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Horse Bits Terminology
Basic Concepts to remember when selecting a bit:
- Mouthpieces can be made of different types of metals, hard rubber or flexible rubber. Each yields a different effect.
- The thicker the mouthpiece the milder the bit, because the bit pressure is spread over a larger area. The thinner the mouthpiece, the more severe the bit.
- The length of the shank dictates the amount of curb pressure and leverage or pressure applied to the chin groove and the poll of the horse.
- There are various mouthpiece configurations. Each mouthpiece helps to determine the function of a bit. (See mouthpiece descriptions below for additional explanation).
- Always remember, to achieve the most effective results from bitting a horse for a specific use, understand proper fit and function.
Basic Bit Types
Full Cheek Snaffle - For the traditional Hunter look, the Full Cheek Snaffle is available in a variety of mouthpieces. Each mouthpiece determines the function of the bit. The full cheeks prevent the cheeks from pulling through the horse's mouth. And, when fitted with bit loops that attach to the bridle, the bit becomes more stable for increased lateral control.
Kimberwick - Commonly seen today in the English events of breed association horse shows, the Kimberwick uses a curb chain for increased leverage. The Uxeter Kimberwick has two rein slots, each changing the desired result. The upper slot is used to increase the pressure on the tongue, while the lower slot is used to increase leverage and curb chain pressure.
Pelham - The Pelham bit, with its double set of reins, combines the function of a snaffle and the action of a curb bit. The top rein provides snaffle pressure to the tongue and corners of the mouth, while the bottom rein increases leverage and curb chain pressure.
Weymouth and Bradoon - For the finished dressage horse, the full or double bridle uses both the snaffle action of the Bradoon and the curb action of the Weymouth to encourage collection with softness through the bridle. Both bits working independently of each other allow the rider to use the most subtle cues.
Eggbutt Snaffle - A very mild bit, the Eggbutt Snaffle is designed wide enough to be gentle on the bars and will not pinch the horse's mouth.
Ring Snaffle - A functional bit for all types of training, the loose rings of a Ring Snaffle help increase the bit movement, promote salivation and keep the mouth soft and the body supple.
Dee Ring Snaffle - One of the most basic forms of bitting, the Dee Ring Snaffle is a relatively mild snaffle that comes in a variety of mouthpieces, Whether you are starting a horse, or just going back to the basics, this bit helps with lateral movement while achieving suppleness from jaw to tail.
Tom Thumb Snaffle - One of the most basic shanked type snaffle bits, the Tom Thumb Snaffle serves as an excellent transition bit from a Ring Snaffle to a longer shanked snaffle or to a Curb Bit. This bit uses a small amount of curb pressure or leverage. The loose cheeks move independently allowing for more lateral flexibility.
Double Rein Bit - The Double Rein Bit, as its name implies, can be used with four reins. This bit is also termed "Cowboy Pelham". For normal use, the reins are attached to the shanks. But with the dee rings located at the mouthpiece, the second set of reins helps to achieve more snaffle action similar to the English Pelham bit.
Curb Bit - The Curb Bit, one of the major bit types, is considered a leverage bit because of the action of the curb chain. When the reins are pulled and the curb chain is engaged, it applies pressure to the chin groove. The term Grazing Bit is commonly referred to as a Curb Bit with the bit shanks bent back to allow the horse to graze.
Gag Bit - The sliding action of the Gag Bit applies pressure to the lips and corners of the mouth. This action along with the give and take of the rider's hands help elevate the horse's front end. This bit is commonly used by barrel racers for proper body position while turning the barrel. Some Gag Bits offer variable rein loops for greater lateral pull.
Hackamore - The Hackamore is designed to create pressure just above the soft tissue of the nose. And when the curb chain is engaged it also applies pressure to the chin groove. Used by ropers and barrel racers, the Hackamore is designed for getting quick stops from forward motion. Hackamores are available with a variety of nosebands from moderate to severe. They include fleece lined leather, flat leather, rubber, bicycle chain covered with rubber or plastic, laced leather, braided leather or rope. When combined with a mouthpiece, the Hackamore gains more lateral control.
Low and Medium Port - These mouthpieces are relatively mild. The curvature of the port allows for tongue relief (applying minimal pressure across the width of the tongue). And, with rotation of the bit, the mouthpiece does not apply palate pressure (pressure applied to the roof of the mouth). Both mouthpieces will, however, apply pressure to the bars of the mouth that increase in severity as the mouthpiece diameter becomes smaller.
High Port - Just as the Low and Medium Port mouthpieces provide tongue relief and apply pressure to the bars of the mouth, so does the high port.
Roller - Also termed as a "Cricket" mouthpiece, the Roller is commonly made of copper and can be combined with Medium and High Ports, Snaffle Mouths, Halfbreeds and Spades. This mouthpiece will apply tongue pressure as it lays across the tongue. It is an ideal mouthpiece to pacify nervous horses and at the same time promotes salivation.
Mullen Mouth - This mouthpiece provides some tongue relief and does apply bar pressure. It is recommended for horses that dislike palate pressure.
Sweetwater - This mouthpiece does not apply tongue pressure and is recommended for horses with an injured tongue, or horses that dislike tongue pressure. It does, however, apply bar pressure.
Correction - The Correction mouth, when used as part of a leverage bit, can be considered severe because it applies tongue pressure at the flexible joint of the port and bar pressure.
Snaffle - The snaffle configuration by itself is a mild bit and one of the most universally used mouthpieces. It can be thick and mild on the bars and tongue when covered with rubber, or severe if used as a thin twisted wire mouthpiece. It an be combined with many variations such as a Copper Roller, Dr. Bristol, Dog Bone, or Lifesaver mouthpiece.