Do you have a slight confusion about horse bits? Most of us have been at that point, and we are still learning! Going to the tack shop and facing a long wall full of bits can be a bit overwhelming but you do not have to worry. We are going to break them down into categories so you may be well informed on horse bits and their functions.
Bits are just like any other tools and have been designed for different uses and different horses. We have seen many people trying to use harsh bits in an attempt to forcefully curb their horse into submission but this is not right. Using a harsh bit should be a gradual process, moving your horse from the gentle option without them feeling like they are being punished.
Others keep their horses on snaffles for way too long since they think that using anything that is more severe than a snaffle or a hackamore is utter cruelty to the animal. Perhaps we should note that some horses can be difficult, refusing to adjust to training while the trainer may have other things occupying their time. Sometimes a compromise needs to be reached, and often, using a harsh bit is the best way to speed things up.
Here are a few helpful tips when it comes to horses and bits
- Your horse must be checked by qualified equine dentist and declared fit for a bit.
- Horse bits should be well fitting and in good condition.
- When training your horse and teaching them new maneuvers, use gentler bits.
- Gentle snaffle bits are the ones with more surface touching the horse.
That said, let's look at the different horse bits and their uses.
There are three basic types i.e. snaffles, gags and leverage bits.
They are directly used for reining the horse. Their primary direction is lateral since they are placed across the horse's mouth to be used for directing the horse.
Note that snaffles can either be harsh or mild depending on their make.
They are very similar to snaffles but the gag where the horse 'leans' in makes them a bit more harsh. They are used for racing horses.
Leverage bits (also known as curb bits)
When it comes to leverage bits, the reins are attached to shanks around the horse's mouth instead of directly on the mouthpiece. It therefore increases the pressure on the horse when a rider pulls the reins, making them harsher than the gags. They are not good for training a horse since the pressure might be too much. Gentle bits are the best for training, then the rider would advance to harsh bits for a faster response.
Remember, horses have to be trained how to neck rein. If you are having control problems with your horse, the solution would not be a correctional bit. You would have to go back to training your horse using a milder bit until they can properly respond.
Common types of horse bit mouthpieces
They have either copper or stainless steel rollers to encourage salivation and also prevent the horse from leaning on to the bit. The presence of rollers also makes them harsh bits.
Mullen mouthed bits
They are gentle bits that have been slightly curved so that they sit comfortably in the horses mouth. The mullen mouth has been designed into both snaffle and curb bits.
Wire bit mouthpieces
Most horsemen frown upon their use since they are very severe. They are made of a very thin material which puts maximum pressure on the horse's tongue, lips and mouth bars.
Others include the jointed mouthpiece, the French link mouthpiece, Dr. Bristol, Tom Thumb etc.
Which is the best horse bit for trail riding?
It is best if you found the gentlest bit that still gives you excellent control when trail riding. It would be wise to use one that is small and smooth on the outside too, to avoid getting caught on branches when passing through a thick brush.
If you opt for a curb bit, then the mullen mouth or sweet iron are best, although they should have very short shanks and a low port.
As for the snaffle, a D ring would be better than an O ring since it stays in place.
High ports and long shanks are not recommended for trail riding since they are a bit too harsh and tend to get in the way which means they may get caught on branches or make it difficult for your horse to drink or eat while on the trail.
How about a jumping bit?
Note that horses are very different in the way they respond to bits. The best bit can only be found through trial. If you have a friend who would let you borrow theirs then it would be perfect since it would be an inexpensive way to test the bit. We might offer a few insights depending on your horse's ability to respond, but you must test the available options until you settle on the one that is perfect for you and your horse.
Just keep in mind that testing on the trail or track is not a good idea. You might want to keep it on the field until you are both well acquainted. With thousands of horse bit options available in the market, it really helps when you have an idea about how each works and the kind of effect they would have on your horse. This way you can avoid purchasing a torturing equipment and settle on a good bit for your equine friend. Good luck!
Effective Horse Training Techniques