Sue Gilliatt is a bit fitter and brand ambassador for Bomber Bits; she’s based in South Africa, and travels internationally regularly, when circumstances allow, of course!
She’s been involved in equestrianism for many years, notably having supported her twin daughters Beth (directly below, in blue), and Amy Coxon-Gilliatt (far below, in green), the current SA Junior Eventing Champion and Reserve Champions, through their blossoming careers.
We asked Sue to tell us more about her horsey credentials.“I am from a non-horsey family, although my Grandfather had a great fondness for hoses – particularly heavy horses. That may be why I imported my massive Irish Draft into South Africa! My twin daughters are at boarding school in South Africa with their horses, and I support them with their four horses and competition schedules,” Sue explains.
Beth Coxon Gilliatt Rupert 1She first connected with Bomber Bits when she contacted the pioneering manufacturer regarding bitting a tricky horse. At the time, Sue’s daughter Amy was riding an ex racehorse called Heavy Metal (ex Durban July winner), who was proving impossible to bit.
“It was great to reconnect with Bomber Nel, whom I have known for a number of years; we discussed the horse at length, and concluded that the only way to know what his issues were was to ‘look inside’.”
“And so in mid 2017, the journey began!” explains Sue, who’s widely known for her mouth moulding clinics, which are conducted with specialist equine dental technicians (EDTs).
With power and propulsion from the hindleg the horse is ready and waiting for the riders signal. Amy Coxon Gilliatt is pictured riding Lionheart Sue says that equine mouth inspections to aid bitting can be considered in the same way as having an equine lameness issue, and the vet working with the farrier, or a saddle fitter working with physio.
“We as specialists must respect each other’s fields of expertise, and complement each other well. I am not a dental technician, and cannot see what their years of experience and training show them.”
“Without their input, I would be bit fitting blindly,” continues Sue, whose clients include Andrew Hoy (pictured below), Francis Whittignton, Luke Baber Davis, Jess Dunn, Charlotte Dujardin, Harry Meade and Holly Smith, among many others.
Andrew Hoy with John and Louise Ayres Basmati. “Horses sadly cannot tell us what causes them pain, so we work together,” she adds.
Regarding the process to assess which bit would suit a particular horse, Sue says it is not just about the bit and the horse – there is also the rider and the discipline to take into account.”
“Once the EDT has given me his rundown, I spend time listening to the rider and looking at the horse’s temperament and history.”
“I will not deviate from the comfort of the horse, and I will always bit the mouthpiece to the horse,” Sue explains.
“The cheek piece then belongs to the rider, and I will fit according to their needs.”
SUE LOOKS AT DOUBLE BRIDLE Sue says she is fiercely loyal to Bombers as a brand, due to her respect for co-proprietor, Bomber Nel. “His passion and knowledge of bitting is unsurpassed. Bomber is revered worldwide, and highly respected by many top riders. I am eternally grateful for the knowledge he has passed on to me,” Sue adds.
Ignorance isn’t bliss
When asked what issues are commonly seen within the field of bitting, Sue tells us that it’s owner or rider ignorance.
“Knowledge is power, and people seem to have a one size fits all attitude. Bitting is pretty much your brakes and steering, and yet people tend to pay it so little attention!” she continues.
“I see people riding with incredibly expensive saddles, bridles, boots and helmets, and then an unsuitable bit that’s three sizes too big.”
Sue works with many elite riders, and has been heavily involved in the bitting of one of dressage rider Charlotte Dujardin’s rides, along with Chris Pearce, a leading UK Vet and EDT – here is an article written about the procedure:
She has a busy schedule of bit fittings planned internationally when COVID restrictions allow, and has also been invited to speak at the International Association of Veterinary Rehabilitation and Physical therapy (IAVRPT) conference in August 2021, at the University of Cambridge, UK.
For more information on Sue’s mouth moulding clinics, please email her – email@example.com.
Read more about Sue HERE.
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