Horse bits are fundamental to the rider controlling his or her horse. There are countles types of horse bit availableso needless to say it can be confusing identifying what you actually need for your horse .
Horse bit types are broken down into different categories based on the features they have and how they control the horse. Within such categories are sub-categories where the action of the bit is adapted or added to by extra attributes such as the material the bit is made from .
At the top level of our horse bits categories typically we see Snaffles and Curb bits. The term Snaffle covers quite a broad category of horse bits however they all exhibit a single common principle in that they allow control of the horse via direct force from the rider by the pulling of one or both reigns.
Physically all Snaffle bits are formed from a straight bar or mouthpiece with rings connected with different degrees of freedom to move at each end. The bit sits in the horses mouth resting on the gums not the teeth, in the space behind the front incisors and the molars behind sometimes refered to as the bars.
These two main features of the Snaffle namely the mouthpiece and rings bring specific function to the bit . The mouthpiece can be in one solid piece or it may be broken or jointed in the middle. Solid mouthpieces often come made in moulded rubber or vulcanite which is kinder to the horse and often used for young horses whilst they are being trained to respond to the bit. The jointed bit is created so that the mouthpiece breaks in the middle when the rider pulls the reins inducing a nutcracker effect on the horses tongue which provides the control. The single break mouthpiece forms a V shape in the mouth whereas the double break forms a U shape. This gives the horses tongue more room and can also be kinder on the roof of the mouth.
The severity of the action of the mouthpiece can be modified by using twisted pieces and different metals such as copper. The effect on the horse can be drastic and as a responsible owner think first of your horses welfare and if in doubt ask for advice and Don't rush into a decision that you may regret.
Remember there is a balance between being too soft on the horse and not firm enough. Going for the soft option can lead to bad habbits that are then more difficult to address later on and being too harsh can cause the horse pain and discomfort and is just bad in every way.
The rings positioned at each end of the mouthpiece of the Snaffle connect to the reins. Whilst simple in concept they still come in different forms with each type giving subtle effects which together with the mouthpiece provide varying types of control to your horse. To introduce you this variety we will introduce some of the more common ring features seen on snaffle type horse bits.
Loose Ring Snaffles are where the rings connected to the mouthpiece are free to rotate and move back and forth causing the horse to chew and hopefully relax and not pull against you. One downside to loose rings is that they can pinch the horses mouth and get pulled through the mouth. These problems can be addressed by another type of Snaffle. Fixed Ring Snaffles which are not free to rotate but can move back and forth. The Eggbutt and the D-ring Snaffle are popular examples. They have D shaped rings rather than O shaped and the straight part of the D functions is to help prevent the bit from being pulled through the mouth. It forms a brace against the side of the mouth in both directions. The Eggbutt has a slightly softer edge to its D and is therefore kinder to the horses mouth.
The fixed ring effects can be further enforced by using a Full Cheek Snaffle Bit where there is a vertical piece of metal on each end of the mouthpiece as well as the ring. This piece provides a much longer vertical surface compared to the D bit and often to help it stay in the vertical position keepers are used to hold it in place. Not only do full cheeks prevent pull through of bit, they can provide a mild leverage effect and also encourage the horse to move in the direction required.
This is just a brief introduction to the features of Snaffle Bits. As you can see by careful understanding of your horses behaviour and how to control him you may find a Snaffle bit to suit your needs.