Horse Bits, Types and How They Are Used
Bits are a device used to guide and control a horse. Most bits today are made of stainless steel but are also made of plastic compounds or mixtures of different metals.The mouth piece may be of a different metal than the shank or rings. This could be copper, plastic or mixtures of different metals. This is done to soften the horses mouth by producing saliva thus keeping the mouth moist.
Bits fall into several categories.
The most common is the snaffle bit which works on the tongue, lips and bars.
Examples are the dee ring ring snaffle and eggbutt snaffle. These bits can have many different mouth pieces. The rings may also range in size. Larger rings are used on the hunt field. Smaller rings are usually called bradoons.
The curb bit which has a shank that acts as a lever and will put pressure on the tongue, bars, poll, and under the chin. Shanks can be as short as two inched or as long as eight inches. The longer the more leverage. Straight shanks will produce a quick response. Shanks that curve to the back produce a slower response.
The Pelham Bit which can act as both snaffle and a curb bit. The Pelham bit features a shank with two rings on each shank to which two reins are attached. One is the snaffle rein and the other is attached to the ring at the end of the shank and produces the curb action. This bit should only be used by more experienced riders.
Gag Bits which can be of various designs but mostly used on snaffle type bits. This bit encompasses a leather or rope strap that is placed over the poll and runs down the cheek through the rings or shank of the bit. This bit caused the horse to elevate the head and is more severe than an ordinary snaffle. You will see them used in the Polo and hunter arena’s.
The Hackamore has no mouth piece. It puts pressure on the nose, jaw and in some cases the poll. Long shank hackamore’s can produce a lot of pressure on the nose and jaw. Just because there is no mouth piece, do not consider this a mild way of controlling your horse. Some hackamore bits incorporate a mouth piece these are called combination hackamore bits.
There are many styles of bits but all fall into one of the above types. They can range from mild to severe but keep in mind that any bit used incorrectly can be severe.