Home » Horse Care

The Snaffle Bit. Simple but effective.

Horse bits are fundamental to the rider controlling his or her horse .  Literally dozens if not hundreds of different types of horse bit can be purchasedso needless to say it can be confusing identifying what you actually need for your horse .

Horse bit types are broken down into different categories based on the features they have and how they control the horse. Within such categories are sub-categories with bits having different variations on particular features plus additional attributes that enhance its basic features .

At the top level of our horse bits categories sits Snaffles and Curb bits.  The term Snaffle covers quite a broad category of horse bits exhibiting a single common principle in that they allow control of the horse via direct force from the rider by the pulling of one or both reigns.

Physically all Snaffle bits are formed from a straight bar or mouthpiece with rings connected with different degrees of freedom to move at each end. The bit goes into the horse's mouthresting on the gums not the teeth, in the space behind the front incisors and the molars behind sometimes refered to as the "bars".

These two main features of the Snaffle namely the mouthpiece and rings bring specific function to the bit .  The mouthpiece can be a single solid piece or a jointed piece . Solid mouthpieces often come made in moulded rubber or vulcanite which is softer on the horse's mouth and often used for young horses whilst they are being introduced to the bit . The jointed bit results in the mouthpiece breaking when the reins are pulled inducing a "nutcracker" effect on the horses tongue which provides the control.  The single break mouthpiece forms a "V" shape in the mouth whereas the double break forms a "U" shape.  . This modification can give the horse's tongue more room and can also be kinder on the roof of the mouth.  

The severity of the action of the mouthpiece can be modified by using twisted pieces and different metals such as copper. The effect on the horse can be signficant and as a responsible owner always be very mindful of the welfare of your horse and seek expert advice ensuring the problem you are trying to solve is in fact addressed by such a bit . 

Remember there is a balance between being too soft on the horse and not firm enough. Going for the soft option can lead to bad habbits that are then more difficult to address later on and being too agressive can cause the horse pain and discomfort and is just a bad idea in every way.

The rings positioned at each end of the mouthpiece of the Snaffle are how the mouthpiece connects to the reins . Whilst simple in concept they still come in different forms with each type giving subtle effects which together with the mouthpiece provide varying types of control to your horse.  To introduce you this variety we will introduce some of the more common ring features seen on snaffle type horse bits.

Loose Ring Snaffles are where the rings connected to the mouthpiece are ableto rotate and move back and forth causing the horse to chew and hopefully relax and not pull against you .  One downside to loose rings is that they can pinch the horse's mouth and get pulled through the mouth.  That brings us to Fixed Ring Snaffles which are not free to rotate but can move back and forth.  The Eggbutt and the D-ring Snaffle are popular examples.  They have "D" shaped rings rather than "O" shaped and the straight part of the "D" functions to help prevent the bit being pulled through the mouth, ie. if forms a brace against the side of the mouth in both directions.  The Eggbutt has a slightly softer edge to it's "D" and is therefore kinder to the horse's mouth.

The fixed ring effects can be further enforced by using a Full Cheek Snaffle Bit where there is a vertical piece of metal on each end of the mouthpiece as well as the ring. This piece provides a much longer vertical surface compared to the D bit and often to help it stay in the vertical position "keepers" are used to hold it in place. Not only do full cheeks prevent pull through of bit they can provide a mild leverage effect and also help guide the horse in the direction required.

This is just a brief introduction to the features of Snaffle Bits.  As you can see by careful understanding of your horse's behaviour and how to control him you may find a snaffle  to suit your needs.

Leave your response!

Add your comment below, or trackback from your own site. You can also subscribe to these comments via RSS.

Be nice. Keep it clean. Stay on topic. No spam.

You can use these tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

This is a Gravatar-enabled weblog. To get your own globally-recognized-avatar, please register at Gravatar.