"Proven Products for Horse and Rider"


RETURN TO INDEX  or to place an order Order Form Have questions or to order by phone: Toll Free in US dial 866-723-5937   Out of country dial 507-723-5937   E-Mail  or  Hillview@newulmtel.net

How do you adjust and fit a bit correctly? The width of a bit should allow a finger width on either side of the horse’s lips. The height of the bit in the mouth should be where the bit will make a wrinkle in the corner of the horse’s mouth. The bit should have a chin/lip strap or cavesson/flash to hold the mouth shut – engaging the bit. The chin/lip strap should be adjusted so that you can slip one or two fingers under it and the horse's chin groove. Always undo this strap when removing the bit from the horse’s mouth so you do not bang the bit against the horse’s teeth and cause him to rear or pull back. When testing new bits always have your old one handy and test new bits in a controlled area. To engage a horse mouth – get him on the bit, at a stop gather up the reins slowly in your hands – walking your hands up the reins until the horse takes one step back/raises head/or collects. This is the point where you are on the horses mouth communicating with him. Remember to check your horses teeth yearly.

There are three basic groups of bits. They are: 
Direct action - Snaffles [to be used as beginning or starting bits]
Leverage action - Shank bits to include; Curb, Pelham, Kimberwick and Gags [advanced disciplines, an already trained horse or a correction/re-schooling bit]
Others - Including specialty and combination type bits, bitless bridles, hackamores and bozals [specialty disciplines or for medical reasons bits]
For more on Bits and Bitting

Video of assembly

Individual prices:  Cheek pieces: $50.00 ; Nose band: $25.00; Hooks and chain: $10.00.

Manufactured by Hill View Farms and 100% MADE in the USA!

Hackamore: This easy hackamore is often referred to as an English hackamore, but it can go western just as easily. The hackamore is broken down into three parts. First, the incredible lightweight polished aluminum cheek pieces weight only 3 oz each. They are 7 inches in over all length with 4-inch shanks. The noseband is made of "Beta " a wonderful and easy to maintain product. It is adjustable up to two inches and you can also adjust the removable Velcro nose cushion to shape your noseband perfectly. Lastly this Hack comes with a stainless steel chin strap and end hooks. This is the best Hackamore I have ever come across. Specify medium or large size. Item # H-HACK - Price $85.00 

For Retailers:  The aluminum Cheek Pieces are available for quantity purchase at wholesale pricing - minimum order of 20 pairs. As Hill View Farms own the mold for this item.

"Kangaroo" Bits -by Dewsberry: If only horses could speak our language it would be so simple! With COPPER content materials, the horse more readily salivates and accepts the bit. The "Kangaroo" Bit has copper mixed with nickel to give it strength and longevity, plus that all-important silver color. "Kangaroo" a Cupro-Nickel mix, contains 70% COPPER and has been successfully used for over 200 years. Utilizing only the finest, safest materials proven to be in harmony with the horse, it is a bit that has no equal.
The Dewsberry bits are measured allowing space for the lips; which is different from other manufacturers. Therefore the term "it runs wide" would be applicable. For example a 5" inch would actually measure inside edge to inside edge, scrunching the link gaps together would measure 5 1/4". So when sizing the Dewsberry bit, they allow for the proper fitting room. For more on proper bit fitting purchase the book a Bit of Magic.


Dr. Bristol Dee Ring Snaffle- A Dee ring snaffle incorporating a Dr. Bristol mouth action. This give a greater degree of tongue pressure operated and released by the rider, via the rein, when the hands are lifted and lowered. (A Dr. Bristol differs from the French link as there is a top and bottom.) - Sizes: 1) 5 ¼". Item # B-K1528– Price $111.00

CLEARANCE - one left

Now for something really special:  For those sought after products and for a limited time only - while supplies last,  we will give an additional 20% off the listed price - the catch is ... There will be NO RETURNS


Slow Twisted Jointed Dee Ring Snaffle – A Dee ring snaffle with a slow or gentle twist on a jointed mouth. The twist gives an extra strength to the jointed mouth, by presenting a much shaper action to the corners, bars and tongue. - Sizes:  5 ½". Item # B-K1352– Price $115.00

CLEARANCE  - one left

Now for something really special:  For those sought after products and for a limited time only - while supplies last,  we will give an additional 20% off the listed price - the catch is ... There will be NO RETURNS

Since when does a BIT win National and International awards? 
It does when it works!!  From the inventor of Toe Stoppers (Intelligent Ideas and Concepts, Adrian Monte)

The WTP Bit the only bit in the world to win a prestigious Australian International Design Award.  The WTP Bit has proven to solve displacement of the soft palate. Attached just a few of the hundreds of Testimonials we can supply. 1,  2345678910111213 14....

Note from Hill View Farms:  We are liquidating our bits, with no intention of carrying any in the future, however we could NOT dismiss the intelligent design and function of this product.  Thus just to test ourselves and for those trainers and riders alike, we have stocked  The loose ring snaffle. 

THIS IS THE ONLY STYLE BIT WE HAVE IN STOCK FOR THE FULL LINE PLEASE contact our USA Distributor Darrell Ph 909 989-8323 sales@Buydivineproducts.com

LOOSE RING SNAFFLE:  This bit is made of high quality Stainless Steel.  The center mouth piece has a low profile that prevents pallet rubbing and tongue pinching, reducing bit pressure by 85% .  The arms of the bit do not fold down thus reducing pain to the roof, tongue and bars of the horses mouth.  Available in a size 4.5, 5 and 5.5 inch:  Item # BK-LRS - Price $125.00

 Attached just a few of the reports we have just received.:

  • Jennifer is a Racehorse trainer in France and Claire lives in the UK.

  • Leading trainer David Hayes tried the Normal plate and extended plate and all the riders said they were brilliant and David purchased 10 of them.

  • Olympic Champion and colt breaker Blair Richardson who breaks in 180 horses each year tried the Normal plate and extended plate and said it is the best bit he has ever used and purchased 14 bits.

  • Olympic Champion and colt breaker Peter MacMahon tried the Normal plate and extended plate and purchased another 5 bits within two days saying he loved the Normal Plate bit to break horses they work so well.

Bits and Bitting

Renee Swanepoel / Alixe Etherington with additions from [Cathy Sheets Tauer]

One of the least understood yet most important pieces of tack in any rider's possession, must be the bit they are using in their horse's mouth. Most riders do not understand how the bit they are using works, or even why they are using it. Riders often try to solve their own riding and training inadequacies with stronger bit and noseband combinations, and the poor horse is left confused, sometimes in pain and always more resistant than ever. Add to that the strange phenomenon seen at many yards where a piece of tack becomes a 'fashion statement' and it is not to uncommon to see groups of riders using the same bit (or gadget!) on a host of different horses and ponies, the riders having no idea how or why they are using the bit other than that their friends are using it too. Often a trainer will favor a particular bit and at the slightest problem emerging, the horse will get put into that new bit, rather than finding the source of the horse's problem and solving it.

