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The bit is a piece of equipment that allows a jockey to control the horse he or she is riding. The bridle has a bit and it is positioned in the mouth of the horse. The bit can be metal or rubber, depending on how the horse responds and feels comfortable with the different materials.
A jockey holds the reins, which are attached to the bit. When the jockey pulls the reins the bit moves and provides control over the horse. It is debateable whether pulling the reins and moving the bit affects how a horse runs but the reins are seen as important elements of how a jockey rides a race.
If a horse is travelling well in a race the jockey does not need to provide much persuasion to make the horse go better. When a horse is running comfortably the jockey’s role is to be balanced and let the horse run naturally.
However, at certain stages in a race a horse will come under pressure. The distance or the quality of the other horses has made the race uncomfortable and at this point the jockey has to become more active and do something so that the horse maintains its position in a race.
The jockey can pull the reins, which takes the horse off the bit. When the jockey is not pulling the reins the bit is tight and the horse is said to be running on the bit. When the horse has to be ridden not to lose ground it is said to be off the bit.
Running off the bit can also be referred to running off the bridle and the jockey is using the equipment to try to encourage the horse to run better.