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The Curb bit and subtle art of control.

Horse bits are the key to effective horse riding.  There are countless different variations of horse bit available in the market place with each one providing features than can give excellent or terrible results depending on the choice and the skills of the rider concerned .

The basic categories of horse bit are typically defined as Snaffles and Curb bits. Snaffles allow the rider to control the horse via force transmitted from the reins to the bit i.e. the same quantity of force exerted by the rider is applied to the horse via the bit.  In the case of a Curb bit the force is increased through the principle of leverage due to the design of the bit . Very simply a Curb bit can be pictured as a capital 'H' where the amount of force transmitted is dependent on the length of the sides of the 'H', known as the cheeks.  Also how far up or down the mouthpiece is i.e. how high the '-' on the 'H' is, or more acurately the ratio between the 'purchase' and the 'level arm' determines the forces generated on the mouth and the head .

It is essential at this juncture to point out that this fundamental difference between a Snaffle and a Curb bit, and the difference in force applied to the horse, requires that the rider carefully evaluates the need for a Curb bit.  They must also take a good honest look at their horse riding skills and their ability to use the Curb bit correctly. In fact don't fit one without appropriate training.

It is often stated that the Curb bit gives greater control. The word control can suggest the need to inflict discomfort on the the horse to be the master and this is wrong . A better view is the Curb bit allows you to 'instruct' the horse in what you want more firmly, fairly and effectively with a Curb vs a Snaffle. As one develops as a rider the instructions can become more sophisticated and result in the ability to trigger a wider range of movement from the horse .  Also remember as you develop as a rider your skills will become more subtle and you will loose the somewhat narrow view that the bit 'controls' the horse.  For example you can ask the horse to move in certain ways using just your legs and seat and not just yank the horse with the reins. 

More advanced riders that have begun to master the art of subtle and effortless riding sometimes progress to double bridles e.g. Weymouth bit and Weymouth Bradoon.  This combination allows fine tuning of the interaction with their horse, achieving fine levels of control and responsiveness without any of the roughness and heavy handedness associated with the Curb in the hands of an inexperienced rider. 

To summarise the Curb bit is an essential tool for the more experienced rider whom is happy with the basics of riding and is now looking to get more variety of movement from their horse .  However you must be sure that both you and the horse are ready for that move. If you are sure you are ready to evolve to using a curb bit for your horse but are not totally sure on the type always err on the side of caution and go for a milder bit . As always take advice from experienced riders and more than one if possible.

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