How Does A Horse Bit Work? (Question)

Bits function by placing pressure on and around a horse’s mouth. That pressure can be on the bridge of the nose, under the chin, corners of the mouth, tongue, bars, palate, or poll.

What are the types of bits for horses?

  • Snaffle bits. A snaffle bit is probably the most popular bit in the world,regardless of discipline.
  • Curb bits. Also known as a leverage bit because the arms (or shanks) pull against the curb chain (or strap) and bridle to not only apply pressure to the horse’s
  • Combination bits.
  • In-hand bits.

Does the bit hurt the horse?

Most riders agree that bits can cause pain to horses. A too-severe bit in the wrong hands, or even a soft one in rough or inexperienced hands, is a well-known cause of rubs, cuts and soreness in a horse’s mouth. Dr. Cook’s research suggests the damage may go even deeper — to the bone and beyond.

Does a horse bit Go over the tongue?

The bit goes over the horse’s tongue, not under it. There should be about 2-3 wrinkles at the corners of the horse’s mouth when the bit is sitting properly. If the horse looks like it’s smiling, the bit is too high. Don’t let the bit hang too low either.

What do different bits do for horses?

Harsh Horse Bits They all deliver greater pressure to the horse’s mouth and give the rider more leverage in the reins. Twisted bits tend to put more pressure on the tongue and sides of the horse’s mouth, while Port bits, especially ones with tall, narrow ports, place pressure on the horse’s palate.

Can you ride a horse without a bit?

Yes, it is entirely possible to train a horse to be ridden without a bit right from the early days of its training. If you ride your horse at home, out on the trail, or at very small shows where there are no rules regarding bits, and you feel safe with your horse in a bitless bridle, you don’t need a bit.

Can a horse eat with a bit in?

Super Moderator. they can eat w/ a bit in their mouths but if you let them graze they get to where they try to yank the reigns out of your hands to graze whenever grass is near and they also get green slimy mouths and make for a dirty bit.

Are snaffle bits cruel?

Therefore, even if the rider is extremely gentle, these bits cause a lot of pain. Moreover, the design of these bits is very uncomfortable for the horse. Even the slightest carelessness from the rider can cause severe pain for the horse. It is an extremely cruel tool if it comes into the hands of an unskilled user.

How should a bit sit in a horse’s mouth?

When attached to an appropriately adjusted bridle, the bit should rest comfortably at the corners of your horse’s mouth. In general, the bit rings should not press very hard against the horse’s face, indicating that the length is too short. A bit that is too short may pinch the sensitive corners of the horse’s mouth.

How do you stop a horse putting his tongue over the bit?

The traditional approach to dealing with horses who get their tongue over the bit has been to prevent them from opening their mouths using a tight noseband, fitting a specialised correction bit designed with an extended plate that prevents the tongue from coming over the mouthpiece and, in the disciplines where it is

Why do horses stick their tongue out?

Some horses hang their tongues out because their riders are, without realizing it, putting more pressure on one side of the bit than the other. Generally horses stick their tongues out on the left side because riders are often stronger and more active with their right hands.

What bit to use when pulling a horse?

The peewee is a very useful bit for horses that are not overly strong, but yank in a snaffle. Traditionally Waterford bits have been used to help prevent leaning and pulling but do need to be used with sympathetic hands.

What is the gentlest horse bit?

The gentlest type of snaffle bit is the Eggbutt snaffle. The name comes from the somewhat egg-shaped connection between the mouthpiece and the bit-ring. The mouthpiece of an eggbutt can be made of a variety of materials (as can any bit), including copper and synthetic (either solid or covered).

What is the harshest horse bit?

The harshest bit is the one which is in the heavy hands of an unskilled horseman. Any bit can be harsh in the wrong hands. The majority of bits are perfectly fine in the hands of a skilled, light-handed rider. To say one type of bit is inherently the “harshest” is too broad of a brushstroke.

Can a beginner ride bitless?

A basic rope halter serves as a good means to start introducing bitless riding without putting out much money–or any if you already own one. Rope halters allow for more refined cues as far as halters go, due to the placement of the knots.

Are bits abusive?

But used correctly, it’s absolutely fine. Same with bits. They’re used as a means of communication. Some people say they’re abusive because they’re in the sensitive part of the mouth, but that can be an advantage when the rider wants to communicate with the horse.

How do you know if your horse doesn’t like a bit?

Your horse throws his head up and down or from side to side at a standstill or when you cue him to move forward, backward, or turn. Possible bit problem: The bit could be causing pain or irritation on the bars (the gum or inter-dental area between the front teeth and the molars) or on the corners of your horse’s mouth.

Bit (horse) – Wikipedia

This is a horse wearing an English bridle with a snaffle bit, the end of which can be seen poking out of the horse’s mouth just enough to be seen. It is not the metal ring that is the problem. The huge gap between the front teeth and the back teeth of a horse’s cranium may be seen here. The bit is positioned in this gap and extends beyond it on both sides of the gap. Thebitis an extremely vital piece of a horse’s equipment. It usually refers to the assembly of components that comes into contact with and controls the horse’s mouth, which includes the shanks, rings, cheekpads, and mullen, all of which are described in greater detail below, but it can also refer to the piece that fits inside the horse’s mouth if that is all that is needed.

In addition to being situated on the horse’s head by the headstall, the bit is made up of numerous components that enable for the most comfortable modification of bit placement and control for the horse.

The bit exerts pressure to the horse’s mouth and works in conjunction with the other control signals provided by the rider’s legs and weight distribution to manage the horse.

The horse appears to be less stressed when the rider utilizes a gentle, constant bit contact than of intermittent or erratic touch, according to research.