The subject of bits and bitting can be a rather controversial one, depending on who you are speaking to. Dressage enthusiasts will favor the purist snaffle group, showjumpers will sing the praises of their newest gag/hackamore/Pelham/ Kimblewick combination and Western riders may poo-poo the snaffle group, insisting that without leverage, the horse will not be able to feel the soft nuances that result in a refined performance. (Not to mention the naturalists, who will convince you that using a bit in the first place is cruel, painful and that every horse should be taught to go without!) All of these groups are right. Well, sort of! Every horse is different. The use of a particular bit on a horse should be guided firstly by the horse's oral conformation, schooling and personal preference, then by the rules of the discipline concerned. Very important to remember also is that HOW you use a bit is most surely as important – even MORE important as WHAT bit you use!

[How do you adjust and fit a bit correctly? The width of a bit should allow a finger width on either side of the horse’s lips. The height of the bit in the mouth should be where the bit will make a wrinkle - if any in the corner of the horse’s mouth. The bit should have a chin/lip strap or cavesson/flash to hold the mouth shut – engaging the bit. The chin/lip strap should be adjusted so that you can slip one or two fingers under it and the horse's chin groove. Always undo this strap when removing the bit from the horse’s mouth so you do not bang the bit against the horse’s teeth and cause him to rear or pull back. When testing new bits always have your old one handy and test new bits in a controlled area. To engage a horse mouth – get him on the bit, at a stop gather up the reins slowly in your hands – walking your hands up the reins until the horse takes one step back/raises head/or collects. This is the point where you are on the horses mouth communicating with him. Remember to check your horses teeth yearly.]


The bit, along with the noseband work together on the following parts of the horse's mouth:

  • The Poll

  • The Nose

  • The Lips

  • The Bars of the Mouth (Fleshy Part of the mouth between the Premolars and Incisors)

  • The Roof of the Mouth (Hard Palate)

  • The Tongue

  • The Chin Groove

Each bit/noseband combination has a different effect on the various parts of the horse’s anatomy. Each horse will react differently to that pressure, and it is often easy to see to what type of pressure a horse reacts well to and pressure that he does not like.

A very important thing to remember is that the bit lies in the horse’s mouth – that means that you should be paying particular attention to what is actually going on inside your horse’s mouth, as it will play a major role in the success of your schooling program and the acceptance of the horse to the bit. Each horse has a differently shaped mouth – big or small, long or short, thick or thin lips, high or low palate, thick fleshy tongues or fine skinned sensitive mouths with flat tongues. All of this will play a role on the type and size of bit you choose.

It is also very important to have your horse’s teeth checked regularly by a professional. This will highlight any problems that may be caused by sharp hooks, lacerations, ulcers, wolf teeth, etc. Your horse’s teeth should be checked at least once or twice per year, and I always have any horse’s teeth checked before I embark on any kind of training program with its rider. There is also a trend to float horse’s teeth to a ‘bit seat’, which means that the premolars that are in contact with the bit are rounded to make the bit sit more comfortably in the mouth. (See picture – note bit seat has been filed in front, none at back. There is also a bad hook on the upper premolar which would have to be filed down as it would probably cause the horse discomfort.) There is still much debate as to whether this works or not, but studies have shown that it is not detrimental to performance, so I think it is it is worth trying. It seems to be most beneficial when used with a snaffle. (Remember, a well fitting bit should not be bumping against the teeth anyway, although it can sometimes happen in extreme situations!)

I cannot stress enough the importance of having your horse’s mouth checked regularly – I am always shocked at how few people have this done, and I can say with confidence that I have ever only seen one horse that was seen by a professional dentist that did not have a problem! Your horse has his feet seen to regularly – his teeth should be no different. Riding problems you may notice when there is a tooth problem include, tipping head to one side, tongue over bit, dry mouth, pulling, rushing, rearing, bolting, stargazing and overbending, as well as a host of other problems.


Bits are usually divided into groups, depending on their action and physical appearance. Never let the name of a bit fool you into classifying it as something it is not. A great example of this is the Tom Thumb Western Snaffle (pictured). Ignorant riders pick this bit because they assume from the name that it is a snaffle and want to be kind on their horse's mouths. This bit is not a snaffle! It is a curb bit and in the wrong hands can be very harsh indeed! A very common reaction to this bit is, in fact, that the horse will open his mouth and 'yaw' at the bit whenever a rein aid is applied. That is because the action of the bit is very harsh in the roof of the mouth and it has a very severe 'nutcracker' action on the jaw. By using it incorrectly you may create a problem mouth where there was none to begin with! [ This bit is a "curb" bit with a snaffle mouth piece]

Before confusing the reader completely, let me attempt explain the basic types of bits:

  1. Direct action - Snaffles - [beginning or starting bits]

  2. Leverage action bits - Shank bits to include; Curb, Pelham, Kimberwick and Gags [advanced or correction bits]

  3. Others including specialty and combination type bits, bitless bridles, hackamores and bozals [specialty disciplines or medical reasons bits]

(Direct Action Bits)

DEFINITION: Bit that transmits pressure directly on the mouth via the rein. There is no leverage action. Can be made of rubber, metal, plastics or others and may have more than one mouthpiece connected to the rings of the bit. When used with a double bridle, it is called a Bridoon.

[This group of bits, when used on their own, operates using only the points of control within the mouth. These are the corners, bars, tongue, and in some cases the roof. These days the roof is seldom used for humane reasons. In general there is little flexion of the poll or the lower jaw, and in most cases the movement results in an upward or raising of the horse's head back towards the rider's hands. There is a huge variety of mouthpieces available. Traditionally the snaffle had a jointed mouth, however in more recent times there has been a movement towards the linked and multi-linked bits. These give a gentler corner action and encourage mouthing. There are some unusual members of the snaffle family.  As you will see, a snaffle bit can have different mouth pieces.  It can have a straight bar or Mullen mouth piece, a three piece or double jointed mouth piece - a Dr. Bristol or French link for example. , a W - mouth piece, even a Waterford.  If the mouth piece is a joined one, each side should be of equal lengths when folded in half, in order for it to work correctly.  A Bridoon is this snaffle, but is made lightweight and slim and has small side rings so that it can be used in a double bridle.  What makes a snaffle a snaffle is that it works on direct pull, the ends may be a loose ring - (which allows for more mouthing), an Egg butt, Dee, a full or half cheek and Baucher]


The snaffle is a very simple bit that allows the rider to communicate directly with the horse’s mouth. It consists of a basic ring-shaped side piece connected by one or more straight or jointed mouthpieces. The type of bar has no bearing on the classification of a bit as a snaffle, as people often confuse any bit with a jointed mouthpiece as a snaffle, when in fact it may be a gag or curb bit.

