Friday Fashion Forecast: Acavallo Sensitive Bit — WHAT Does it Do??

Acavallo Sensitive Bit. Photo via Acavallo Sensitive Bit. Photo via

What in the world does the Acavallo Sensitive Bit do, and why is this schooling bit a game-changer for a young/green/worried horse?

When training for events you do loads of practice at home that is not performed at a show. Gridwork, poles and cavalletti are just a few examples. These help a horse achieve proper balance and build muscle memory for use in portions of the event. Why not use a training bit that can do the same? Take a look at the Acavallo Sensitive Bit.

Amy Nelson with her prelim event horse in the Acavallo Sensitive Bit.

According to the Acavallo website, the design is a “slightly arched and flattened mouthpiece (that) ensures that pressure on tongue, yaws and mouth corners, if applicable, is distributed evenly. The one-piece design of mouthpiece and rings prevents a one-sided squeezing or pinching of tongue or yaws, as well as painful irritations of the palate (no ‘nutcracker effect’).” I tried this bit on a few different horses at my farm. One that is an anxious fellow, my prelim gelding, who stresses about collection and dressage. The other was a young OTTB who came off the track recently, and is learning how to relax and carry himself properly for a future career in fox hunting.

For the future fox hunter, I normally ride him in a 5-inch full cheek snaffle. The full cheek helps with steering on a green OTTB, so most often this would be my go-to bit for horses coming off the track. Aside from creating relaxation, in my experience Acavallo Sensitive bit helped stabilize the unnecessary lateral movement in a young horse. Those that tend to be wiggly as they are learning to work through their entire body, I always use a running martingale. Aside from teaching them to not get above the bit, it also works like stabilizer bars on a bumper pull trailer. This bit seemed to work in a similar manner, allowing the horses to work through their bodies from poll to tail without the typical bulging of young horse. I combined the Acavallo Sensitive bit with a running martingale to help teach them to drive from their hind end. It also seems to work well for straightness even without a martingale.

Amy Nelson with Future Fox Hunter OTTB in the Acavallo Sensitive Bit.

In the bit there are two slots where you can put your reins. The middle slot works with less leverage, and the bottom slot gives you a bit more.  For my prelim event horse I used the bottom slot to school dressage. The difference from his normal French link was astounding. He was relaxed and soft, and was able to properly accept the contact while schooling poles and cavalletti. This is a horse we nicknamed the “grey dinosaur.” I always ride him in a 5.25 inch bit, and most tend to rub and irritate the corners of his mouth without guards. His jaw is mildly asymmetrical, so generally I see rubbing on one side. The Acavallo Sensitive Bit comes in only one size, with the claim that it fits the majority of any horse or pony.  I thought for sure it would rub. I was blown away when it fit comfortably! No pinching, rubbing, or bald patches of facial hair after using this bit, unlike many others that I have tried.

My only complaint is that because of the small openings in the side of the bit, it is impossible to lunge a horse using a standard lunge line clip. I always lunge my young horses fully tacked before getting on, so this presented a challenge. I like to see how they are going to move with all of the equipment including saddle and bridle, and for proper communication I always run the lunge line through the bit, up over their poll and connect to the other side. This bit does not allow for that. The opening is just too small. One option would be to use a lunging cavesson instead.

I was skeptical at first, but absolutely see a time and a place for the Acavallo Sensitive Bit. It is a great training tool for young, anxious horses.  According to the website, “It enhances confidence of the horse in the rider’s hand because of its quiet and comfortable positioning in the mouth, helping the horse to find its own balance. Due to its integrated, flexible steel cable reinforcement, this bit provides for a soft, yet very secure control of the horse. An ideal choice especially for the schooling of young and the correction of difficult horses.”

I would definitely recommend using this as a substitution for your dressage bit in your training regimen, also for starting young horses, and correcting self-carriage. Due to the weather — massive temperature swings in Illinois brought frigid temps and then weeks of mud — I was unable to test the Sensitive Bit in an open field. More research is needed on the “secure control” portion of the claims. However, in an arena setting, my feisty prelim event horse was able to focus and stop when asked.

According to Acavallo, the Sensitive Bit is made of an “innovative, anti-allergic plastic material instead of a heavy and/or cold metal or metal allloy.” I made a video before my first day of several weeks of testing, and that day temps had dropped into the teens. You can see how this bit is still flexible in spite of the frigid temps.

So many people contacted when I posted this video earlier in the week! One woman has a fox hunter who needs a little more leverage out in the field, but still wants softness in her horse’s mouth. She has tried loads of other bits. One woman is  a friend of mine who runs a horse rescue that works with at-risk youth in our area. Through working with animals, the kids learn valuable skills like patience and confidence. She told me they have a young horse who is very fussy with every bit, and she wondered if the sensitive bit might be the solution.

The truth is, I don’t have all the answers. But what I told them was, I saw a huge difference in the horses while using it. One horse, took to it right away, while took two rides to see a difference. In my opinion, this bit will be the answer for quite a few horses, but certainly not all of them.  Surely you don’t ride all of your horses in the same bit, because every horse is unique.

But for the price of the bit (about $55), it’s about the same as you would spend on one riding lesson in many regions. My advice would be order this bit to try it on your particular horse, in your particular situation. I was sold. If you have a youngster who is anxious and sensitive in the mouth, or your horse struggles to find balance and stay relaxed, this will be another great training tool in your arsenal.

Amy Nelson with the future fox hunter in the Acavallo Training Bit.

Keep in mind, this bit is not competition legal. It is designed for schooling at home. You school poles and cavalletti and grids at home. Perhaps try the Acavallo Sensitive Bit as well! If you have questions about trying it out, feel free to contact me on Facebook or Instagram!

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Final Review (Out of 4 Stars)

Cost: $$
Excitement: *** 3 Stars
Durability: **** 4 Stars
Variety: ** 2 Stars (this is one of many training bits from Acavallo)