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Common Bits You Should Know
 By Winniefield Park   •   12th Mar 2017   •   4,358 views   •   0 comments
Walk into a large tack shop and you’ll probably walk past a large wall full of shining bits. The bit is one of the most common symbols of the horse world. Most horses are ridden with a bit in their mouth, although more people seem to be exploring bitless riding. But even though there looks to be hundreds of bits available, there are really only three main types, and one of these is a combination of the other two. Here’s a look at just a few of the most common bits you’ll see so when you’re choosing a bit, or even just deciding what bit to draw on your equine artwork, you’ll know where to start.

Snaffle
Probably the most common bit, used by riders of every discipline, is the snaffle bit. In it’s primitive and simplest form, a snaffle bit is a bar of metal with a ring attached to either end. You’ll see some very ancient examples in museums exhibits and books. Today, we use snaffles that are a bit more comfortable for the horse with different types of mouthpieces and bars.

Loose Ring Snaffle
Loose Ring Snaffle

A snaffle works inside of the horse’s mouth. When the rider pulls a rein, it pulls back the ring, and that pulls the mouthpiece back against the toothless bar of the horse’s mouth. This cues the horse to turn its head to that side. When both reins are pulled, the bit (should) be pulled back evenly, applying pressure to both bars. If the snaffle has a joint in the mouthpiece, this can have a slight nutcracker effect and may put some pressure on the roof of the horse’s mouth.

The most common snaffle bit is the loose ring snaffle. This usually has a jointed mouthpiece and the rein rings turn freely because they are attached to the small loop of metal at each end of the mouthpiece.

Eggbutt Snaffle
Eggbutt Snaffle

Another very common snaffle bit is the eggbutt snaffle. On this bit, the rein rings are attached with a wide hinge joint, rather than just a ring. The mouthpiece can be quite thick and taper in towards toe joint in the middle of the mouthpiece. This is a very mild bit, and won’t pinch the horse’s lips like a loose ring would. It can be too thick for some horses, however.

Half Spoon Snaffle
Half Spoon Snaffle

The full-cheek and half spoon snaffle have posts that extend from the rein rings to prevent the bit from sliding through the horse's mouth. The full cheek has posts that point up and down, while the half spoon, more often used for driving, has only the bottom post.

Curb
A curb bit affects more than just inside the horse’s mouth when the rein aids are used. When the reins are pulled back, the mouthpiece turns in the horse’s mouth. This pulls the headstall down across the top of the horse’s head. And, it pulls the curb strap up against the horse’s chin. The curb strap or chain is important because it prevents the bit from rotating too much. Curb bits can have short or long shanks. The longer the shanks, the more leverage can be applied. Curb bits can have straight or jointed mouthpieces and straight or curved shanks. All affect how severe the bit is.

Western Grazing Bit
Western Grazing Bit

The western grazing bit probably the most common western curb bit, and the bit on an English double bridle the common English curb bit. The Tom Thumb, although often called a snaffle, is really a curb bit. The kimblewick is a common English curb bit, even though it looks more like a snaffle.

You’ll see the bit and bridoon combination on dressage horses and horses shown in park classes. But curb bits aren’t usually used alone in English riding. Curbs are very commonly used in western riding.

Pelham
A bit that tries to be both curb and snaffle is the pelham. There are western and English pelhams. These bits have a rein ring on the mouthpiece, and another on the end of the shanks. Most often they are used with two sets of reins, so the rider can cue with either the snaffle or curb action. You might see these on gaited horses, or hunters.

Pelham Bit
Pelham Bit

All bits, with exceptions of gag bits and hackamores, are combinations of, or types of curbs and snaffles. And, it’s rarely the bit that makes a horse, but how the bit is used.
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