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Types of Horse Bits

By Hadrien Dykiel

Different types of horse bits work in various ways. Let’s go over how they each apply pressure on the horse’s mouth differently.

Snaffle Bit – This is one of the milder bits which works by applying pressure directly. When you pull with one pound on the reins, it pulls one pound on the horse’s mouth. It does not use leverage like curb bits do. Not all snaffles are soft however. Some are made severe by altering the mouthpiece, such as making it very thin or twisted.

Snaffle Bits Eggbutt Dee Ring Full Cheek Fulmer

I generally like to use a snaffle with a thick mouthpiece because it makes it softer for the horse. Because I do a lot of one rein stops (aka pulley rein or emergency stop) and bending during training, I also like to use a bit that won’t slide through the horse’s mouth. A dee ring or full cheek work well for that. As you can see from the picture, they will not slide through the horse’s mouth as easily as an eggbutt for example. One of my favorite snaffles is the fulmer. The fulmer won’t slide through the horse’s mouth and because of its design, there are no moving parts that can pinch the sides of the horse’s mouth. Remember to use keepers for full cheek and fulmer bits, they will keep the bit positioned correctly and stabilize it.

Fulmer Bit

"Inspire" in a Fulmer Bit. Photo by Marika Gerhart

Kimberwicke Bit – The kimberwicke is a curb bit, which means it works by leverage. This makes it a stronger bit than the snaffle. One pound of pressure may cause two or even more pounds of pressure on the horse’s mouth. These bits can also have curb chains, which applies pressure on the horse’s chin when pulled on.

How a Kimberwicke Bit Works

From the United States Pony Club Manual of Horsemanship, D Level by Susan E. Harris

Pelham Bit- A pelham bit is a double rein curb bit. It has a snaffle ring where one rein is attached. When pulled on, the bit will act like a snaffle bit, applying direct pressure on the horse’s mouth. The other rein is attached to a curb ring, which is lower on the bit. When pulled on, it acts like a lever on the bit, multiplying the pressure on the horse’s mouth. It also makes the curb chain clamp down on the horse’s chin.

pelham bit

From the United States Pony Club Manual of Horsemanship, D Level by Susan E. Harris

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5 thoughts on “Types of Horse Bits

  1. Pingback: The Best Bit For Your Horse – choosing the right material « AllHorseStuff

  2. Very informative post! :) Many people say that the western bit is very severe, but I think it is only as severe as the rider’s hands are. What are your thoughts?

  3. I think you are right, it is as strong as the rider’s hands. Keeping that in mind, some western bit do use a lot of leverage, which really multiplies the amount of pressure horses feel on their mouth.

  4. Pingback: The Best Bit For Your Horse – choosing the right Cheekpiece « AllHorseStuff

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