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Sweet Iron Bits
    2006 Cherry Hill
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Dear Cherry Hill,

Could you please enlighten me as to the properties and purpose of sweet iron metal in bits?

Kat


Dear Kat,

Bits are commonly made of stainless steel, cold-rolled steel, and nickel or copper alloys. High-quality, bright stainless steel has a smooth surface that won't rust or pit and is very long wearing. Cold-rolled steel is a type of steel compressed to form a uniformly dense yet softer material than stainless.

Although prone to rust, cold-rolled steel fans call the rust "seasoning" and say that the nutmeg-colored oxidation on the mouthpiece makes it sweet to the horse, thus the term "sweet iron". "Silver" show snaffles usually have cold-rolled steel mouthpieces but are called silver bits because of the engraved silver which is inlaid on the rings. Copper alloys with their reddish gold hues are used as solid mouthpieces and as strips inlaid in cold-rolled steel or stainless steel mouthpieces. Although salivation, a sensitivity-enhancer, is a result of the position of your horse's head and his overall suppleness and flexion, the metal you put in his mouth can either encourage or dry up the flow of saliva. Copper and cold-rolled steel enhance salivation; chrome and aluminum discourage it; stainless steel tends to be neutral.

I've found that although my horses work well and salivate in stainless bits, they do indeed seem to "take" to bits with a sweet iron mouthpiece and have a moist mouth throughout their work.

Cherry Hill

 

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