When pressure is applied to the reins, the bit acts directly on the bars and roof of the mouth and the tongue, to produce lateral flexion in the throatlatch and neck. The bit also does encourage some vertical flexion in the neck and poll.

When pressure is applied to one side of the bit, let’s say to the left rein, the bit slides through the mouth slightly and the action is mainly on the left bar of the mouth and the tongue, as well as the lip, and the right ring closes against the face slightly, encouraging the head to turn left. (or vice-versa for the right rein)

Using the snaffle in conjunction with various nosebands (an article for another day!) might vary the effect of the bit slightly.

Most horses probably start out their training careers in a simple straight bar or jointed snaffle, and many of them will continue to work in a snaffle for the rest of their lives. I would always recommend a snaffle wherever possible, as it is the best test of your horse’s acceptance of the bit. Most riders will never perform movements outside of the basics, and will thus never need a more specialized bit. Many problems that a rider may experience can be solved within the snaffle group without ever having to go to the leverage bits.

Types of Snaffle Bits:

When choosing your bit, there are a few basic rules that will help you decide on whether the bit is softer, stronger and also how it may function.

a) The thinner the mouthpiece, the more pressure will be applied. (Thus a thick mouthpiece will be softer than a thinner one)

b) A double jointed mouthpiece will exert a less severe pressure on the roof of the mouth, tongue and bars, depending on the plate or join in the middle.

c) A bigger ring will exert pressure to a greater portion of the face.

d) Rubber is by no means ‘softer’ but it may encourage the horse to chew the bit more and because it is usually thicker, that would make it softer, not the fact that it is rubber.

It is very important to remember that in the wrong hands, even the softest, kindest snaffle can do damage to the mouth, and that if the horse does not accept the bit in his mouth, there is a schooling problem. If the rider is experiencing a problem with the horse, it is better to go right back to the basics, try to determine what is causing the problem, and try to solve it with the help of a professional.


LOOSE RING JOINTED SNAFFLE:   The loose ring snaffle-to encourage mouthing, is another very popular and very mild bit - for good reason. It too has a simple join and the rings are able to move, as they are fitted into the mouthpiece. The mouthpiece is normally thick, but can be thinner depending on the make. The rings also can vary in size depending on the make. The loose ring snaffle can be made of stainless steel, other metal mixtures, rubber inserts on the mouthpiece or a Nathe, which is a type of bit that has a hard plastic mouthpiece with a cable running inside so that the bit does not break. Also pictured is the popular Apple Mouth bit, which is made of an apple scented polyurethane plastic. The manufacturer claims that this bit encourages the horse to accept the bit and salivate, and it has become a very popular bit indeed . Very interesting indeed that one now even gets these bits in different colours! (A Bradoon – would be a thin bit with small rings suitable for a double bridle) 

STRAIGHT BAR / MULLEN  SNAFFLE:  The straight bar snaffle consists of a straight, solid mouthpiece, usually with a cable inside to prevent the bit from breaking. The mouthpiece is commonly made of rubber or plastic, and the ring is often a round one, although I have seen these with D shaped rings too. I am not a fan of these bits at all, although many people do use them very successfully to start youngsters. I have found that especially the thick, black rubber bits especially, tend to encourage the horse to chew the bit and become very ‘mouthy’, often accompanied by a tilting of the head. If you look at the mouthpiece after many months of use, the rubber has often been chewed so badly that there are holes and uneven parts all over the mouthpiece. Also, the straight bar means that any action on the bit is much more spread over the mouthpiece in the mouth and the action becomes almost ‘fuzzy’ when using it. Any aid you give on one side will be carried to the other too. If you are interested in anything more than schooling your horse to walk, trot, canter and halt in a straight line, then this is probably not the bit for you! This bit can be used on horses that do not like any ‘jiggling noise’ in their mouths when they move their tongues under the bit, as is often found in the jointed bits.


EGGBUTT SNAFFLE:   The Eggbutt snaffle is one of the most basic snaffle bits in the group. The mouthpiece is a thick one, jointed in the centre and the rings are fixed. This means that there is a more direct rein action, and the mouthpiece is soft and encourages horses to accept the bit. It is usually made of stainless steel, or some other metal alloy. There is a version of this bit that has a thinner mouthpiece which would obviously make the bit a little stronger in the mouth, although it remains a very mild bit. [The development of this bit was to have a smoother edge to the mouth piece as man manufactures did not manufacture the loose revolving ring in a manner as so it would not pinch the lips of the horse.  The Eggbutt was developed by the English to solve this problem. The Americans followed suit with the Dee ring and modified it for both English and Western disciplines] Eggbutt with hook holes and also vertical holes for either bridle attachment or to be used as a gag.  (To properly use a bit as a gag you must use two reins, one on the ring of the bit and the other rein attached to the piece that runs through the vertical holes of the bit.  This will apply poll pressure lowering the head where as the other will bring back up the head.)
Magenis Snaffle - This is an Eggbutt snaffle with small rollers placed in the mouthpiece. This is another attempt to vary the pressure of the mouthpiece on the tongue and bars and encourage the horse to play with the bit. It is claimed to pacify headstrong horses, although I think the action of this bit is really just to be stronger or different on the tongue, thereby getting the horse’s attention. If the rider likes to saw left and right on the bit, this bit can be very harsh on the tongue indeed!


JOINTED D RING SNAFFLE:  The D Ring Snaffle is another popular snaffle and is also often used in the racing industry, where it originated. It is normally made of either stainless steel or has a rubber or plastic mouthpiece , or also copper inserts (called a copper roller D ring). The D rings are very similar in action to the Eggbutt snaffle and they prevent pinching of the lips and give a slightly more solid feel against the side of the face. It also prevents the bit being pulled through the mouth, to some extent. AMERICAN SNAFFLES -Although having an aesthetically different cheek, this type of snaffle works in much the same way as the all the other styles. The dee shaped cheek, was developed in America, for the same reasons as the Eggbutt was introduced in England, to prevent chaffing caused by badly finished loose rings. The main difference and advantage that this style of cheek gives, is slight directional assistance, using the face of the horse, similar to that of the full cheek snaffles. In addition, the size of the Dee, means that it is not able to be pulled through the horse's mouth.

There is also a Myler D Ring that has hooks in the rings so that the rider can change the position of the bit in the mouth, depending on what action they would like. The following is the company’s own explanation of how these hooks work:  “Hooks offer leverage with direct action type bits. This feature rolls the mouthpiece forward and downward into the tongue and bars with rein pressure, encouraging the horse to break at the poll. Most traditional ring bits only apply backward pressure into the tongue and bars which can lead a horse to resist. The bit attaches to the headstall and reins with the rein or headstall going from the outside of the bit, through the slot and fastening as shown. It will appear like a traditional ring bit from the side.’

