaviours that were performed infrequently. Repeated-measures ANOVA indicated that behaviours did not differ between bits, so bit type was not predictive of behaviour, but there were significant effects of horse and rein tension. Horses spent less time quiet and more time mouthing the bit, retracting the tongue and bulging the tongue over the bit when tension was applied.

(Received January 20 2010)

(Accepted January 21 2010)

(Online publication March 01 2010)


  • horse;
  • bit;
  • oral cavity;
  • fluoroscopy;
  • rider communication


c1 Corresponding author: