Bit mouthpiece

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Single-jointed pelham. Pelham bit.jpg
Single-jointed pelham.

The mouthpiece is the part of a horse's bit that goes into the mouth of a horse, resting on the bars of the mouth in the sensitive interdental space where there are no teeth. The mouthpiece is possibly the most important determinant in the severity and action of the bit. Some mouthpieces are not allowed in dressage competition.

Bit (horse) Horse equipment that fits in the mouth and is used to direct the horse

The bit is an important item of a horse's tack. It usually refers to the assembly of components that contacts and controls the horses mouth, and includes the shanks, rings, cheekpads and mullen, all described here below, but it also sometimes simply refers to the mullen, the piece that fits inside the horses mouth. The mullen extends across the horses mouth and rests on the bars, the region between the incisors and molars where there are no teeth. The bit is located on the horse's head by the headstall, and which has itself several components to allow the most comfortable adjustment of bit location and control.

Horse Domesticated four-footed mammal from the equine family

The horse is one of two extant subspecies of Equus ferus. It is an odd-toed ungulate mammal belonging to the taxonomic family Equidae. The horse has evolved over the past 45 to 55 million years from a small multi-toed creature, Eohippus, into the large, single-toed animal of today. Humans began domesticating horses around 4000 BC, and their domestication is believed to have been widespread by 3000 BC. Horses in the subspecies caballus are domesticated, although some domesticated populations live in the wild as feral horses. These feral populations are not true wild horses, as this term is used to describe horses that have never been domesticated, such as the endangered Przewalski's horse, a separate subspecies, and the only remaining true wild horse. There is an extensive, specialized vocabulary used to describe equine-related concepts, covering everything from anatomy to life stages, size, colors, markings, breeds, locomotion, and behavior.

Horse teeth

Horse teeth refers to the dentition of equine species, including horses and donkeys. Equines are both heterodontous and diphyodontous, which means that they have teeth in more than one shape, and have two successive sets of teeth, the deciduous and permanent sets.


The other parts of the bit are the bit rings on a snaffle bit, and the shanks on a curb bit. These pieces do not go inside the mouth, but rather are the parts of a bit that are outside the mouth, where the bridle and reins attach.

Bit ring

The bit ring is the ring on the side of a horse's bit, particularly on a snaffle bit. It is used as a point of attachment for the cheekpieces of the bridle and for the reins. It also has an effect on the action of the bit. Therefore, the design of the ring is something to consider when choosing a bit for a horse, even though the bit mouthpiece generally has a greater effect than the ring.

Snaffle bit Type of horse equipment that goes in the horses mouth

A snaffle bit is the most common type of bit used while riding horses. It consists of a bit mouthpiece with a ring on either side and acts with direct pressure. A bridle utilizing only a snaffle bit is often called a "snaffle bridle", particularly in the English riding disciplines. A bridle that carries two bits, a curb bit and a snaffle, or "bradoon", is called a double bridle.

Curb bit type of bit with lever action

A curb bit is a type of bit used for riding horses that uses lever action. It includes the pelham bit and the Weymouth curb along with the traditional "curb bit" used mainly by Western riders.

Design concepts

The rider's use of hands is one of the most important factors when determining the severity of the bit Harshbituse.JPG
The rider's use of hands is one of the most important factors when determining the severity of the bit

Particular mouthpieces do not define the type of bit. Often, bits with mouthpieces, such as single or double-jointed bits, are incorrectly referred to as snaffles, which in actuality refers to a direct action bit, rather than a leverage bit, and not the mouthpiece. Though some mouthpieces are marked as "severe" and others as "mild", this is all relative. A heavy-handed rider can make even the mildest bit uncomfortable, and a skilled, light rider can ride in a much harsher mouthpiece without damaging the mouth or causing any distress in the horse. Additionally, the type of bit has a great impact on the action of the mouthpiece. Snaffles are generally considered the mildest, curbs and gags the harshest. It is difficult, therefore, to compare a harsher-type bit with a mild mouthpiece (such as a pelham with a rubber mullen mouth), and a milder-type bit with a harsher mouthpiece (like a snaffle with a slow twist). In general, however, the mouthpiece can have a marked difference on the severity. Snaffles with twisted wires are never considered mild, while a pelham with a low port may. In short, many factors in the bitting equation must be considered to evaluate the action and severity of a bit.