Basically, the bit is rotated in the horse’s mouth, causing it to dig down into the tongue, causing the horse to drop his nose and ’break’ at the poll to avoid the pressure. I cannot imagine that this bit is comfortable for any horse! Once again, I think this is a case of trying to solve a schooling/rider problem with a stronger bit. What this might do by its action is relieve some of the pressure placed on the roof of the mouth, although there are better ways to do this!


[More on Hooks and Holes - Western and English Dees along with Eggbutt bits with hook holes and also vertical holes for either bridle attachment or could be used as a Gag.  (To properly use a bit as a gag you must use two reins, one on the ring of the bit and the other rein attached to the piece that run through the vertical holes of the bit, this will apply poll pressure lowering the head where as the other will bring back up the head.) 

  The full cheek snaffle has a mouthpiece very much like the snaffles already discussed (can also be double jointed) but the rings have cheek pieces above and below the bit. These parts keep the bit steady in the mouth and prevent it from being pulled through the mouth.  In addition, they give a directional assistance, evoked by the rider’s rein aid, by indicating to the horse the direction the head should face. This is specifically useful for young horses or in the re-education of an older one. With the use of keepers, the full cheek prevents the horse turning the bit over in his mouth and if tightly fitted can stop a horse evading by crossing the jaw. It also causes more pressure to the sides of the mouth which can help with novice horses learning to understand and accept the bit.  This bit is excellent for lungeing, as the bit never gets pulled through the mouth, it also offers a bit more control of the head than a normal ring snaffle. To be used correctly, it should really be used with fulmer keepers (pictured) so that the horse does not turn the bit in the mouth although I have used this bit without. The keepers also prevent the cheek pieces from getting stuck in the bridle.


The Fulmer snaffle (pictured above on the right) is almost the same as the bits above, but in this case the bit rings are mobile not fixed. This bit must definitely be used with keepers, as it is very mobile in the mouth. (very much like the loose ring snaffle)

The Half Spoon: Another alternative to this type of cheek piece, is the spoon or half spoon snaffle (pictured) The main difference is that the cheek pieces are smoother and rounder and less likely to get caught in things. Once again, they need to be used with keepers to prevent them getting caught in things or turned over in the mouth while the horse works. Very popular bit for children.

[SPOON CHEEKS in full or half. Provide a great direct rein aid by pushing contact with the side of the horses face, excellent for starting and training young horses.]


Poll pressure snaffles -Within the snaffle family, the hanging or Baucher [(or hanging cheek) Unlike other cheeks, this bit exerts a degree of poll pressure to encourage the horse to lower his head.  The Baucher cheek gives, in addition to the usual points of control associated with the snaffle, an additional element of poll pressure to ask for a lowering of the horse’s head. The lever action of the new Jumper cheek gives a greater degree of poll pressure and introduces a lifter action to keep the horse upright and light in the hand.



I am going to deal with the double jointed snaffle group in its entirety.

A single jointed snaffle has what we call a ‘nutcracker action’ when rein pressure is applied. This means that the bit squeezes down on the lower jaw and bars of the mouth , lifting the middle part at the joint into the roof of the mouth. Although this action is never meant to be severe, and a correctly fitted bit will never ‘poke’ into the roof of the mouth, there are horses that cannot bear any kind of pressure in the roof of the mouth, or they do not like too much pressure on the bars of the mouth.


The types of double jointed snaffles are similar to the single jointed snaffles, such as:

The Full Cheek Double Jointed Snaffle-to the left.   The Loose Ring French Link Snaffle- to the right

A very good solution for these horses is a double jointed snaffle, which is similar to the single jointed snaffle, except for the fact that there is some form of plate in the center of the bit, causing the double join. The action of this bit is milder on the bars of the mouth and on the roof of the mouth, and depending on the plate used in the middle if the bit, can be mild on the tongue. It is a very good bit to use on young horses starting their education, as it encourages acceptance of the bit in a milder manner than with the single jointed snaffle. The shape of the bit means that it fits the mouth better. As a general rule, the flatter the plate in the middle lies on the tongue, the kinder the bit. (bigger surface area = less direct pressure)

There are a myriad of types of plates in the middle of the bit, all with various functions and claims, Some of there are pictured below. The most important difference to remember is that between the French Link (which is allowed in Dressage competition) and the Dr Bristol (which is not) The plate on the French link is designed to lie flat on the tongue, whereas the Dr Bristol lies at a 45 degree angle, making it very strong on the tongue.

The French Link which lies flat        Dr Bristol which does not.


WATERFORD SNAFFLE:  The Waterford is a bit that is often misunderstood. It is often referred to as a very harsh bit, although I have actually used it on many horses and have not found it to be so. This is not a bit for every horse, but under the right circumstances it can be fantastic. This bit is basically a series of balls across the mouthpiece. The entire bit fits snugly around the tongue and that makes it excellent for the horse with a difficult oral conformation. The balls create an unusual surface and that encourages the horse to mouth the bit, or at least pay more attention to the new feel in its mouth. There are variations to that use the Waterford mouthpiece with, for example, a Dutch gag or cheek pieces, etc.

This bit is fantastic for the horse who hates any form of palate pressure at all, as there is none. There is not much nutcracker action, and I must say that riding with this bit really feels almost like there is a continuous line running from your one hand to the other, which takes a bit of getting used to. This bit is great with a horse that has learned to lean a little on the bit, or can be used for a while when your horse feels a little 'dead in front' as it backs them up a little and they say 'Hey! What's this!'

Some variations on this bit include: The Waterford Baucher:  This is what Alixe Etherington, rider and author of "A Bit of Magic" in the UK’s Your Horse Magazine has to say about this bit – I really couldn’t say it any better!  “Since the article in 'Your Horse' magazine, readers have adopted this bit as "The Bit of Magic" and I would certainly agree, as it's one of my personal favorites. It is a strong mouthpiece when activated (pulled), thus giving good brakes, but when being ridden on a general contact it's exceptionally kind and liked by most horses. It is multi-linked and flexible, and whilst each link is chunky and smooth to the feel, it is irregular in shape, so that the style of the construction presents a variable surface with a likeable feel, to the horse. This mouthpiece is designed to lie in a curve, thus giving the concept of a continuous rein, (imagine one rein that goes from the rider's left hand, through the horse's mouth and back to the right hand). This helps the horse to have a better perception of the rider's aids. The bit is normally used slightly oversized, so that it forms a curve when fitted. The Baucher cheeks give a degree of poll pressure, asking the horse to lower his head. The overall result is a strong snaffle, with good mouthing qualities, an asset when riding cross country or hunting.”


