Tuesday, 26 January 2010

A Bit Special - part 3.

Concluding our Bit Special ...


Even if you have chosen the perfect type of bit for your horse, if it is the wrong size, it will cause the horse discomfort and could be rather ineffective.

To measure a horse for a bit, look at your existing bit in the horse’s mouth. If you gently pull the bit to one side of the horse’s mouth (so the opposite bit ring sits flush against the horse’s face can you fit one or two fingers between the horse’s lips and the bit ring? Ideally, there should be around ½ inch of bit either side of the horse’s mouth.

If this bit is OK, then remove the bridle and measure it. This is easily done, simply lay the bit on a flat surface and measure between the two rings. Simple as that, you have the size of the bit!

Bit Size Chart


  • Stainless steel - safe and easy to clean, stainless steel is the normal material that bits are made from.
  • Copper - is softer and can be used to cover other metal mouthpieces, It can be used to help horses mouth the bit and encourage salivation. Many horses like the taste.
  • Cupro Nickel and German Silver - these bits have a light gold colour and have a unique flavour which can help the horse to soften
  • Sweet Iron – is darker in colour and encourages the horse to salivate, This in turn produces a pleasant taste.
  • Rubber – makes a very soft and very kind bit. Because of the nature of the material, bits made from rubber should always have metal reinforcement running through the centre in case the horse chews through.
  • Synthetic – usually light but very strong. They are also quite gentle on the horse’s mouth.
  • Vulcanite – a type of rubber that is hardened by heat. Vulcanite mouthpieces are often very thick meaning that they gentle on the horse’s mouth.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

A Bit more - part 2 of 3 - Double, Pelham, Gags & Bitless

In part 1, we looked at Snaffles. Here are the other Bits.


Double bridles are made up of three parts, the bradoon and the curb bit and the curb chain. These are easy to distinguish as:
  • A bradoon will have a link and round rings
  • A curb bit has no link and has cheeks in some form of another
  • A curb chain is a piece of fine metal chain which attaches to either side of the bit and then lies in the chin groove.
Double bridles apply pressure to two further parts of the horse, the chin groove and the poll, which can encourage a more advanced head carriage and/or improved control. For this reason, they are used when the horse has reached a stage in his training where he requires further refinement, such as advanced dressage. Doubles can also be used when showing, hunting or jumping.


A Pelham is a rather cunning bit where the two bits of a double bridge have been combined into one. Pelham bits can be used with one rein (with roundings) or two reins to encourage further refinement. This type of bit has the following variations:
  • Straight bar or gently curved (mullen)
  • With a port (a raised section in the centre of the bit)
  • Jointed
  • Kimblewick, which is a single reined bit with two rein positions, This is a strong bit.
Rugby Pelham can be used with a sliphead, like a double bridle, and can be made to look like a double for the show ring.

Pelhams are generally quite severe and should only be used by experienced people. They are not acceptable in dressage.


Gags are related to snaffle bits but are more severe.

They usually employ a lever action which works on the poll and are commonly seen when horses are going cross country, show jumping or playing polo. They are illegal for dressage.

There are many variations. Like the snaffle, they can have straight bar, single joined or double jointed mouthpieces in addition to a variety of different rings/cheeks, but these are often specific to that type of gag.

Gag snaffles should be used with two reins in a similar style to a Pelham. To use a type of bit like this with one rein does not allow any reward for the horse if he behaves, or give the rider any other option than employing the lever action. If a rein is attached to the snaffle ring and then a ring below, the rider has the best of both worlds.

Gags are very severe and if used inconsiderately can cause a lot of problems. That said, if used correctly and sympathetically, they can provide the rider with a further degree of control. Gags should only be used by very experienced riders.


A bitless bridge or Hackamore is not technically a bit (hence, bitless) but a special attachment is available to provide the rider with control without the need for a traditional bit. These ‘bits’ rely on points of control outside the horse’s mouth, especially the nose. Bitless bridles have difference degrees of severity depending on the length of the shank between the nose and reins, and the paddying/width of straps around the head.

Bitless bridles are great for horses that do not like traditional bits or have damaged mouths, but they are not allowed in dressage competitions. Don’t be fooled … bitless bridles can be very severe and should not be used by inexperienced people.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

A "BIT" Special - part 1 of 3 - Snaffles.


There are many factors that should be considered when choosing which bit is appropriate for your horse, for advice on which is most suitable for your needs, someone with lots of experience who knows you and your horse should be consulted.

Bits work on many different areas of the horse’s head: the tongue, bars, corners of mouth and lips, roof of mouth, side of fact, chin groove, poll and nose.

There are essentially five difference types of bit. All work on different areas of the horse and therefore have a different result. Within the different types, bits have varying severity, for example, in the snaffle family, a Dr Bristol is far more severe than a French Link, even though they are both snaffles. To help explain how this works, we have had a look at the different families of bit to help you decide which one is right for you.


Snaffles can be used for all sorts of equestrian activities and can be straight bar, single jointed or double jointed. The number of joints has an influence on which areas of the mouth the bit works on, for example:

A straight bar will work on the lips, the bars of the mouth and tongue.

A single jointed has what is known as a ‘nutcracker’ action which means that when the reins are pulled, the tongue is squeezed as the bit closes. A single jointed also works on the bars of the mouth and the lips.

A double jointed has no nutcracker action but works on the bars of the mouth and the lips.

There can also be a variation on the types of rings which link the bridle to the bit. These can be:
  • Fixed to prevent pinching
  • Loose to allow more movement
  • D Ring to help to prevent the bit being pulled through the mouth and aid steering
  • Full Cheek which has full sides to help with steering and a fixed ring to prevent pinching
  • Fulmer which has full sides to help with steering and loose rings to allow more movement
  • Hanging cheek to prevent the horse getting his tongue over the bit due to the fact that the bit is suspended in the mouth.
As you can see, there are a myriad of difference options, but there are also some general guidelines regarding snaffles, for example:
 - the thicker the mouthpiece the milder the bit, and
 - any uneven surface inside the mouth increases the severity.

Part 2 will cover: Double, Pelham, Gags and Bitless.