Various types of metal or synthetic substances are used for bit mouthpieces, which may determine how much a horse salivates or otherwise tolerates a bit; a horse having a moist mouth is considered more relaxed and responsive. Commonly used metals include stainless steel and nickel alloys, which generally do not rust and have a neutral effect on salivation; sweet iron, aurigan and copper, which generally tend to encourage salivation; and aluminum, which is considered drying and is discouraged as a mouthpiece metal. Synthetic mouthpieces may be made with or without internal metal cable or bar reinforcement. Rubber bits are generally thicker than metal bits, but other types of plastics are also used, often the same size and some flavored.

Stainless steel steel alloy resistant to corrosion

In metallurgy, stainless steel, also known as inox steel or inox from French inoxydable (inoxidizable), is a steel alloy, with a minimum of 11% chromium content by mass and a maximum of 1.2% carbon by mass.

Nickel Chemical element with atomic number 28

Nickel is a chemical element with the symbol Ni and atomic number 28. It is a silvery-white lustrous metal with a slight golden tinge. Nickel belongs to the transition metals and is hard and ductile. Pure nickel, powdered to maximize the reactive surface area, shows a significant chemical activity, but larger pieces are slow to react with air under standard conditions because an oxide layer forms on the surface and prevents further corrosion (passivation). Even so, pure native nickel is found in Earth's crust only in tiny amounts, usually in ultramafic rocks, and in the interiors of larger nickel–iron meteorites that were not exposed to oxygen when outside Earth's atmosphere.

Sweet iron

Sweet iron is a term for cold-rolled "mild steel" or carbon steel that has been work hardened, popular for use in bit mouthpieces used on horses in the western riding disciplines. It easily rusts, which supposedly encourages salivation from the horse and acceptance of the bit. In the United States this metal is used in many Western riding disciplines, and is not as popular in English riding. In Europe it is frequently used across disciplines, not just Western.

Bits without joints

Straight-bar and Mullen mouth

Straight bar mouthpiece Mullen.jpg
Straight bar mouthpiece

Types of Bits: All types.

What it is: The mouthpiece is a straight bar of material, without any joints or ports. In the mullen mouth, the bar has a slight bow to it, curving gently to allow some room for the tongue.

Action: The mullen mouth and straight bar are fairly similar in action, placing pressure on the tongue, lips, and bars. The mullen provides extra space for the tongue, instead of constantly pushing into it, resulting in more tongue relief, and making it more comfortable, but the mullen does not have as high of a port as a curb, thus does not offer full tongue relief. This bit is generally considered a very mild mouthpiece, although this varies according to the type of bit leverage (snaffle, pelham or curb), and improper use may make it harsh, since the majority of the bit pressure is applied on the sensitive tongue.

Materials: Rubber is very common, as are other synthetic materials. Stainless steel is also a favorite, but copper and sweet iron are not as popular.

Uses: Seen in all equestrian activities, although less commonly in dressage. Usually not as popular for snaffles or gags as for bits that use leverage (pelham, Kimblewick, and curb). The straight bar is common in stallion in-hand bits.

Dressage highly skilled form of riding performed in exhibition and competition

Dressage is a highly skilled form of riding performed in exhibition and competition, as well as an "art" sometimes pursued solely for the sake of mastery. As an equestrian sport defined by the International Equestrian Federation, dressage is "the highest expression of horse training" where "horse and rider are expected to perform from memory a series of predetermined movements."

Halter (horse show) Type of horse show class where horses are shown in hand and not ridden

Halter is a type of horse show class where horses are shown "in hand," meaning that they are led, not ridden, and are judged on their conformation and suitability as breeding stock. Depending on breed and geographic region, such events may be called "Halter," "In-Hand," "Breeding," "Model," or "Conformation" classes.

Variants: A variant that is somewhat between the mullen and a low port, seen primarily in western riding is called a "sweetwater" bit and is a very wide, low port slightly more arched than a mullen that offers full tongue relief, puts pressure only on the bars, and is primarily used as a curb mouthpiece. Spade and "half-breed bits also have a straight bar mouthpiece, but with the addition of a port, spoon, or other accoutrements, and thus are not truly classified as a mullen or straight bar mouthpiece."

Western riding style of horseback riding which evolved from the ranching and warfare traditions

Western riding is a style of horse riding which evolved from the ranching and warfare traditions brought to the Americas by the Spanish Conquistadors, and both equipment and riding style evolved to meet the working needs of the cowboy in the American West. American cowboys needed to work long hours in the saddle over rough terrain, sometimes needing to rope cattle with a lariat. Because of the necessity to control the horse with one hand and use a lariat with the other, western horses were trained to neck rein, that is, to change direction with light pressure of a rein against the horse's neck. Horses were also trained to exercise a certain degree of independence in using their natural instincts to follow the movements of a cow, thus a riding style developed that emphasized a deep, secure seat, and training methods encouraged a horse to be responsive on very light rein contact.


A medium-height port on a curb bit, offering room for the tongue without acting on the hard palate. WesternCurb.jpg
A medium-height port on a curb bit, offering room for the tongue without acting on the hard palate.

Types of Bits: All types, including driving bits.

What it is: The middle of the mouthpiece has a "port," or curve, which may vary in size from "low" to "high." The port is different from the mullen mouth in that the curved portion does not extend the width of the mouthpiece, but is only an inch or two in the center of the bar.

Action: Ported bits act on the lips, tongue, and roof of the mouth, and may apply extra pressure to the bars. The action of the port is directly related to its size. Low ports provide some tongue relief, similar to the mullen mouth, as they provide more space. Larger ports press on the hard palate (roof of the mouth) when the reins are pulled, act as a fulcrum, and transfer that pressure onto the bars. Recent research has shown that the port must be 2-2.5" (5–6 cm) or more in height before it touches the hard palate. Thus the mildest port height is not necessarily the lowest ported bit, as commonly believed; it can also be the highest port possible that does not contact the hard palate.

Materials: Always metal, often stainless steel but also may be sweet iron or copper.

Uses: Very uncommon in snaffles and gags (although it can be found). One of the most common mouthpieces in pelhams, Kimblewick, and curbs. Very popular in the Western disciplines.


Single-jointed snaffle, mouthpiece wrapped in rubber to make it milder WesternSnaffle.jpg
Single-jointed snaffle, mouthpiece wrapped in rubber to make it milder

Type of Bits: Very common on snaffle bits, but seen on all bit families including Kimblewicks, pelhams, gags, and curbs.

What it is: The mouthpiece has one joint in its center. It "breaks" upward toward the top of the mouth with direct pressure, and outward toward the front of the mouth when used with leverage pressure from a bit shank.

Action: The single-jointed mouthpiece applies pressure to the tongue, lips, and bars. Due to the V-shape of the bit when the mouthpiece is contracted, it causes a "nutcracker" action, which has a pinching effect on the bars. It also causes the joint of the bit to push into the sensitive roof of the mouth if used harshly. A single-jointed bit with a curved mouthpiece has a more "U" shape which tends to decrease the pressure on the roof of the mouth.

Materials: often stainless steel, but may be made of any bit metal (copper and sweet iron are both popular), happy mouth material (polyurethane), or have a rubber covering on each joint.

Uses: This is one of the most common mouthpieces found on a snaffle, and is popular for all equestrian sports.

Cautions: Curb bits with a single joint are often called cowboy snaffle, Argentine snaffle, or Tom Thumb snaffle. However, these bits all are actually curb bits because they have shanks and operate with leverage. Thus, when the reins are pulled, the horse is subjected both to the nutcracker action of the jointed mouthpiece and the leverage of the curb, which also causes the jointed bit to rotate and press into the tongue. Therefore, such bits can be very harsh, particularly in the hands of an inexperienced rider. Adding a solid "slobber bar" at the end of the shanks may reduce, but does not eliminate, this problem.

Double jointed bits

Double-jointed bits reduce the nutcracker effect because they conform better to the horse's "U" shaped mouth, instead of the "V" created by a single joint. In this respect they are milder, and many horses prefer a double-joint over a single joint.

Many of the double-jointed bits (especially the French link and Dr. Bristol) are occasionally "added to" by twisting the cannons of the mouthpiece. This increases the severity of the bit, as these cannons act directly on the tongue and bars in addition to the regular action of the bit. A relatively "kind" French mouth can therefore be turned into a severe bit when the cannons are twisted or if the mouthpiece is put onto a gag bit. All references below are based on the cannons being smooth, not twisted.

