Should you consider the Baucher bit? Some horses love it, while others can't stand it. Come critics think it's harsh but, like any other bit, it depends upon the rider's skill. Inexperienced hands should look elsewhere.
The Baucher bit is defined by it’s so-called “hanging cheek piece,” a metal bar that extends upward from the bit ring and attaches to the cheek piece. The reins then attach to the lower bit ring. Bauchers come in a wide variety of mouthpieces—single-jointed, double-jointed, happy mouth, mullen, and more.
This bit provides slightly more leverage than the average snaffle, and the design creates slight poll pressure to help adjust the frame of the horse’s head. It’s because of this leverage, and potential for poll pressure, that the Baucher bit is labeled by some critics as being too harsh for use in dressage, or “gimmicky” in terms of creating correct contact, flexion and submission.
But when it comes to bits, the final arbiter of their use is really the horse, and there are some compelling biomechanical reasons as to why, for some horses, the Baucher is actually milder than the average snaffle.
A Little History.
Baucher bits are named after Francois Baucher (1796-1873), a somewhat controversial master of the French classical school of dressage. He was known for a methodology that emphasized the compression of the horse’s body, the lifting of the front end, and obedience. The methods used to achieve this early in his career were not always considered correct or particularly kind to the horse, but following an accident that left him permanently disabled, he refined his methods over time to emphasize the lifting of the poll and response to the lightest possible aids. Although still controversial today, his theories of equine balance and lightness on the aids have become broadly accepted.
For Sensitive Mouths.
We’ve found the Baucher can be a useful bit for a horse that is particularly sensitive in the tongue and bars of the mouth. The hanging design keeps the bit lifted from these areas, and even when strong contact is applied, some horses clearly find this action more comfortable than that of a traditionally placed snaffle. We also find them useful for horses with very busy mouths, as they tend to shift less in the horse’s mouth, helping keep it quieter.
Finally, the slight additional leverage provided by the Baucher can be useful on a temporary basis on horses who have physical limitations that make understanding flexion difficult, such as thick-throated draft types, horses being rehabilitated mentally, or horses who have learned to lean heavily into the rider’s hands as an evasion.
The Baucher should not be used to force a false headset or frame, nor should it be used on a horse that clearly objects to it. Horses with low and/or sensitive pallets are likely to object strongly to the action of the Baucher, especially one with a single joint. It should be adjusted with slightly more give in the corners of the mouth than a traditional snaffle, and great care should be taken that it is wide enough for the horse’s mouth to ensure that the hanging cheek piece doesn’t rub.
Like any bit, the Baucher is as harsh or soft as the hands using it—and should not be utilized by inexperienced riders who have not achieved independent hands. However, deciding whether or not this bit is useful for your horse doesn’t require tremendous study. We’ve found that horses either love it, and immediately go better, or they object violently to it, throwing their heads and telling us in no uncertain terms they don’t care for it.
Article by John Strassburger, our Performance Editor.