Basic types

Despite the fact that there are hundreds of design variants, the fundamental families of bits are determined by the manner in which they employ or do not use leverage. They are as follows:

  • In order to provide direct pressure on the bars, tongue, and corners of the mouth, a snaffle bit makes use of a bit ring located at the bit mouthpiece.
  • An ashank-style curb bit applies pressure not only to the mouth, but also to the poll and chin grooves, thanks to the employment of a type of lever called an ashank. Pelham’s tidbit: Two sets of reins are linked to rings at the mouthpiece and end of shank of a single curb bit with two sets of reins. Snaffle and curb pressure are used in combination to some extent. In this hybrid design, a little amount of mild curb leverage is applied to the bit ring by the use of fixed rein placement on the bit ring. Kimblewickor Kimberwicke: A hybrid design that employs a small amount of mild curb leverage on the bit ring.
  • A Weymouth or double bridle is a type of bridle that holds two bits, an abradoon and a curb, and is worn with two sets of reins. The name comes from the typical usage of the Weymouth-style curb bit in a double bridle.
  • A gag bit is a bit that, depending on the design, may seem similar to a snaffle or a curb on the outside, but has additional slots or rings that generate leverage by sliding the bit up in the horse’s mouth, making it a fairly harsh design.
  • It is a highly harsh design that may seem like a snaffle or curb on the outside, but has additional slots or rings that generate leverage by sliding the bit up in the horse’s mouth
  • It is also known as a gag bit or a curb bit.
  • The Chifney anti-rearing bit is a semicircular-shaped bit with three rings and a port or straight mouth piece that is used when guiding horses in a straight line. The port, which is the straight piece, is placed within the mouth, and the round piece is placed beneath the lower jaw. a separate head piece or head collar is used in conjunction with the bit in order to reduce severity
  • A lead is clipped onto both bit and headcollar in order to restrict the severity
  • Tattersallring bit
  • Tattersallring bit Bit made of horseshoes for a stallion

Bits are further classified according to the kind of mouthpiece that is placed within the horse’s mouth as well as the type of bit ring or bit shank that is placed outside the mouth and to which the reins are linked. Hackamores are a type of horse headgear that uses a noseband to exert control over the horse rather than a bit. However, the phrase “bitless bridle” has become a widespread colloquialism in recent years due to the popularity of bitless bridles.


The riders of early domesticated horses were likely to have worn some form of bitless headgear fashioned of sinew, leather, or rope to protect their heads. It may be difficult to identify the components of the first headgear since the materials used would not have lasted for a long period of time. It is for this reason that no one can claim with sure which bridle was invented first, the bitted or the bitless one. Evidence of the usage of bits has been discovered in two sites of the Botai culture in ancient Kazakhstan that date back to around 3500–3000 BC.

It has been shown that images of Synian horsemen, from roughly 1400 BC, have some type of bitless bridle, which is the oldest known artistic evidence of its use.

Metal bits, initially composed of bronze, began to be used between 1300 and 1200 BC and are still in use today.

Various metals such as copper, aurigan, and sweet iron (cold rolled steel) are incorporated into some bits to encourage salivation in the mouth of the horse, which results in a softer mouth and more relaxed jaw in the horse.

Throughout history, the requirement to maintain control of horses in conflict has spurred substantial innovation in bit design, resulting in a diverse range of prototypes and designs that have been used from Ancient Greece to the present day, among other things.

Design and terminology

A bit is made up of two fundamental components: thebit mouthpiece, which is placed within the horse’s mouth, and thebit rings of anaffle bit or the bit shanks of a curb bit, which are attached to the bridle and reins. A mixture of pressure and leverage is used by all bits; this is typically in conjunction with other elements of the bridle, such as the curb chain on the chin, the noseband on the jaw and face, or pressure on the poll from the headstall, among other things. Particular mouthpieces do not specify the type of bit.

  1. The severity of the mouthpiece also plays a role in determining which family the bit belongs to.
  2. Therefore, it is carefully examined while choosing a bit for a horse.
  3. Bit mouthpieces can be single-jointed, double-jointed, “mullen” (a straight bar), or feature an arched port in the middle of the mouthpiece that can be of different height and with or without joints.
  4. Mouthpieces may be smooth, wire-wrapped or otherwise roughened, or of twisted wire or metal.
  5. Steel and nickel alloys, which do not rust and have a neutral impact on salivation, are among the most often used metals.
  6. It is possible to manufacture synthetic mouthpieces with or without the use of internal metal cable or bar reinforcement.
  7. Often the same size as metal bits, plastic-coated bits are available in many flavors as well.
  8. Because of the existence of a shank, they are truly in the curb bit family.


The incorrect use of a bit can give a horse a great deal of discomfort. However, rather than resting on the horse’s teeth, the mouthpiece of the bit is designed to rest on the gums, also known as the “bars,” of the horse’s mouth, which is located behind the front incisors and in front of the back molars. In reality, when someone says that a horse “grabs the bit in its teeth,” they are referring to the horse tensing its lips and mouth against the bit in order to evade the rider’s demands (although some horses may actually learn to get the bit between their molars).

Bits provide varied degrees of control and communication between the rider and the horse, depending on the design of the bit and the competence of the rider using it.

It is critical that the kind of bit used is suited for the horse’s requirements and that it is correctly fitted in order for it to work well and to be as pleasant as possible for the horse.

Snaffle or direct pressure bits

All bits operate on the principle of direct pressure or leverage. Snafflebits are bits that apply direct pressure to the tongue and lips, and they are classified as such in the general category of bites. Snaffle bits are most usually seen with a single jointed mouthpiece and work by creating a nutcracker effect on the bars, tongue, and, on occasion, the roof of the mouth in horses. However, regardless of the mouthpiece used, any bit that acts only on direct pressure is referred to as a “snaffle.”

Curb or leverage bits

Curb bits are bits that feature shanks that come off the bit mouthpiece to produce leverage that exerts pressure on the horse’s poll, chin groove, and mouth while the bit is worn. A typical curb bit mouthpiece is made of a solid bar with a slight arch, known as a “mullen” mouthpiece; a “ported” bit, which is slightly arched in the middle to provide tongue relief; and the fullspade bit, which is used in the Vaquero style of western riding and combines a straight bar with an extremely high “spoon” or “spade” extension that contacts the roof of the mouth.