A French Link mouthpiece FrenchLink.jpg
A French Link mouthpiece

Types of Bits: snaffle, gag, pelham, curb (including driving bits)

What it is: The mouthpiece has two joints due to a central link. This link is usually flat, short and has bone-shaped, rounded corners. Some French link snaffles are not flat, but are rounded in the same manner as the rest of the mouthpiece. The flat link is mild when it lays flat across the tongue, but the edge can put pressure on the tongue if a full-cheek version with keepers places the link at an angle. A rounded link does not have this action

Action: One of the mildest mouthpieces, because the two joints reduce the nutcracker effect found in single-jointed bits, and encourage relaxation—applies pressure to the lips, tongue, and bars of the mouth

Materials: Usually stainless steel, also copper (either just the link or the whole bit)

Use: Commonly seen on snaffles, rare in gags, pelhams, or curbs. This is one of the most popular mouthpieces for dressage work. However, it is used in many English-styled disciplines. It is rarely used in the Western-styled disciplines.

The Dr. Bristol

A Dr. Bristol link is flat, but set at an angle when compared to a French Link. This mouthpiece also has a slow twist that increases severity. Fullcheckwithtwistsnafflealpha.jpg
A Dr. Bristol link is flat, but set at an angle when compared to a French Link. This mouthpiece also has a slow twist that increases severity.

Types of Bits: snaffle, gag

What it is: The mouthpiece has two joints due to a central link. This link is flat, but longer and more rectangular in shape than a French link. It is also usually set at a slight angle to the plane of the bit. Its inventor, J.S. Bristol, was purported to have been a dentist. [1]

Action: The double joint reduces the nutcracker effect found in single-jointed snaffles. However, the middle link is angled relative to the side pieces of the bit. As a result, the thin edge of the center link can press into the tongue, creating a very small bearing surface. When a full-cheek Dr. Bristol is used, the bit can be rotated so that the angled middle joint lies flat with its broad side against the tongue; when used this way the bit is relatively mild. This latter method is only possible because bit keepers ensure the bit stays in a fixed position in the horse's mouth, and thus bits that do not use bit keepers (e.g., a D-ring or eggbutt) do not have this milder option.

This bit can put pressure on the tongue, although it also adds pressure to the bars and lips of the mouth. It contains a double jointed mouthpiece similar to the French link, with the center section a flat plate. In its original form, the plate was intended to lie across the whole width of the horse's tongue. Bristol insisted that this bit was intended to be comfortable for the horse because the central plate would lie flat onto the tongue thus lowering the pressure.

The action has been a topic of controversy with many popular texts [2] describing it as having a harsh action due to the plate's edge orientation to the tongue. Academic research has clarified these claims, showing that harsh action occurs when the bit is placed into the mouth such that the feature angle, as defined from a left hand side view, is +45 °. In this sense the bit might be used in two different ways, one such that the plate lies flat to the tongue and is 'mild' (FA = -45 °) and the other such that the plate lies edge-on to the tongue (FA = +45 °) and is 'harsh'.r. [3]

Materials: Usually stainless steel, also copper.

Use: Commonly seen on snaffles, very rare in gags. This bit is seen in many of the English disciplines, but is not used in Western disciplines. Rare in dressage due to its potential severity. Legal for use in the United States, [4] but often not allowed in sanctioned Dressage competition in other nations. [5] Seen in many jumping disciplines.

The ball joint

The ball joint Ball link bit.jpg
The ball joint

Types of Bits: snaffle

What it is: Similar to the French-link, except there is a round "ball" on the middle link.

Action: double joint reduces the nutcracker effect. The ball tends to concentrate pressure on the tongue. More severe than the French link, less than the Dr. Bristol. Also applies pressure to the lips and bars of the mouth.

Materials: Usually stainless steel

Use: Rather rare type of mouthpiece, seen in the English disciplines. Permitted in dressage.

Types of bits: snaffles

What it is: Double jointed bit similar to a French link, except the middle link has a slight upward (toward the roof of the mouth) curve, like a port.

Action: Similar action as French link, but possibly provides more room for the tongue.

