Monday, March 2, 2015

What Does that Do? Historical Horse Tack


           Recently I stumbled across this bit, an was rather puzzled by it. It is ported, but has no way of engaging the port. So what does it do?

horse bit
Danish National Museum
      The standard answer is "tongue relief." However, a narrow port like this does not actually provide significant tongue relief, no matter what the fans say. The corners where the bar of the mouthpiece meets the port actually create more pressure on the tongue, particularly if only one rein is used.

       It is possible, even likely, that this bit is displayed "inside out." Although the toggles attached to the rings above the nose may have attached to a front portion of the bridle, originally attached to the face plate, configured something like this:


or like this:

       I've never seen a bit hung from nose, and it seems particularly strange for a loose ring. Of course, you probably noticed that neither of those actually attach to the bit. Even with that stabilizer bar, the bit would fall into the front teeth. It's possible one or more of the attachments to the ring are fixed, but if not the whole configuration was likely flipped, with the toggles attached to cheek pieces and the bulk of the ring behind the mouthpiece, almost like an oversize baucher, which keeps the bit from pulling through the mouth or into the upper molars:

       But wait, what about that port? No matter which configuration, or how many of the attachments are fixed, it still doesn't rotate (I made a model and tried. No, not on a horse). What it would do is prevent the horse's tongue from coming over the bit, which is a particular problem in horses with high palettes, no nosebands, and/or poorly fitting tack- all of which would likely have been the case if this bit was actually from early or pre-medieval Denmark.


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