TWISTED SNAFFLE:  This bit is a basic snaffle, which can be loose ring, full cheek, double jointed, or even (I noted to my HORROR) a Dr Bristol with a twisted mouthpiece (pictured to right). This bit has very small points of pressure, which means the twists dig into the tongue and bars of the mouth. It was a very popular bit 10 years or so ago, but I think that if your horse needs this type of bit, then there are serious attitude, rider or schooling problems indeed. There are kinder ways of getting your horse’s attention! To feel its action, simply wrap it around your wrist and have a friend pull on the reins. You would need very quiet hands indeed not to hurt your horse.


W SNAFFLE:  This snaffle looks like a loose ring snaffle, but with two mouthpieces. This bit has a W effect when being used in the mouth, with two points of palate pressure. This is often used on horses that are strong, but I would be very wary of putting it into my horse’s mouth. It is very hard on the bars of the mouth, tongue and the palate and if the horse has a small or petite mouth, there will simply not be space in the mouth for all of this bit!

Leverage Action Bits

The Kimberwick Group: [difficult to classify so I put them here]
The Pelham Group:
A bit that transmits pressure on the mouth but also has a leverage action on the mouth and head. Can be made of rubber, metal or plastics. A Pelham is a combination Curb and Snaffle bit and always has a curb chain attached in order to work correctly.
The Curb/Shank Bit Group: A bit that has a leverage action by virtue of its shanks. It has rings only at the top and bottom of the bit and has a curb chain (although some do not), which works on the chin groove. Often used with a Bridoon in Dressage as a double bridle. Popular in Western Riding as a stand alone bit. Also includes some Driving bits.
Gag Bit Group:  A gag bit works by lifting the bit in the mouth in order to encourage the head to be raised. Often used on strong horses that like to lower their heads in order to escape the action of the bit in the mouth and get very strong.

THE KIMBLEWICK:   The Kimblewick group (also sometimes called a Kimberwick) could be seen as the orphan of the bit groups, as no-one is ever really sure how to classify them!  [Some call them Kimblewick or Spanish jumping bits and say they perform like a Pelham but using only one rein)  Bit has a 2 position rein attachment on Dee].  It consists of a mouthpiece, that can be jointed (single, double) or straight across, (Portmouth, Weymouth [this mouthpiece is used in double bridles], rubber and so on) a single ring on the mouthpiece, like a snaffle, and it has a curb chain. The action of this bit is generally like a snaffle on steroids! There is not much leverage on this bit, but the addition of the curb chain means that the action on the tongue, chin groove and bars will be much amplified. This is a very popular bit for eventers and showjumpers because it provides the extra control without extra reins for the rider to have to contend with out in the field. It is a comfortable in-betweener – not as strong as the Pelham, but it demands a little more respect than the Snaffle. The Uxeter Kimberwick has slots in the D-shaped bit rings that allow the rider to pre-determine the amount of lowering action the bit has. When the rein is attached to the upper slot, the pressure over the poll is less than if the rein is attached to the lower slot. This creates less of a lowering effect. Like the Myler bit, it will cause the bit to rotate over the tongue, changing the pressure and causing the horse to change his head position to compensate.

The Nathe Kimblewick -right- has the usual hard yet flexible rubber straight mouthpiece with rubber bit protectors. Ideal for the strong horse with a sensitive mouth, this bit is supplied with a nylon curb strap which the manufacturers claim is less severe than a curb chain. Used with one rein attached either on the D-ring or on the small ring at the bottom of the D-ring, which will rotate the bit.



 THE PELHAM:  The difference between the leverage group and the snaffle group is that the mouthpiece, by means of the shanks on the side, multiply the rein aid to the mouth exponentially. The action of the bit is further multiplied by the use of a curb chain.

A Pelham works on several parts of the horse’s mouth, including: The Bars of the Mouth: this is applied by the mouthpiece and is also directly related to the length of the shanks on the bit. The curb chain creates a 'loop' around the lower jaw which tightens when a rein aid is applied, thus increasing the pressure placed on the bars of the mouth.

  • The Tongue: the mouthpiece, depending on its type and shape exerts pressure on the tongue, as with the snaffle - again, the effect is multiplied by the use of the curb chain. 

  • Roof of the Mouth (Hard Palate): a port on the mouthpiece will have an action on the roof of the mouth, as will a jointed mouthpiece like with the snaffle group.

  • The Poll: the leverage group exerts much more pressure to the poll, depending on the length of the shanks (the longer the shanks, the more the pressure) and many horses will respond favorably to this pressure. 

  • The Chin Groove: pressure is applied to the chin groove by the curb chain, if used. This tightens the ‘loop’ around the lower jaw. 

  • Side of the Jaws and Face: the rings and shanks exert a pressure on the sides of the face and lower jaw and may have a psychological effect on the horse.

[This family of bits attempts to achieve the same results as a double bridle, but by using only one bit. (Pelhams attempt to have all of the attributes of a double bridle set without the aggravation and bulkiness.)  To perform properly, they should always be used with double reins. This single bit works on a variety of points of control within the mouth and in addition exerts pressure on the poll and the curb groove. Whilst not allowed in many competitions it has achieved wide popularity and some spectacular results, particularly within the jumping and hunting fields. (A note on Gag Pelhams:  This odd combination may look cool, but is designed to control a horses head upwards, downwards, back backwards, sideways and out.  Talk about confusion. And to add to this, three reins must too be used to achieve this – yeah right.  So to avoid undue confusion for the horse and rider, gag pelhams should be avoided.]

The Pelham was developed as a combination between the snaffle and curb bit. It consists of a mouthpiece, shanks with TWO rings per side, a curb chain and to use it correctly, two reins should always be used. [left is a Mullen mouth Pelham]

The relation of the shank above and below the mouthpiece will affect the action and severity of the bit. The longer the shank below the mouthpiece, the greater the pressure exerted on the tongue, bars and chin groove. The longer the shank above the mouthpiece, the greater the pressure exerted on the poll.

Pictured right is a Portmouth Pelham, referring to the port in the centre of the mouthpiece. The port will exert pressure on the roof of the mouth when the bit is used, thus care should be taken that the horse does not object to palate pressure. Another problem with a port is that it should fit snugly over the tongue (but rarely does) and if it is too narrow, or wide it can pinch the sides of the mouth and tongue.


Rugby Pelham.  This bit looks like a regular Pelham, but the snaffle ring has been moved so that it actually becomes a loose ring, able to move. The snaffle action becomes more like a Bridoon. The bit gives the impression of being part of a Double Bridle setup without using two bits and is very popular in the Showing Ring.