The broken Segunda

Types of Bits: snaffles, usually with a Dee-ring

What it is: Similar to the ported link, except the middle link is much higher and makes a clear upside-down "U".

Action: Supposed to encourage the horse to soften and stay light in the bridle. The bottom of the "U" can be quite sharp, however, and can dig into the tongue to the point of cutting it. Therefore, they are best left to skilled riders with a very light contact.

Multi-jointed bits

Bits with more than two joints tend to wrap around the lower jaw of the horse. In general, they are considered more severe than double-jointed bits. These bits are not permitted in dressage.


Type of Bits: snaffle, pelham, gag, curb

What it is: The mouthpiece is made of 5-9 joints and is very flexible.

Action: Due to the many joints, the waterford has many bumps, which can act as pressure points. The idea is that the great flexibility discourages the horse from leaning on it.

Materials: Stainless steel.

Uses: Most common in the English disciplines, especially show jumping and eventing. Used mainly on strong horses. Not permitted in dressage, not commonly used in hunt seat riding. Rather rare in a pelham, very rare in a curb bit.

Chain mouth

Types of bits: gag, curb

What it is: As its name suggests, this mouthpiece is several links of chain.

Uses: Seen in the Western disciplines.

Twisted/serrated bits

All twisted mouthpieces are considered more severe than smooth mouthpieces. In general, they are not appropriate for novice riders or those with harsh or unskilled hands. Neither these nor any bits should be used to the point where they cause bleeding of the horse's mouth.

If a rider believes such a bit would benefit his horse, he should first look at the animal's training and his own skills. Many problems can be resolved through proper training, rather than harsher bitting. Usually, it is the less-skilled riders who find the need to use harsher bits, because they can't control their horses in anything else.

Nonetheless, in some cases, skilled riders can use such bits to their advantage and improve the horse's training. These bits are not permitted in dressage competition, and are generally not used for schooling dressage horses.

Slow twist

The slow twist is thicker than the twisted wire bits Snafflefulltwistalpha.jpg
The slow twist is thicker than the twisted wire bits

Types of Bits: Snaffle, pelham, gag

What it is: A mouthpiece (usually single-jointed) with a slight twist in the cannons. Thicker and with fewer twists than a wire bit, has fewer edges than a corkscrew.

Action: The twist causes edges that result as pressure points in the horse's mouth. Increases pressure on the tongue and bars, also acts on the lips. Generally considered strong and fairly severe.

Materials: Usually stainless steel

Uses: Most commonly found on snaffles, quite rare on pelhams and gags. Usually seen in English disciplines. Not permitted in dressage competition.


Types of Bits: Snaffle, driving bits (curbs)

What it is: The mouthpiece (usually single-jointed) has many rounded edges. However, it is not actually "corkscrew" in shape, but more has a more "screw-like" mouthpiece with blunt edges. Thicker than a wire bit, thinner than a slow twist.

Action: The edges amplify pressure on the mouth, especially the bars and tongue. Considered severe.

Uses: Mostly seen in English-type disciplines, and in driving. Not permitted in dressage.

Single Twisted Wire

Twisted wire. Twistedwiresnaffle.JPG
Twisted wire.

Types of Bits: snaffle, gag, curb

What it is: Mouthpiece is a single-jointed bit made of a thin twisted piece of wire for each joint.

Action: The wire bit is extremely severe. It is not only very thin, but it has twists in it that cause pressure points.

Materials: Stainless steel preferred for English disciplines, sweet iron and copper seen in Western disciplines.

Uses: The twisted wire is extremely severe. It is not permitted for dressage. It is more commonly seen in the Western disciplines than the English, although the jumping disciplines occasionally feature wire bits. These bits are for strong horses that pull or take off, and those with "hard" mouths. It should only be used by skilled riders with soft hands. Some people do not use these bits because they believe them to be cruel, although many trainers agree they are appropriate in certain circumstances with particular horses.

The double twisted wire

Types of Bits: snaffle, gag, curb

What it is: Bit has 2 mouthpieces, each one single jointed and made of twisted wire.

Action: The two joints amplify the nutcracker action. The wire makes the mouthpieces thin and sharp. The two mouthpieces cause extreme pressure on the bars. This bit is very severe, and should only be used by skilled riders with soft hands. Some people do not use these bits because they believe them to be cruel.

