While most of us can walk into a tack store and find a plethora of bits for sale, in India, many working horses are subjected to bits that look like medieval torture devices — crude bits that are made locally.
An organization called Friends of Marwari/Kathiawari Horse UK, which was formed in 2008 to promote the welfare of Marwari and Kathiawari horses has started a program to collect donated snaffle bits and offer them to local horse owners in exchange for the bits they have been using. Their goal is to collect and distribute 1,000 bits in 2010.
Marwari and Kathiawari horses are breeds unique to the desert regions of India and are distinguished by their curly touching ears.
Local bits tend to include spikes and rowels on the mouthpieces. It’s unclear whether this is caused by ignorance or tradition but these are bits that cause the horses pain and injury.
The good news is that the team of five FOMHUK members flew to India in March to distribute the first 200 bits that were collected were well received. The self-funded team travelled by horse safari from just outside Jodhpur heading South West, down the Luni river some 250kms to reach the biblical scene at Balotra, the largest horse fair held in Rajasthan. Members of team were the only westerners at the Fair. They were guided and greatly assisted by the active involvement of Rawal Devendra Singh Nawalgarh, a major breeder and Rajasthan representative for the Indigenous Horse Society of India and his friend Thakur Durga Singh Mandawa.
There was a large gathering each time bits were being donated. Team members explained the benefits of a kinder bit to the horses’ mouth. Locals were encouraged to exchange a number of the more severe and crude locally made bits for the kinder UK-donated snaffle bits.
FOMHUK requests that horse lovers worldwide keep collecting and donating their surplus bits sized between four to five inches wide. They are also looking for future funding of the two shipments each year which are planned to take place to coincide with the major horse fairs of Rajasthan.
A list of Bit Donation boxes and collection sites throughout the UK can be found on the website: www.friendsofmarwari.org.uk. Or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org for details.