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Again, a bit with shanks and leverage is usually referred to as a “curb” type bit, even if it has a jointed mouthpiece that is more generally associated with a snaffle (such bits are occasionally referred to as “cowboy snaffles,” which is inaccurate).

Combination designs

Leading horses with a Chifney anti-rearing bit is a popular choice. There are several types of bits that combine direct and leverage pressure, the most common of which are thePelham bit, which has shanks and rings that allow both direct and leverage pressure on a single bit and is ridden with four reins; theKimblewick or Kimberwicke, which is a hybrid bit that uses minimal leverage on a modified curb-type ring combined with a mouthpiece that is typically seen on curb bits and is ridden with two reins; and thedouble bridle When applied, the gag bit is a bit that combines direct pressure and leverage in a novel way.

It is derived from the snaffle and, instead of having a rein attached to the mouthpiece, runs the rein through a set of rings that attach directly to the headstall, applying additional pressure to the lips and poll when applied.

Idiomatic usage

It is not just horses that are wearing bits, but also people who are not involved in the horse industry, who are interested in their conduct.

  • It is now commonplace to use the phrase to describe a horse that sets its jaw against the bit and cannot be controlled (although the horse rarely does so with its molars), but it is also used to describe someone who is either taking control of a situation or who is uncontrollable and refuses to be restrained. Champing at the bit, also known as chafing at the bit, refers to a tendency of certain horses to chew on their bit when they are agitated or apprehensive, and especially when they are being held back by their riders. Chafing at the bit is to express impatience or explode with activity. Occasionally, head-tossing and ground pawing are observed in conjunction with this activity. This behavior was most frequently observed by the general public in horses who were anxious to begin a horse race in the days before the invention of the starting gate, and as a result, the term has become popular in everyday speech to refer to a person who is impatient to begin or to complete something. The word “raring to go” is derived from observations of equestrian behavior because certain restless horses, when held back, will occasionally rear as well.

See also

  • The phrase “took the bit in his teeth,” which originally described a horse that set its jaw against the bit and could not be controlled (although the horse rarely actually grabbed the bit with its molars), is now used to describe a person who is either taking control of a situation or who is uncontrollable and throws off restraint. A horse’s inclination to chew on the bit, also known as chafing at the bit, when agitated or apprehensive, and especially while being held back by their riders, is referred to as champing at the bit. Chafing at the bit is a verb that means to express impatience or explode with activity. Head-tossing and pawing at the ground are occasionally associated with this activity. Given that this tendency was most frequently observed by the general public in horses that were excited to begin ahorse race in days before the creation of the starting gate, the phrase has become widespread in daily English to denote to someone who is impatient to begin something or complete a task. The expression “raring to go” is derived from studies of equestrian behavior because certain eager horses, when held back, will periodically rear.


  1. “Archived copy,” according to Thoroughbred Racing SA. The original version of this article was published on April 6, 2008. CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)Definition
  2. AbEdwards, E. Hartley,Saddlery, Country Life Limited, England, 1966
  3. AbPrice, Steven D. (ed.)The Whole Horse Catalog: Revised and Updated, The Whole Horse Catalog, Revised and Updated, The Whole Horse Catalog, Revised and Updated, The Whole Horse Catalog, Revised and Updated, The Whole Horse Catalog, Revised and Updated, 153
  4. AbHowling, Kelly. ” Bitless Reveolution “. New York: Fireside 1998ISBN0-684-83995-4p. 153
  5. AbHowling, Kelly. Equine Wellness was published in 2007. On April 11, 2008, the original version of this article was archived. As cited in Anthony, David W. and Dorcas Brown, 2000, “Eneolithic horse exploitation on the Eurasian steppes: food, ritual, and riding,” Antiquity74: 75-86
  6. Miller, Robert M. and Rick Lamb. (2005)Revolution in Horsemanship. New York: Routledge. The Francis C. Shirbroun Bridle Bit Museum
  7. AbcPrice, Steven D. (ed.)The Whole Horse Catalog: Revised and Updated
  8. AbcEdwards, p. 17
  9. AbcHenderson, p. 117
  10. AbcPrice, Steven D. (ed.)The Whole Horse Catalog Fireside 1998ISBN0-684-83995-4p. 149
  11. Edwards, pp. 52-58
  12. Edwards, pages 91-93
  13. And Price, Steven D. (editor)The Whole Horse Catalog: Revised and Updated (New York: Fireside 1998ISBN0-684-83995-4p. 149. New York: Fireside Press, 1998, ISBN 0-684-83995-4, p. 151
  14. has a definition for take the bit between your teeth
  15. AbChamping at a bit, chomping at the bit – Grammarist
  16. AbChamping at the bit Synonyms, Champing at the bit Antonyms |
  17. AbChamping at the bit, chomping at the bit by
  18. AbChamping at the bit by has a definition for champ


  • “Archived copy,” says Thoroughbred Racing SA. On April 6, 2008, a copy of this article was archived. “Saddlery,” by E. Hartley Edwards, published by Country Life Limited in England in 1966
  • “The Whole Horse Catalog,” by Steven D. Price (ed. ), published by the American Saddlery Association in 2000
  • “Saddlery,” by E. Hartley Edwards, published by Country Life Limited in England in 1966
  • “Saddlery,” by Steven D. Price (e Howling, Kelly, ” Bitless Reveolution “, New York: Fireside 1998, ISBN 0-684-83995-4, p. 153 The Equine Wellness Institute published a report in 2007 titled Equine Wellness Institute. On April 11, 2008, an archived version of this article appeared. As cited in Anthony, David W. and Dorcas Brown, 2000, “Eneolithic horse exploitation on the Eurasian steppes: food, ritual, and riding,” Antiquity74: 75-86
  • Miller, Robert M. and Rick Lamb. (2005)Revolution in Horsemanship. New York, NY: Springer Publishing Company. The Francis C. Shirbroun Bridle Bit Museum
  • AbcPrice, Steven D. (ed.)The Whole Horse Catalog: Revised and Updated
  • AbcEdwards, p. 17
  • AbcHenderson, p. 117
  • AbcPrice, Steven D. (ed.)The Francis C. P. 149
  • Edwards, pages. 52-58
  • Edwards, pp. 91-93
  • Price, Steven D. (ed.) The Whole Horse Catalog: Revised and Updated, New York: Fireside 1998ISBN0-684-83995-4p. Publisher: Fireside 1998ISBN0-684-83995-4page 151 has a definition for take the bit between your teeth
  • AbChamping at a bit, chomping at the bit – Grammarist
  • AbChamping at the bit Synonyms, Champing at the bit Antonyms |
  • AbChamping at the bit, chomping at the bit by
  • AbChamping at the bit by
  • AbChamp

External links

  • A bit article from Equestrian magazine
  • A fluoroscopic study of oral behavior in reaction to the presence of a bit and the effects of rein tension
  • And a fluoroscopic study of oral behavior in response to the presence of a bit and the effects of rein tension.