Materials: Metals, usually stainless steel but also sweet iron and copper

Uses: Not permitted for dressage. Very severe, used on horses that are very strong.

The saw chain mouth

Types of bits: snaffle

What it is: As the name suggests, the mouthpiece is made out of a piece of chainsaw.

Uses: Extremely severe, and quite uncommon. Most trainers will not use such a bit. Note: due to the extreme severity, most equestrian organizations do not permit this bit in competition.

The double-mouth/scissors/Barry/"W" or "Y" mouth

Types of Bits: snaffle, gag, curb

What it is: Bit has two mouthpieces, each one single jointed.

Action: The two joints amplify the nutcracker action. They also cause extreme pressure on the bars. This bit is very severe, and should only be used by skilled riders with soft hands. Some people do not use these bits because they believe them to be cruel.

Materials: Metals, usually stainless steel but also sweet iron and copper.

Uses: Not permitted for dressage. Very severe, used on horses that are very strong.

Hollow mouth

Types of bits: snaffle, pelham, gag

What it is: A mouthpiece (usually single jointed, but not always) that is hollow in the middle, making it very light. The mouthpiece is usually thicker than average.

Action: The thick, hollow mouthpiece spreads out pressure, thought to make it less severe. However, this effect varies with the mouth structure of the individual horse. Some horses prefer a smaller diameter bit in their mouth because their mouths do not have room for the thick mouthpieces, and in such cases a hollow mouth bit may cause discomfort.

Roller bits

A curb bit with a roller or cricket. RollerCurb2.jpg
A curb bit with a roller or cricket.

The cricket, cherry roller and other roller bits

Types of bits: snaffle, curb, gag, pelham

What it is: A cricket is a single roller placed within the port of a curb bit. usually containing copper, often producing a rattling or "cricket-like" sound when the horse moves it around.

The cherry roller bit has multiple rollers along its mouthpiece and may be of steel, copper, or alternate between the two. The mouthpiece may be jointed or straight.

Action: Rollers are supposed to help a horse relax its jaw and accept the bit. They encourage salivation and may also calm nervous horses or provide an outlet for nervous tongue movements. Rollers do not affect the severity of the bit.

Uses: Crickets are very commonly seen on western curb bridles, particularly certain Spanish and California styles such as the spade, half breed, or salinas mouthpieces and are legal for western pleasure competition. Cherry rollers are mainly an English-style bit, but are not permitted in dressage.

The Magenis

Types of bits: snaffle

Types of Bit rings : Usually eggbutt or loose ring.

What it is: The Magenis is a single-jointed bit with "rollers," or bead-like structures that may spin around, in its mouthpiece. The mouthpiece is squared off.

Action: The rollers are supposed to activate the horse's tongue and help the horse relax and accept the bit. Rollers may also help distract a nervous horse. The edges of the square mouthpiece create pressure points, making the bit severe.

Uses: Seen in the English disciplines, not permitted in dressage. A fairly uncommon bit.

Key bit

Types of Bits: snaffle

What it is: The center of the mouthpiece has short "keys" extending from it, which are movable on the bit. The keys rest on the tongue, below the bit.

Action: The keys are supposed to encourage the horse to relax, as the horse plays with them in his mouth. Mostly used for breaking in young horses.

Tongue bit/tongue correction bit/tongue port

Types of bits: usually snaffle, sometimes pelham

What it is: A flat piece of rubber that slides on a mullen mouth, or a metal bit that already has a flat piece in the center of the mouthpiece. The flat piece is wide and goes backwards in the mouth.

Uses: the purpose of this bit is to prevent a horse from getting his tongue over it. It can be useful in retraining, and for horses for whom this is a habit. This therefore gives the rider more control. Not permitted in dressage.

Mouthpiece thickness

A standard mouthpiece is 3/8 inch in diameter, measured one inch out from the bit rings (the area that usually come in contact with the bars). The common belief is that a thinner mouthpiece increases the severity of the bit, because it decreases the bearing surface and makes the bit "sharper." However, up to a point, some horses perform better with a thinner mouthpiece to a thicker one because there is less metal in their mouth and therefore more room for the tongue. This is mostly true if the rider has soft hands. Thinner mouthpieces are also preferable when using a double bridle, as the horse has even less room for its tongue with two bits in his mouth.