Nathe Mullenmouth Pelham.  Nathe bits are made from a strong type of plastic, and are strong, yet will flex slightly. This bit has nylon bit connectors and curb strap and was designed with the Showjumper in mind, so that the rider can have plenty of control but only have one rein to deal with . (Mullen-mouth refers to the mouthpiece, which is straight, a Portmouth is a mouthpiece with a port in the centre)


KK Ultra Sprenger Pelham.  KK Conrad Ultra Bits is a range of bits (includes a wide range of bits, not just this Pelham) that take advantage of the exceptional sensitivity of the tongue. According to their website, Sprenger in collaboration with the University of Hannover researched and analyzed measurements of over70 horses’ heads. Their results showed the following: 1) The interior volume of the mouth was less than had been previously thought. 2) The palate was both smaller and very often flatter than previously imagined. 3) The space available for a bit is therefore very limited. Sprenger used this information to develop the ULTRA Range with the aim to improve the bits without increasing severity  Key features;

  • As the palate is narrower than originally assumed the lozenge in the centre was shortened ( no pressure on the palate ).
  • The angle of the link was twisted by 45 degrees. This ensures that when the reins are applied the rounded link rests fully on the tongue without squeezing it.
  • The tongue's sense of touch is fully utilised and clear instructions are given through the reins.

The metal alloy (Aurigan) has also been patented, and is said to encourage salivation and acceptance of the bit. This is a useful Pelham, as it fits the mouth better than the Mullen or Port mouth bits, depending on the horse. There is more sensitivity to the rein aid left and right and this is a bit that I use often and like very much.

CURB /SHANK: A curb bit is a bit that uses leverage as its main action. There is no direct snaffle action, thus the bit consists of a mouthpiece (jointed, straight or with a port) with shanks and a ring only at the end of the shank. There is no ring at the mouthpiece. There may also be a curb chain, although some Western curbs do not have these.

The main action of the curb bit (like the Pelham) is as follows:

  • The Bars of the Mouth: this is applied by the mouthpiece and is also directly related to the length of the shanks on the bit. The curb chain creates a ‘loop’ around the lower jaw which tightens when a rein aid is applied, thus increasing the pressure placed on the bars of the mouth.
  • The Tongue: the mouthpiece, depending on its type and shape exert pressure on the tongue, as with the snaffle – again, the effect is multiplied by the use of the curb chain.
  • Roof of the Mouth (Hard Palate): a port on the mouthpiece will have an action on the roof of the mouth, as will a jointed mouthpiece like with the snaffle group.
  • The Poll: the leverage group exerts much more pressure to the poll, depending on the length of the shanks (the longer the shanks, the more the pressure) and many horses will respond favorably to this pressure.
  • The Chin Groove: pressure is applied to the chin groove by the curb chain, if used. This tightens the ‘loop’ around the lower jaw, pressing down on the bars of the mouth and tongue.
  • Side of the Jaws and Face: the rings and shanks exert a pressure on the sides of the face and lower jaw and may have a psychological effect on the horse.

The curb bit mouthpiece, like the Pelham, controls the pressure on the tongue, roof of the mouth, and the bars. A Mullenmouth (straight across) places even pressure on the tongue and bars, and provides room for the tongue, although the action of this mouthpiece can be very ‘vague’ and if the bit does not move in the mouth as the horse accepts and plays with it, the pressure on the tongue can become ‘dead’. A Portmouth (mouthpiece with a port in the centre) places more pressure on the bars, and is meant to make space for the tongue. In reality, the port should be well fitting, as it will pinch the mouth otherwise, and the high port can apply pressure on the roof of the mouth which the horse may object to. A jointed mouthpiece will have a stronger action on the bars as it breaks. A Double jointed mouthpiece is a comfortable option for the horse. When designed for use with a snaffle bit (bridoon) in a double bridle, this bit is often called a Weymouth.

Western Riders often use curb bits without curb chains on their horses. The action of the bit then changes – there is no pressure on the chin groove, and the pressure on the tongue and bars of the mouth is less. The pressure on the poll is usually still great. There is one problem that is sometimes seen with Western Curb used without the curb chain, that has a single jointed mouthpiece. (Pictured above left) When pressure is placed on the rein, the bit can often rotate too much in the mouth and this results in the mouthpiece digging into the roof of the mouth, as well as a pinching of the tongue and bars, which is very uncomfortable for the horse. Often these horses will open their mouths, tip their heads and ‘yaw’ at the bit to show their discomfort. Often the nutcracker action can be very severe with these bits. (see picture above right) The key to riding with these bits is a kind, gentle contact and almost no direct pull on the reins at all. (Plenty of neck steering!)


[Double bridle -In order to obtain finer positioning of the head the use of a curb bit-a Weymouth  , in addition to a snaffle - the bradoon, may be introduced. With this combination it is possible to obtain a lowering of the head and flexion of the poll and lower jaw. The snaffle, when used with a curb bit, is called a bradoon and operates in an identical manner to when it’s used on its own. A curb bit is designed to exert pressure on the poll and curb groove whilst lying directly across the bars. It can, depending upon the shape of the mouth, exert additional pressure on the tongue, and in rare cases, operate on the roof of the mouth.]

When using a double bridle, the curb bit and bridoon should be arranged in the mouth so that the horse is comfortable and the bridoon lies above the curb, allowing both bits to work to their full ability. The curb chain attaches to the offside hook and should be twisted clockwise until the links lie flat, then hooked onto the nearside hook. A common mistake is to run the curb chain over/on top of the snaffle bit, which renders it almost useless, interferes with the snaffle and could pinch the horse badly. The fly link (a loose link in the middle of the chain) should hang in the middle and the lip strap is threaded through and buckled together. Again, a common misconception is that the lip strap is only necessary for keeping the curb chain in place, but its main function is to stop the cheek of sliding cheek curbs from inverting and rendering the curb ineffective, or from being dragged into the horse's mouth. In the picture, there is no lip strap fitted – it is fitted in the ring you see empty on the curb, through the ring on the curb chain and to the other side. (the poor model does not look too happy either!)

GAG BIT:  This group has undergone a bit of a revolution in the last few years! The traditional gag bits as those of us perhaps older than the cellphone (eeek!) These are the gag bits we grew up with.  There has, however, developed a host of hugely popular gag bits that do not look like the above pictured bits at all, but by means of their action, are classified as gag bits. I will deal with them separately. Traditionally, a gag bit is used on a horse that lowers his head, takes a hold of the bit and runs off. The bit is raised in the mouth and poll pressure is applied – a contradiction if you ask me – which encourages a raising of the head and more control of the runaway. [bit shown to left is an Eggbutt snaffle gag.]