Learn How Your Horse’s Snaffle Bit Works

Whether you ride English or Western, it’s probable that you began by riding your own horse or by being mounted on a schoolmaster horse and using a snaffle bit as your first horse.

These bits are designed to fit comfortably in the horse’s mouth in the rear opening between its top and bottom teeth, and they can be used in conjunction with rubber lip protectors to prevent the horse’s lips from being pinched.

What Is a Snaffle Bit?

A snaffle bit is a type of horse bit that is commonly used because it is soft on the horse’s mouth. Snaffle bits, which are made out of a single bar or two to three jointed pieces between huge rings on either side, make it simple for riders to communicate with their horses and are widely used to train young horses and inexperienced riders. The chances are excellent that you will use one at some point throughout your riding instruction, even if you don’t start off with a snaffle bit. Knowing how the snaffle bit works will assist you in generating effective rein aids and avoiding being either ineffective or overly forceful on your horse’s mouth when using it.

Even if you are selecting from a large number of snaffles, selecting the appropriate bit might take some time.

Horse Bits

As defined by the Equine Veterinary Association, a bit is a piece of metal or synthetic material that fits in the horse’s mouth and assists in communication between horse and rider. A portion of the bridle, it lets the rider to maintain contact with the horse through the use of the reins. Unless there are dental disorders that require attention, most people’s teeth rest securely in the interdental space between their incisors and premolars, which is frequently referred to as the “bars” of the mouth.

While most horses are handled in a bridle with a bit, horse owners who dislike bits will use a hackamore, or “bitless” bridle, which is similar to the term “bitless.”

Snaffle vs. Curb – What’s the Difference?

Bits are available in a wide range of sizes, shapes, and materials. The majority of the pieces are composed of metal. Stainless steel is common; however, some pieces integrate copper, or may even have a rubber or plastic covering.

Snaffle Bits

The most common type of bit is the snaffle, which is distinguished by the presence of rings on either end of the mouthpiece rather than shanks. It may or may not be jointed in the middle, although most snaffles are.A snaffle bit acts on the horse’s bars (the area of gum between the front and back teeth), where it sits; the corners of his mouth; and the corners of his tongue.Snaffles are non-leverage bits

Curb Bits

Unlike other types of bits, curb bits feature an extra-long shank (a portion that extends down from either end of the main body of the bit) on either side that attaches to the horse’s cheek piece and reins. An additional feature of a curb bit is the presence of a chain or curb strap that fits under the horse’s chin. The shanks provide additional leverage on the mouthpiece, and pressure can be applied to the poll and chin, resulting in the bit being referred to as a “stronger” version. It is possible to increase the severity of the bit by lengthening the shank; however, it is also possible to decrease its severity by relaxing the curb strap.

Western riding requires only one pair of reins, which are attached to the shank at the bottom of the horse’s leg.

Bit Fit

Bits are available in a variety of sizes and with a variety of mouthpieces, each of which is designed to perform a specific action on the horse’s mouth and muzzle. In addition to being jointed in the center, snaffles can also be made of straight or curved bars, or even include copper rollers in the middle, as previously indicated. Curb bits are available in either a single piece or a jointed design. There is usually a “port” or elevated area in the center, and little “keys” or rollers can be added for horses that prefer to wiggle their tongue or roll around on the ground.

Whatever mouthpiece you pick, be certain that it is correctly fitted for both safety and comfort before using it.

Using a “Light Hand”

When using a bit, it’s crucial to remember that the objective is to assist the rider in talking with his or her horse. The bit has the ability to direct the horse to turn, change gaits, move sideways, or come to a complete stop. Not to punish the horse, but rather to aid in his control, is the purpose of this device. A competent rider will communicate with her horse by using her hands (through the bit), legs, body (by weight shifting), and voice, among other means. Riders that use their hands to interact with their horses in a gentle and easy manner are referred to as having “light hands,” which is a compliment.

Others choose the simplest and softest of all the bits available to them.

As a horse grows into more demanding and precise tasks, such as the upper-level dressage horse, stronger, more sophisticated bits may be beneficial.

A “Bit” of Concern

In the event that a horse objects to his bridle being applied, you must determine the reason for this opposition. Possibly a dental issue such as a broken tooth or sharp points on the teeth that are being pushed into sensitive cheek tissue by the bit. It is possible that the bit is not correctly fitting – either too tight and pressing up on the corners of his mouth, or too loose and hanging down and banging on his teeth. It’s possible that the bit itself is too tiny, squeezing his lips. Perhaps the bit is a little too powerful for him.

Throughout his career, your horse may go through a number of different bit configurations.

Check your horse’s bit on a regular basis to ensure that you are using the proper type and size bit for him.

Horse Bit and Mouth Anatomy

When it comes to understanding bit action, understanding the anatomy of bits and where they exert their pressure in the horse’s mouth is critical. Despite the fact that many bits appear to be different, they are really composed of the same components. For example, a snaffle and a curb bit both have bars and cheekpieces, but the curb bit also has a purchase and a shank, which gives it a distinct motion than the snaffle and the curb bit. Throughout this article, we’ll go over the most common bit parts and describe how they interact with the anatomy of the horse’s mouth.