On the other hand, very thin bits (such as the twisted wire bits) have a marked severity over thicker bits. Some wire bits may come in a thickness as low as 1/16 inch, making them extremely severe to the point where it is easy for any rider to cut and ruin the horse's mouth, especially the lips. Many horsemen, even the most skilled riders, will not put such a harsh bit in their horse's mouths. Many equestrian organizations do not allow a bit to be 1/4 inch or thinner in diameter.

If the rider gives crude aids, it is generally best to pick a bit mouthpiece that is thicker. This may also be true with some horses with relatively thin bars.

Mouthpiece material

A sweet iron mouthpiece with copper inlay, designed to encourage salivation and a soft mouth SweetIronCurb.jpg
A sweet iron mouthpiece with copper inlay, designed to encourage salivation and a soft mouth
A copper mouthpiece. Coppermouthedbit.jpg
A copper mouthpiece.
A metal bit covered with a latex rubber material WesternSnaffle.jpg
A metal bit covered with a latex rubber material

See also

  1. US Patent Number 895 419 (J.S. Bristol, 1907)
  2. e.g. Vernon, H. The Allen Illustrated Guide to Bits and Bitting, J.A.Allen & Co Ltd (1 Oct. 1999); Tuke D. Bit by Bit a guide to Equine Bits, Sydney R. Smith (1980)
  3. Clayton HM A fluoroscopic study of the position and action of different bits in the horse's mouth, J. Equine. Vet. Sci. 5, 68–72, 75–77 (1985)
  4. Rule DR 121
  5. Example: Equine Canada Rules Section E Dressage Article 4.3
  6. 1 2 3 Hill, Cherry. "Sweet Iron Bits." 2006. Accessed 17 January 2010

Related Research Articles

Tack is equipment or accessories equipped on horses and other equines in the course of their use as domesticated animals. Saddles, stirrups, bridles, halters, reins, bits, harnesses, martingales, and breastplates are all forms of horse tack. Equipping a horse is often referred to as tacking up. A room to store such equipment, usually near or in a stable, is a tack room.

Bridle piece of equipment to direct a horse

A bridle is a piece of equipment used to direct a horse. As defined in the Oxford English Dictionary, the "bridle" includes both the headstall that holds a bit that goes in the mouth of a horse, and the reins that are attached to the bit.

Noseband A part of a horses bridle that encircles the nose and jaw of the horse.

A noseband is the part of a horse's bridle that encircles the nose and jaw of the horse. In English riding, where the noseband is separately attached to its own headstall or crownpiece, held independently of the bit, it is often called a cavesson or caveson noseband. In other styles of riding, a simple noseband is sometimes attached directly to the same headstall as the bit.

Pelham bit A type of bit which has elements of both a curb bit and a snaffle bit.

A pelham bit is a type of bit used when riding a horse. It has elements of both a curb bit and a snaffle bit. In this respect a pelham bit functions similar to a double bridle, and like a double bridle it normally has "double" reins: a set of curb reins and a set of snaffle reins. Because it has a bit shank and can exert curb-style pressure on the horse, it is considered a curb bit. Like all curb bits, a pelham bit has a mouthpiece, shanks with both purchase and lever arms, a ring for rein attachment at the bottom of the shank, and a curb chain. But like a snaffle bit, a pelham bit also has a bit ring on either side of the mouthpiece. Like some curb bits, a pelham bit usually has "loose" shanks - hinged at the mouthpiece in the same way that the rings of a snaffle bit are hinged. When two sets of reins are used, the snaffle rein generally is wider, to help distinguish it from the curb. A "cowboy pelham" is a western style of loose-jawed curb bit with additional rings at the mouthpiece allowing a second set of reins to be added.

Curb chain

A curb chain, or curb strap, is a piece of horse tack required for proper use on any type of curb bit. It is a flat linked chain or flat strap that runs under the chin groove of the horse, between the bit shank's purchase arms. It has a buckle or hook attachment and English designs have a "fly link" in the middle to hold a lip strap. On English bridles the horse is bridled with the curb chain undone on one side, then connected once on the horse. On western bridles, the curb chain is kept buckled to both sides of the bit.