There are three main types of gags:


The Gag Snaffle.  This bit looks like any normal snaffle bit except for the holes in the rings (top and bottom) through which a thick cord runs. When pressure is applied to the rein, the bit is lifted in the mouth and poll pressure is applied. The bit also rotates slightly in the mouth putting more pressure on the tongue and bars. This is a very popular bit on the Polo field. To be correctly used, it must be used with two reins - one on the gag rein and one on the bit, only bringing the gag rein into play when needed, although most people ride on the gag rein only.



The Waterford Gag: The gag action of this bit will be discussed in more detail with the gag group. Its action is also gentle in the mouth but there is more poll pressure than the loose ring snaffle, combined with a slight lifting of the bit in the mouth which is very good for a horse that likes to put his head down and run on! It is a great bit to use when the horse tends to get strong, but still has a sensitive or difficult mouth.


The Dutch Gag. This bit is known by so many names - The Dutch/Pessoa/Continental/3-Ring/4-Ring Gag Bit – and became very popular in about 1994/1995 when it was introduced by the European Showjumpers of the time. This bit is similar to the elevator bit except that there are not solid shanks, bit rings, above and below the mouthpiece. (A bit with only one ring above and below the main ring is often called a Portuguese snaffle, but its action is the same as having the rein on the first ring of this bit.)

When a rein aid is applied, the upper bit ring moves forwards, pulling the bit up in the mouth and rotating it onto the tongue. At the same time, a large amount of poll pressure is applied to the head, causing the horse to lower its head and ‘break’ at the poll. There is also a strong nutcracker action. These bits have become some of the most popular bits seen in the riding world, as they seem to be able to ‘get any horse down on the bit’!   I only have a few problems with this bit and with those related to it, like the Portuguese snaffle. (Oh boy – here we go!)

The action of this bit is such that the rider will be able to apply plenty of rein aid (about 10cm or more) to the bit, which not only means plenty of pressure to the horse’s mouth, but more importantly, teaches the rider to use too much hand! Put back into a loose ring snaffle, the rider will often pull, saw and yank on the horse’s mouth because that is the way the Dutch Gag rides. A rider with a soft, independent hand will be able to ride more sympathetically with this bit, and will not have the same problem. I often see youngsters rushing past with these bits in their horses’ mouths, their hands already past their hips in an effort to apply the rein aid. The rider needs to be taught how to use the hands correctly, quietly and sympathetically, and to ask with seat and leg first, then lastly and most definitely least, hand.

Another problem with this bit, is because there is so much movement on the bit and especially the upper ring, very often the skin around the mouth is rubbed raw. Vaseline can be applied to the raw areas to try to offer some relief, but in that case, I always loosely attach a ‘make-shift curb strap’ (usually a thick leather spur strap or the flash part of a noseband) that I fit under the chin. This will change the action of the bit somewhat – introduce some curb action, but will lessen the action on the bars and tongue and will lessen the movement of the upper ring and bit in the mouth in general. With the curb strap added, I find most horses settle very well in this bit and the gag action is lessened somewhat. In fact, I prefer using the bit this way.

The bottom line really is that in the wrong hands, this bit can become an instrument of torture, and can cause more problems than it solves. When used sympathetically and correctly, it can be a fantastic way of introducing more poll pressure, more control and better responses out of any working horse. But too often, a horse giving problems in a snaffle bit is moved on to this type of gag, without paying any attention to the cause of the problem. It may make the horse look pretty for a while, but eventually the old problems will creep back in because the root of the problem has not been sorted out and the rider has not been taught to give the aids effectively and correctly.

I do find this to be a fantastic bit for those horses that get cheeky in the showjumping ring or on the cross country course and get away from their riders. Especially those that like to toss up their heads and run on – it brings them back to attention quickly, and I would rather see this type of bit in a horse’s mouth than perhaps the old way of curing that habit with a twisted snaffle! The rider should just pay attention to their hands and their riding and use the bit gently and sympathetically.

The Elevator: The Elevator is not a bit that is very commonly seen here. It consists of a snaffle mouthpiece with cheeks or shanks attached to the side. The upper shank has a hole to attach the cheekpiece, the lower shank has several holes to attach the rein. The lower the rein is placed on the shank, the more severe the leverage. When rein pressure is applied, the bit lifts and rotates in the mouth and places pressure on the poll, as the upper shank moves forward, as well as on the lips. Because of the extreme length of the upper shanks, there is a lot of poll pressure exerted on the head. This type of bit is more common with the gaited horses.





These are bits that are used in very specific situations.  [This includes specialty and combination type bits, bitless bridles, hackamores and bozals.] 

Obviously, I have covered only the most popular bits in this article, and there is a host of bits and contraptions out there that the rider can pick and choose from. If the basic principles are applied to every piece of bit, the rider will be able to work out what the action is and how the bit might work. Do not let a sales person fool you into buying a bit that you do not understand or that goes against what you know will not work on your horse. If you compare two bits and one has much longer shanks than another, you know which one is likely to be stronger!

The following are a few bits that the rider may encounter and their uses:

 HORSESHOE SHOWING BIT.  This bit is popular in the showing arena and is made of brass. It is mainly used when showing horses in hand, and really is a straight bar snaffle with decorative appeal.


CHIFNEY ANTI-REARING BIT.  This bit is normally fitted to a halter or bridle and is used to control stallions, especially those who rear. It is a common bit in the racing industry. The top bar fits into the mouth and the lower part circles the jaw on the outside. The lead rein fits onto the lower ring. There are many variations to this bit, some even incorporating straight or rubber covered mouthpieces.


DEXTER RING BIT.  This is another popular racing bit. It consists of a bit that is attached to a second ring that encircles the lower jaw and acts as a second bit. It is a very strong bit and the nutcracker action of the snaffle with the second ring over the tongue and around the jaw. The check pieces pictured here will also exert pressure on the side of the face, helping the horse to turn.



MILKMAR COMBINATION BIT.  When first faced with this bit, one’s initial reaction may be shock and confusion, but again, if you break the bit down into its parts, its action becomes clearer. This bit has become popular with showjumpers, and has always been popular in the Western riding world.  “The bit operates through both direct action and leverage, with the addition of nose pressure, when desired. It is to be used with a leather curb strap or curb chain, and can be used with or without a Cavesson. There are a variety of options for rein configurations. When attaching a single rein to the nose rope, and the rider applies pressure (pulls) on the reins, it sends a signal simultaneously to the nose, mouth (bars and tongue), chin and poll, instead of to just one focused area. The horse receives pressure to the nose rope and curb strap, through the cheek pieces, just ahead of the mouthpiece. The nose rope applies downward and backward pressure and the curb strap applies upward pressure. This encourages vertical flexion. The wide, mild mouthpiece immediately following, rotates slightly and slowly downward and back to apply pressure over the tongue and bars. The width of the mouthpiece gives the horse an advanced signal that there is an incoming request. The bit also incorporates a copper roller, which stimulates saliva production, and keeps a nervous or “busy- mouthed” horse pacified. Also, it discourages the horse from putting the tongue over the bit.” Frank Evans – creator.  When reading up on this bit, though, there was one issue that confused me – the bit designer, Frank Evans, says that his goal in designing the bit was to “to be able to protect a horse's mouth” and “a kinder, yet more effective way to communicate with your horse... it affords the rider the ability to finesse their ride with superior communication, allowing the horse and rider to form the perfect combination”. What I understand from his writings, was that he designed this bit for the rider with poor hands. What my common sense says is to fix the rider problem first… then use the bit. There are many rave reviews from top international riders singing the praises of the bit.