  • Cheekpiece: When the bit is in the horse’s mouth, the cheekpiece is the part of the bit that is visible to the rider.
  • To learn more about cheekpieces, please see our guide to wearing cheekpieces.
  • They have the ability to apply pressure on the tongue, bars, lips, or palate.
  • More information can be found in our mouthpiece buying guide.
  • The bars of a jointed mouthpiece are located on either side of the joint, whereas the bar of a non-jointed mouthpiece is located across the entire mouthpiece.
  • D.
  • Individually joined parts have their “joint” in the centre, which collapses and produces a nutcracker effect on the tongue, bar, and lips when they are squeezed together.

Bits with a bushing, also known as a barrel or roller, allow for independent side movement, which is beneficial for lateral and vertical flexion in a variety of applications.


The duration of the purchase has an impact on the motion in the mouth.

On curb and shank bits, the shank is placed below the mouthpiece and is referred to as the shank.

Generally speaking, the longer the shank, the greater the amount of pressure that will be felt in the mouth.

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Curb Strap/Chain: A curb strap or chain can be attached to various pieces, such as shanks, curbs, pelhams, and kimberwicks, to give them a more finished appearance.

They are attached to the bit’s purchase and are designed to fit into the horse’s chin groove. In addition, when the reins are engaged, the shank or cheekpiece tightens the curb strap/chain into the chin groove, causing the horse to become light and supple.


Each of the twelve extremely sensitive muscles of the tongue reacts differently to different stimuli such as pressure, pain, taste, and heat. Its primary role is to assist the horse in eating and swallowing his meal. Besides connecting the rear of the tongue and the jaw, the hyoid bones also serve as a connection to a set of muscles that extends from the sternum to the shoulder and forelegs. Moreover, these muscles expand farther into the breast, pectoral, and abdominal muscles, as well as into the pelvic region.


The horse’s bars are a portion of the interdental space, which is a section of the horse’s mouth where there are no teeth. The gap between a horse’s incisors and premolars is what allows him to retain a bit in his mouth while standing still. The bars are located in the lower, or mandibular, portion of the interdental region and are particularly sensitive due to the large number of nerve endings they contain. Some bits, such as single-jointed snaffles, rely on bar pressure to function properly.


In the horse’s mouth, the lips are a prehensile body part that assists the animal in pulling food into their mouth. When horse bits are engaged, they sit in the corner of the mouth and apply pressure to the sensitive tissue along the lips’ edges. Consider the fact that lips can move when using a bit with lip pressure. Because of their sensitivity, they can be easily hurt when using a bit with lip pressure.


The palate is the term used to describe the roof of the horse’s mouth. Bits that make use of palate pressure work by exerting pressure on the hard palate, which separates the mouth from the nasal cavity and is responsible for assisting in the mastication of the food being consumed. When a bit with palate pressure is engaged, it spins off the tongue and into the hard palate. Bits with large ports, correction bits, and spade bits are all examples of bits that operate under palate pressure.

Chin Groove

The chin groove is a sensitive region between the soft lower lip and the firm upper jaw. This natural groove is where a curb strap or chain sits to work in partnership with the horse’s bit. When the cheekpieces are engaged, they tighten the curb strap or chain along the chin groove, which encourages the horse to yield to the pressure applied by the piece.


Poll muscles, or the rectus capitis muscle group, are found on either side of the horse’s neck below the ear. These muscles are attached to three of the cervical vertebrae and extend eight inches down the length of the neck. They embed themselves into the base of the skull, allowing the head to be bent vertically and laterally in both directions. In most cases, when the shank is engaged and the mouthpiece and purchase are moved forward, poll pressure will be produced by the leverage bit. Pressure is applied via the cheekpieces and over the top of the headstall or bridle as a result of this rotation, which then delivers pressure on the poll of the horse.

We hope this information has answered any questions you may have about the anatomy of the horse bit and mouth! Visit our other guides on bit materials, bit size, and show-legal bits for additional information on bits. Cheekpieces and mouthpieces are also covered in detail.

Understanding Bits

Authored by Stan Walchuk Jr. Walking into a tack store and staring at a wall filled with bits might send a beginner bit buyer into a cold sweat. It is awkward to inform the sales guy, who frequently appears as if he just won the national reining finals, that all you know about bits is that they are intended to turn the horse left and right, and make him whoa. It isn’t as bad as you might think if you take a second look. Snaffle bits and curb bits are two kinds of bits that may be used to categorize different sorts of bits.

  1. There are instead round rings, “D” shaped rings, and various basic rings on the ring strand.
  2. A single-jointed snaffle with an eggbutt design is shown.
  3. When it comes to curb bits, it doesn’t matter whether the mouthpiece is solid or jointed; they’re all considered to be curb bits.
  4. Snaffles are designed to function by applying direct pressure to the sides of the mouth (directly pulling the head around).
  5. If you pull on the reins, the levers will swing back and provide pressure on the tongue and bars of the mouth.
  6. The greater the length of the shanks, the greater the amount of pressure applied.
  7. This is true for shanks of middling length.

A full cheek snaffle bit with a French link or “dog bone” mouthpiece is shown in this photo.

The amount of curve in the shanks also has an effect: the straighter the shanks are, the more pressure is applied to the shins.

The mouthpiece is three-eighths of an inch thick, which is the industry standard.

However, while we have certain training bits that are thicker than three-eighths of an inch in thickness, I believe that on a well-trained horse, extra thickness is not essential and actually takes up more space in the horse’s mouth, which reduces comfort.

Trail riders may opt to ride only with a snaffle bit for the rest of their lives, but many choose a medium shanked, medium port curb bit like this one because it provides more control and safety in challenging situations.

This means that the horse is calm and responds softly to cued stops, lateral flexion, riding straight between the reins, and backing up.

Direct pressure given to a curb bit will cause the bit to twist in the horse’s mouth, increasing the horse’s bewilderment and discomfort.

Before using any bit, it is critical that the horse’s frame of mind is soft and accepting.

Trail riders often question, “Why can’t I just use a snaffle on my horse all of the time?” You certainly can, and many riders do so.