Bit converter

A bit converter, also known as a pelham rounding, is used on pelham bits to change them from two-rein bits to one-rein bits. It is a leather strap that attaches from the snaffle ring to the curb ring, onto which the rein is then attached to the loop made between the two rings. A bit converter is very helpful when riding the cross-country phase of eventing, so that a rider using a pelham does not have to keep track of two reins— especially helpful when riding drop fences, which require the rider to slip the reins and then gather them back up on landing. It is also commonly used by children, who may have not yet become skilled enough to handle two reins with ease. However, the bit converter diminishes the rider's ability to apply the curb and snaffle functions of the pelham independently and discriminately, and thus is usually considered unsuitable for other types of riding; it is illegal in hunt seat equitation, for example.

Kimblewick bit

A Kimblewick, Kimberwicke or Kimberwick is a type of bit used on a horse, and named after the English town of Kimblewick where it was first made. The bit has bit shanks, D-shaped rings, and a curb chain. Due to its shanks, it is regarded as a type of curb bit. The curb action is minimal to mild, however, because the shanks have short purchase arms and no lever arms. Some variations increase the curb action. A Kimblewick is used with one set of reins.

Double bridle A bridle that has two bits and four reins

A double bridle, also called a full bridle or Weymouth bridle, is a bridle that has two bits and four reins. One bit is the bradoon, is a modified snaffle bit that is smaller in diameter and has smaller bit rings than a traditional snaffle, and it is adjusted so that it sits above and behind the other bit, a curb bit. Another term for this combination of curb and snaffle bit is a "bit and bradoon", where the word "bit" in this particular context refers to the curb.

Gag bit

The gag bit is a type of bit for a horse. Because the cheek piece and reins attach to different rings there is leverage action. Severity of leverage action depends on where the reins attach. For example, in a Dutch Gag, the further the rein attachment from the mouthpiece the greater the leverage. The gag bit is related to a Pelham bit and a double bridle but the gag bit has no curb strap.

Rein item of horse tack, used to direct a horse or other animal used for riding or driving

Reins are items of horse tack, used to direct a horse or other animal used for riding. They are long straps that can be made of leather, nylon, metal, or other materials, and attach to a bridle via either its bit or its noseband.

Bit guard

A bit guard is a specialty piece of horse tack: a washer, usually made of flexible rubber, that is sometimes used in pairs on a bit.

Bit shank

The bit shank is the side piece or cheekpiece of a curb bit, part of the bridle, used when riding on horses. The bit shank allows leverage to be added to the pressure of the rider's hands on the bit. Shanks are usually made of metal, may be straight or curved, and may be decorated in some disciplines. The headstall and curb chain or curb strap of the bridle is attached to the top of the shank, and the reins are attached at the bottom. Shanked curb bits are used in western riding for nearly all adult horses, and are seen in English riding disciplines primarily as part of the double bridle used by advanced dressage riders, and on the hybrid pelham bit that includes a ring for a second rein attached at the bit mouthpiece.

Mechanical hackamore Piece of horse equipment to direct the horse that fits on the horses head but has no parts in the horses mouth

A mechanical hackamore is a piece of horse tack that is a type of bitless headgear for horses where the reins connect to shanks placed between a noseband and a curb chain. Other names include "hackamore bit", "brockamore", "English hackamore", "nose bridle" and "German hackamore". Certain designs have been called "Blair's Pattern" and the "W. S. Bitless Pelham".

Draw reins and running reins

Draw reins and running reins are pieces of riding equipment used for training that use the mechanical advantage of a 'single movable pulley' to cause the horse to bring its head down and inward. While a regular rein is the strap that attaches to the bit and is held by the rider, these types of reins slide through the bit ring, adding leverage to the rider's hands and arms, allowing the rider to force the horse's head into a desired position.

Spade bit (horse)

The spade bit is a historic vaquero design for a type of curb bit with straight, highly decorated shanks and a mouthpiece that includes a straight bar, a narrow port with a cricket, and a "spoon," a flat, partly rounded plate affixed above the port, supported by braces on either side. Considered a highly technical piece of equipment to be used only on a finished horse, the spade bit is a refined tool that experts compare to driving a sports car in its ability to convey precise commands to the horse. Not all horses have the conformation or temperament to become a finished spade bit horse, a process that takes a number of years and is seldom complete until a horse has at least five years of training under saddle.