Bits and Snaffles

Choosing a bit for your horse can be tricky. All horses and riders are different and will have their own preferences. The array of horse’s bits available at saddleries and tack shops can be confusing, so it’s important to make the right choice.

Bits can be divided into two basic types, the snaffle bit and the curb bit. Most if not all bits can be made of metal, copper or synthetic materials, which is another thing to consider.

Curb Bits
The curb bit uses leverage to control the horse’s mouth, whereas the snaffle does not. This means that curb bits are generally stronger, as they exert more pressure on the horse’s mouth. The pressure felt by the horse will be multiplied by attaching the reins to the shank of the bit, making these more severe bits for horses that are strong. Gag bits can be used as both snaffle and curb bits, attaching the reins to the lower links on the cheekpieces when more control is needed. Bits such as Kimblewicks and Pelhams are often used with curb chains beneath the chin.

Curb bits are also used in double bridles in the higher levels of dressage. These consist of two reins and two bits, one curb bit called the Weymouth and one snaffle, called the Bridoon. Curb bits are also used for Western riding, as they let the rider use extremely light aids when riding on a loose rein.

Snaffles
For a lot of horses, snaffles are one of the most effective bits. They give control without being too severe, and come in a variety of types. Jointed snaffles act with a nutcracker action on the sides of the horse’s mouth, and the horse feels pressure on its mouth equal to the force put onto the reins, unlike curb bits where the force is multiplied.

The most gentle type of horses snaffle is the Eggbutt snaffle. This is one of the most widely used horse’s bits, with its name coming from the ‘egg shaped’ rings. These are fixed at the sides, meaning there is less chance the horse’s skin will be pinched. This is a soft bit, but the fixed rings mean it’s not very mobile in the horse’s mouth.

The loose ring snaffle is another popular choice. It is similar to the Eggbutt snaffle, but the rings are free to rotate through the join with the mouthpiece. This makes it harder for the horse to grab hold of the bit and tank with the rider, and is a more mobile bit. However, this also means that the horse’s cheeks can be pinched.

The D Ring horse’s snaffle, like the Eggbutt, gets its name from the shape of the side rings. These are jointed to the mouthpiece rather than being loose. This is a popular bit for racehorses to use, and often has steel and copper rollers placed along the mouthpiece. These make the horse play with the bit, giving a more responsive contact.

There are many different types of horse’s bits available, so it’s important to make the right choice for you and your horse.