Aluminum or plated bits will not survive as long as copper, iron, or “sweet iron” mouthpieces, which taste nicer to horses than stainless steel and will last considerably longer than stainless steel.

Is it correct to say that you should use a longer shank and a mouthpiece with a high port, such as a spade bit, to get more control over a tough horse in order to gain more control?

On the path, events might arise that need the use of one’s judgment in tough and hot conditions.

In no way, shape, or form.

Your trail horse is defying you because it is dealing with other issues such as a lack of respect or an overly demanding personality.

Instead of using a more extreme bit or a mechanical hackamore on unruly and stiff horses, you should return to the basics of training.

The right bit should be chosen, but it is equally important to receive proper training and to use the bit correctly.

Bits are available in a variety of materials and levels of quality.

The use of iron or copper, or a mixture of the two, is regarded the most desired metal.

Using bumps or pulses to cue their horses is extremely important from the beginning of their training because it allows the rider to communicate with and correct the horse with firm bumps, then lighten up with soft pulses as the horse understands and provides the desired response.

Riders who do not communicate using body language like leg pressures, and use just bit pressures to cue horses, should take riding lessons to learn to communicate effectively with their horses.

Either is very good.

Stainless steel is a common material used in mouthpieces as it is very durable and long lasting.

Bits with extremely thin mouthpieces, such as this twisted wire curb bit, are extremely harsh on a horse’s mouth and can cause significant damage.

Because of the large number of horses we employ, I have settled on an iron or copper mouthpiece and have not given much thought to the “sweet” element of it.

We are mindful of the width of the bit so that it is not narrow and pinching the mouth, and not wide and sloppy.

When not in use, the chin strap is adjusted such that you may slip the width of two fingers between the jaw and the strap when not wearing it.

A chin strap on a snaffle bit provides no practical use other than to keep the horse’s head from falling off on the way.

It is not the purpose of rollers to increase or decrease the severity of the bit, but rather to entertain or calm a horse.

They vary in construction and quality, and need to be adjusted and used properly as they can encourage horses to become stiff if not used correctly.

In my earlier years, I used a short-shanked curb bit with a jointed mouthpiece, which is known as a Tom Thumb in the horse world.

A double jointed mouthpiece, with a ball or a link in the centre, is kinder.

Rollers are frequently found in the mouthpieces of bits.

The Tom Thumb bit, despite the fact that it has a single-jointed mouthpiece (which is often associated with the mild snaffle bit), is actually quite harsh due to the fact that its shanks are extremely straight and the mouthpiece has a nutcracker effect on the horse’s mouth.

If I happen to have one, I’ll use it, but I don’t see any real benefit in doing so, and a horse who constantly fusses with one can be a bit of an annoyance in some situations.

Unfortunately, trail riders are not without their flaws, and trail conditions might be less than ideal at times.

When a horse bolts, reversing the reins is critical in order to prevent a runaway; when the trail becomes eroded and drops off; or when the trail suddenly becomes dangerous and you are forced to stop even when others do not; when the trail suddenly becomes dangerous and you are forced to reef on your bit as a matter of survival Suddenly the calmness, disposition, and training of your trusty trail companion shines through, or perhaps it lets you down harshly.

Even though I’ve ridden hundreds of miles with nothing but a string for reins and an old rope headstall for a headstall at times when I didn’t expect it, the thought of doing so with a high strung horse makes me shudder in my gumboots.

Happy trails!

With a little knowledge, however, choosing the right bit can be much easier. The bit you use for trail riding may not be as crucial as how you use it, and your horse’s training and personality. It first published in the August 2010 issue of PacificPrairie Horse Journal, and has been updated.

Types of Bits: The Essential Buying Guide for Western Horse Bits

If you have ever wondered, “What type of bit should I use on my horse?” we can assist you in determining the answer. Knowing all the types of bits on the market is a time-consuming project, especially if you’re new to horse ownership. Understanding all the types of horse bits and their uses, however, is essential knowledge for any equestrian or cowboy. Of course, your time is limited, and it should be spent on the more important things of life, namely your horse. NRS has a team of experts on hand to assist you.

Western Horse Bits 101: What They AreWhy They Matter

For those of you who have ever witnessed someone riding a horse, it should be fairly obvious what the bit’s function is. The bit enables a rider to control the horse. For individuals who are inexperienced with horses and horse equipment, the mechanism by which a bit offers this control may be unclear.

Horse Bits Explained in Detail

For the most part, bits are made up of the following components: the mouthpiece, the cheeks, the purchase, the shank, and the rings.

  • The Mouthpiece – This is a piece of equipment that fits inside the horse’s mouth between the front and back teeth. There are many different types of mouthpieces, each with its own design and material (which is typically metal, rubber, or plastic). The Cheeks – These are the sides of the bit that rest outside of the horse’s mouth. The purchase and the shank are both considered to be elements of the cheeks. The Purchase refers to the area of the cheeks above the mouthpiece where the mouthpiece is located. As soon as the brakes are applied, shorter purchases allow for quicker reflexes, but longer purchases result in slower reactions. The Shank – This is the section of the cheeks underneath the mouthpiece. The shank provides leverage on the mouthpiece. This results in less leverage being delivered by a shorter shank and more leverage being delivered by a longer shank. In the mouth, higher leverage corresponds to a more strong sensation while less leverage corresponds to a more mild sensation. Strong bits with long shanks may be disastrous in the wrong hands, so start small and seek assistance from a trainer before progressing to parts with longer shanks. The Rings – These exist to attach the reins to the bit. Rings are available in a variety of designs, each of which has a distinct impact on the function and severity of the bit. As an additional feature of cow horse bits, some include numerous rings on either side of the mouth, allowing for different types of rein placement and even multiple reins to be connected at the same time.

The overall bit is attached to the bridle and the reins by a ring. When the reins are pulled, the various elements of the bit work together to exert pressure on the horse’s tongue and sides of the mouth, allowing the rider to maintain control and establish a line of communication between horse and rider. Of course, each horse and rider is unique. Certain types of Western bits are more effective than others depending on the discipline in which you compete. In reality, most categories need certain bit types to compete and forbid other types.

