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The Horse Bit and Your Competition Success.

The different types of horse bits available can be somewhat overwhelming.  To the casual observer why the huge variety?   This variety has arisen over time in response to the needs of different riders and their specific activity.  Also what might be surprising to the non horse person is the great variety of different horse activities.  This variety has been an important driver in the origin of differently performing horse bits and especially in the competitive sphere where winning is important.

Probably the most commonly known horse activities are horse racing, equestrian events such as show jumping, and sports such as polo and driving.  The different horsemanship requirements in these very different areas require different horse bits to maximise the chance of success. 

In horse racing the Racing Snaffle or more generally the Dee-ring snaffle is one of the most popular designs.  The Dee-ring snaffle has two rings either side of the mouthpiece which are shaped like a "D". The straight bars of the Dee-ring is pulled against the side of the mouth opposite to the rein pulled, pushing the sides of the Dee against the horse's mouth provide the ability to guide the horse and turn as required in a race.

Eventing is a multi-discipline event involving dressage, cross-country and show jumping which tests the ability and adaptability of the horse and the rider to the limit. It is this wide variety of needs that looks like defying choosing perfect multipurpose horse bits.  On paper one needs very specific control during dressage, somewhat more free rein allowing the horse freedom to be rapid between fences and finally in the case of cross country allowing the horse to efficiently apply power, and not be fighting unnecessary control by the rider.

In show jumping in general it is popular to use a bit that gives more control especially with a heavier horse that might lean on the bit or take hold.  Gag bits are a popular solution and when rein pressure is applied the bit slides upward rotating slightly in the mouth which gives the signal to to the horse. Show jumpers find the Cheltenham a popular type of gag bit. The Cheltenham gag is a specific gag bit often used by show jumpers.  It has eggbutt bit rings, which remedies the problem of pinching found with the common loose ring snaffl.

Curb style bits are used where leverage is required which the snaffle cannot achieve.  In show jumping the swales 3 in 1 which is a modified old fashioned swales bit has become popular with show jumpers whom have found it effective with strong horses which are common in show jumping events .  Also as the Swales doesn't generate any poll pressure it works nicely with horses who tend to go overbent. 

Some horses have a tendency to rush off after clearing a fence and which affects the whole balance of the round. It might be tempting to go for a curb style bit that will pull up the horse but as is often the case fix the issue by training the horse correctly rather than "fixing" the problem when it happens. Be aware that a horse that rushes his fences may be reacting to a poor choice of horse bit, maybe it is pinching him .

When we look at the dressage part of the eventing sequence horses are constrained to only go in snaffles. And also there are rigourous guidelines as to what type of snaffle may be used. For cross country the rules on horse tack are significantly more flexible and allows the use of gag bits, hackamores and a simple noseband.

The types of issues that the every day horse rider has to address in their choice of horse bit are not far removed from the issues of the experienced professional riders in horse racing, show jumping and the like.  However the effectiveness of the relationship between rider and horse is typically achieved through the skill of the rider and not using a specific bit to fix a particular problem

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