Reining bits are frequently swapped between horses and riders depending on the horse’s energy level and the activities they plan to do together.

Despite the fact that there are numerous and nuanced types of bits for horses, there are two basic bit types: snaffle bits and curb bits.

Classic Western Bits: Snaffle vs. Curb

The pressure applied by a snaffle and a curb bit is applied to distinct parts of the horse’s mouth. In general, a snaffle bit exerts equal pressure more directly on the mouth of your horse when the reins are pulled. Curb bits, on the other hand, utilize indirect pressure on your horse’s mouth, but the design multiplies the pressure such that less pull on the reins achieves greater pressure compared to a snaffle bit or other types of bits.

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Snaffle Bits

However, while some types of snaffle horse bits have cheeks, the majority of snaffle horse bit types are simply comprised of a jointed mouthpiece and rings.

As previously indicated, this design offers equal, direct pressure to the horse’s mouth when the reins are pulled. The simple design of a snaffle bit has made it a popular choice in both English and Western riding.

Curb Bits

Curb bits are characterized by the presence of a port, curb chain, and cheeks.

  • The Portis mouthpiece has a curved or U-shaped form in the center of it. This relieves pressure on the horse’s tongue while also emphasizing the pressure on the horse’s mouth
  • And With the purchase rings joined to the Curb Chain, you get a linked chain. There is a chain that runs underneath the horse’s chin and puts pressure on the chin groove. The Cheeks are the sides of the bit that are not in contact with the horse’s mouth. With varying lengths and shapes, a person can exert varying degrees of leverage and control

The majority of curb horse bit designs are made up of these components. The advanced design of the curb bit provides your horse with a greater variety of indirect pressure and control options. It is as a result of this that the curb bit is most commonly found in fast-paced Western disciplines, though it is not uncommon to see curb bits used in English riding as well.

Types of Horse Bits and Their Uses

There are a plethora of various sorts of horse bits that fall under the two basic categories of snaffle bits and curb bits. Walking into a tack shop and looking at the “bit wall” will quickly inform you that there are hundreds of different types of bits for horses, each with its own set of variations designed to produce nuanced effects while riding. Given the enormous variety of horse bits/types available on the market, the following list of horse bit types and their applications is by no means exhaustive.

Mullen Mouth Bits

Mullen Mouth bits feature a small bend in the mouthpiece, which makes them more pleasant to use than straight bar mouthpieces since they don’t lie directly on the horse’s tongue. Mullen Mouth bits are typically gentle because they do not produce any nutcracker action when they are not connected to a joint in the bar.

Single-Joint Bits

French Links are mild horse bits that are made up of a double-jointed mouthpiece with a small plate in the middle. They are designed to soften the bit’s pressure while still providing the rider with control and leverage over the horse’s mouth.

Ball Link Bits

Ball Link bits, which are similar to French Link bits, are made out of a double-jointed mouthpiece that is joined by a ball that rests on the horse’s tongue. Similarly to french link bits, ball link bits create a nutcracker action that is similar to that of french link bits, but is slightly more severe.

Roller Bits

Roller bits include little, revolving pieces of metal on the mouthpiece, which encourage the horse to interact with them and play with them. Using these “rollers” to play with the horse causes the horse’s tongue and jaw to relax, which in theory should assist the horse accept the bit.

Port Bits

As previously stated, Port bits have a curved or U-shaped mouthpiece in the center, which is referred to as a U-shape. This relieves strain on the horse’s tongue while also emphasizing the pressure on the horse’s mouth, which is beneficial. In addition, the U prevents the horse from utilizing its mouth to reduce the force of the bit. Ports are available for both Western and English sorts of bits.

Twisted Bits

Twisted horse bits are characterized from other horse bit kinds by the twist in the mouthpiece, which makes them one of the harsher horse bit options.

These twists in the mouthpiece increase the amount of pressure and pinching force applied to the rider, allowing him or her to have more leverage and control. Twisted mouthpieces might include straight, mullen, or jointed mouthpieces that are twisted in the same direction.

WireChain Bits

Finally, Wire and Chain bits are comprised of two rings and a connecting mouthpiece made of wire or chain that join the two rings together. They may be quite harsh, especially when used incorrectly, owing to the amount of concentrated pressure that can be applied to a horse’s mouth as a result of the thinness and twisting of the wire or chain used in these sorts of bits.

Shop Products Related to Western Bits

Ben Baldus has some useful information and advice to share with you if you’re searching for an overview of the several sorts of horse bits that we use here at NRS.

Horse Bit Severity Chart

It is impossible to arrange horse bits in descending order of severity because of the enormous variety of horse bits that are available. We’ll start by discussing the many aspects that will influence the severity or tenderness of any part in general, rather than in detail.

  • Ring Cheekpieces are a little too loose. If you are a horse bit maker, you may have made the instinctive observation that smoother mouthpieces always produce mild horse bits, as opposed to mouthpieces that are twisted or textured. To make your bit a little more harsh and responsive, you can choose a twisted or textured mouthpiece
  • However, this will increase the cost of the mouthpiece. Thickness of the mouthpiece Thinner mouthpieces, as opposed to thicker mouthpieces, have a tendency to produce harsh horse bits as a result of the sharp pressure they exert. The shape of your horse’s mouth must be taken into consideration if you are trying to make a horse bit harsher or kinder dependent on how thick the mouthpiece is made. Some horses’ mouths are simply not big enough to accommodate a thicker bit comfortably. Similar to this, some people have huge tongues and must use a mouthpiece that is a little narrower. If you want to feel more confident in your purchasing decisions, you might seek the assistance of a professional bit fitter. Dimensions of the port If you are using a bit that has a port, the bit will be more mild or severe depending on the size of the port you are using. A shallow port will generate a mild horse bit, but tall, narrow ports will produce a harsher horse bit due to the pressure they place on the horse’s palate. The Shank’s Overall Length If you are working with a curb bit, the severity of the bit is determined by the length of the shank of the bit. Horse bits with shorter shanks are more mild, whilst horse bits with longer shanks are more severe. This discrepancy is mostly related to the use of leverage. When compared to shorter shanks, which deliver less, longer shanks give the rider with more leverage and power. The straightness of the shank is important. Furthermore, as compared to straight shanks, curved or angled shanks are more friendly on the rider’s joints since they provide less leverage to the rider.

More might be written about the fundamental features of bit design that result in hard bits for horses as compared to soft bits, but we will focus on defining specific types of horse bits in descending order of severity instead.

Gentle Horse Bits

If you’ve ever wondered, “What is the gentlest bit for a horse?” this is the article for you. Because of its large mouthpiece and loose ring bits, you will find that the Eggbutt snaffle is recommended by the majority of publications. The Eggbutt Snaffle does not pinch the sides of the horse’s mouth and only applies a limited amount of lateral pressure on the horse’s jaw. D-ring snaffle bits are considered to be extremely mild bits for horses, despite the fact that they are significantly harsher.

The Mullen Mouth bit is also considered to be one of the more friendly bits for horses, especially when compared to other types of bits.

Mild Horse Bits

French Links, especially when used with moderate horse bits like as the D-ring snaffle, can result in more mild horse bits by providing greater control without exerting too much excessive force on your horse or causing possible harm to your horse. In the centre of the mouthpiece is a tiny, flat link that adds additional pressure to the horse’s tongue. The majority of horses respond well to this moderate horse bit design, and some even prefer it over a single joint snaffle bit in certain situations.

Harsh Horse Bits

Twisted bits, Port bits, and Spade bits are among the most severe horse bits that are commonly available for purchase at tack stores, as seen at the bottom of the horse bit severity table. Neither the rider nor the horse should be inexperienced with these bits. They are all designed to apply additional pressure to the horse’s mouth while also providing the rider with extra leverage in the reins. When riding, twisted bits tend to exert more pressure on the horse’s tongue and sides of the mouth, whereas port bits, particularly those with tall and narrow ports, tend to put more pressure on the horse’s palate.

When the reins are pulled, Spade bits apply direct pressure on the horse’s palate in the same way as Port bits do. The Spade bit can potentially cause injury to a horse’s mouth if it is used incorrectly.

How to Choose the Right Bit for Your Horse

After you have gained an understanding of the various horse bits and their applications, the next step is to select a bit for your horse. After you’ve gained information, you must put it into practice. When looking for the best horse bits, you should take the following factors into consideration before making a purchase:

1. Consider a Good-Quality Bit an Investment In Your Horse

Everyone wants to ensure that their horses are as comfortable as they possibly can. And the mouth of your horse is equally as vital as the back or legs of the animal. Purchasing high-quality equipment and accessories is an investment in your horse’s future health and well-being. The appropriate bit will be nicer to the horse, will provide a safer riding experience for the rider, and will last far longer than less expensive alternatives.

2. Understand Your Horse

When selecting a bit for a horse, the following factors should be taken into consideration: age, past training, comfort, and the discipline to be used.

  • Gentle bits can be used on horses who are young and inexperienced, while tougher bits may be required on horses that are older and more experienced since they have been accustomed to lesser pressures and prompting. Past Training – Depending on the horse’s previous training, certain types of bits are more useful or ineffectual than others. Horses who have been handled harshly their entire lives are unlikely to respond well to gentle horse bits, which are designed to be mild. A horse that reacts well to softer aids, on the other hand, will become uncomfortable and agitated when matched with a severe horse bit. While in doubt, comfort is likely the most crucial factor to consider when learning how to pick a bit for your horse, yet it is also the most difficult to determine. You want your horse’s neck and mouth to be relaxed, so make sure they are. Poor-fitting bits are frequently indicated by the horse’s constant tossing of the head, biting down on the bit, or restlessness of the mouth. It takes time and a lot of trying with different reining bits to figure out what your horse is most comfortable wearing. With more time spent getting to know your horse, as well as your preferred riding and handling style, the optimum horse bit will become more apparent. Certain sorts of bits function better in certain disciplines than others, and this is determined by the field in which you engage. The truth is that most disciplines require certain bit types to compete and prohibit the use of any other kind. Being disqualified for a simple tack mistake is the very last thing you want to happen to you

3. Consider Your Experience as a Rider

Gentle bits can be used on horses who are young and inexperienced, while tougher bits may be required on horses that are older and more experienced since they have been accustomed to lesser pressures and cues. Ineffectiveness of Bits Depending on the horse’s past training, some types of bits are effective or ineffective. If a horse has been handled firmly its whole life, soft horse bits are unlikely to provide the kind of control you demand from them. If, on the other hand, a horse who responds well to softer aids is saddled with a severe horse bit, the horse will become uncomfortable and irritated.

  1. If you want your horse to appear relaxed, make his neck and mouth appear relaxed.
  2. It takes time and a lot of trying with different reining bits to figure out what your horse is most comfortable with.
  3. Certain sorts of bits function better in certain disciplines than others, and this varies from discipline to discipline.
  4. Being disqualified for a minor tack mistake is the last thing anyone wants.

4. Different Horse Bits Can Only Do So Much

If, after reading all of this, you are still unclear about how to select a bit for your horse, don’t be concerned. Horsemanship is an art, and it is a lovely link formed between a person and an animal when practiced properly. It takes time, consideration, and a great deal of effort to form a relationship with your horse. In a nutshell, it is not something that happens overnight. Using different types of horse bits to swiftly solve the problems associated with horsemanship may seem like a good idea, but this is not always the case.

We are the ones who educate, not the tools.

Finally, when you have discovered the perfect bit for both you and your horse, you will undoubtedly conclude that your efforts were well worth your time and effort.

Horse Bits for Sale

Given a greater grasp of the many types of horse bits and their applications, you are now prepared to mount your horse and begin riding. Prior to doing so, you’ll want to select a bit that is appropriate for both you and your horse. Alternatively, you can visit one of our lovely NRS brick and mortar shops to browse through our extensive selection of horse bit kinds. Western Bits for Sale

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