Shank/Gag Combination Bit: This bit has 4 rings, three of which allow for 3 different rein positions [(Can perform like a snaffle,  full cheek,  Baucher with leverage from the purchase -area above the bit).  In addition to this feature the bit has a noseband that aids in additional communication (much like a Cavison or hackmoore but is attached to the bit).]




A bitless Bridle is one where there is no mouthpiece in the horse’s mouth, and the rein aid is given by pressure on the nose, face and chin groove. There is also an aspect of psychological control on the horse. The bitless bridle can also be combined with a bit in the mouth as a control aid, especially by showjumpers.

There are a few general types of bitless bridles:

THE BOSAL. The Bosal is one if the simplest forms of bitless bridle. It was developed by the Spanish, and brought to the Americas where is became very popular. This bridle (noseband) works on the nose and chin groove and slightly on the poll, but the horse is usually ridden by neck-steering and not much pressure is ever placed on the reins and the bosal.

It is also referred to as the Western hackamore. Usually made entirely out of rawhide, it is an amazing piece of art and craftsmanship. Bosals come in different thicknesses - you would start a young horse in a thicker bosal and then progress to a thinner one. The bottom part of the bosal is called the heel. (where the big knot is). The reins are attached there (see picture). Bosals reins are usually made of horsehair (macate) and attached in such a way as to provide reins , and a lead rein. (see the double rein in the picture on the horses left side? One 'rein' is the lead rein.) Bosal is adjusted quite loose so when the reins are picked up, the heel knot moves back and the bosal comes into contact with the horses jaw. Release the reins and the heel knot drops back into position as in the picture. True Californian Bridle horses are trained in a simple snaffle, then bosal, then two-rein (bosal with curb bit) and then finally in the 'bridle' or curb bit. This is an amazing schooling process which unfortunately seems to be dying out.


THE HACKAMORE.  The Hackamore is the most commonly seen bitless bridle in the riding world and has been around for many years indeed. It consists of metal plates next to the cheeks with shanks, thus the action is multiplied on the nose, poll and chin groove. A curb strap is also fitted which multiplies the effect even further. The longer the shanks, the stronger the effects of the rein aid on the face. Great care should be taken when using this bit, as people can forget how much pressure it may exert – if incorrectly fitted, it can do plenty of damage to the horse.


The Whitaker Hackamore (right) is a very popular bit in the showjumping arena, and is often combined with a bit in the mouth. The shanks are very long, so the rein aid is multiplied greatly. It can be a very good option for a horse that has suffered a mouth injury, has tooth problems or does not go well with a bit in the mouth. Again, it should be used sympathetically and with expert help.  Whatever form of Hackamore is chosen, care should be taken to fit it correctly and remember that the longer the shanks, the harder the brakes! Remember that the horse cannot breathe through his mouth! (To fit : the noseband should fit about two to three finger’s width below the prominent cheekbones – somewhere between the fit for a drop and cavesson noseband.)


SIDE PULL BRIDLE.  The sidepull bridle functions much like a halter with the reins connected to the side rings. The bridle pulls against the side of the face, depending on the rein aid given. Most sidepulls have a narrow nylon rope as the over-the-nose piece to give the rider a way to exert some directional and stopping pressure on the horse's nose.  This bridle could work very well on a well behaved and schooled horse or pony, but I am unsure what effect it would have on a horse getting hot and carried away in the showjumping arena….. This is a possible option for quiet ponies and horses used for therapeutic riding or lessons, where there is someone leading the horse, or the horse is working in a confined space like a double lunge arena, as it saves the mouth from harsh pulls by inexperienced riders. (although there are some other clever ways to save the horse’s mouth with a bit in)


Dr Cook’s Bridle. There has been much talk about this bridle recently. I will quote Dr Cook himself as to how this bridle works: “Although The Bitless Bridle (BB) is indisputably a bitless bridle it bears no other resemblance to the pre-existing and traditional bitless bridles, i.e., the hackamores, bosals, and sidepulls. In common with all bitted bridles, the traditional bitless bridles are pain-based in their mechanism. The BB is the only bridle that ensures a pain-free rein aid. It works on an entirely new and different concept compared with all previous bridles. The BB provides, as it were, full service communication, whereas the traditional bitless bridles all have limitations in their ability to provide for rider/horse communication. The hackamores and bosals, for example, make some provision for stopping (though with similar inherent problems to the bit method) but are weak on steering, whereas the sidepulls provide for steering but are weak on stopping. Furthermore, whereas the BB is applicable to all disciplines, the traditional bitless bridles are not.

STEERING - Brief pressure on one rein (yellow arrow) pushes painlessly but persuasively on the opposite half of the head (red arrows). Horses respond better to being pushed painlessly (nudged) with the Bitless Bridle™ (over a large surface area) than being pulled painfully by a bit (with highly focused pressure on the sensitive tissues of the mouth). Where the head goes the horse follows. Unlike the effect of a bit, that tends to twist a horse's head, the head stays upright and the turn is more natural and physiologically correct. By comparison with either bits or other bitless bridles (hackamores, bosals and sidepulls), more effective steering is one of the first benefits that riders notice. The Bitless Bridle™ 'works' with both direct and neck reining.

SLOWING AND STOPPING - Brief pressure on both reins or alternate pressure on each rein applies a gentle squeeze to the whole of the head and triggers a 'submit' response. Braking is probably attributable to a combination of the calming effect of a whole-head-hug; to initiation of a balancing reflex at the poll; to the stimulation of areas of special sensitivity behind the ears; and to painless pressure across the bridge of the nose. The "brakes" are more reliable than those provided by the bit. First, bit-induced pain causes many a horse to bolt rather than brake. Secondly, at no time can the horse deprive the rider of all means of communication by gripping the bit between its teeth or under its tongue. Unlike the mechanics of the bit, hackamore, bosal or sidepull, braking is not dependent on pain across the bridge of the nose, poll flexion and obstruction of the airway.

The above advice on steering/stopping, using the nudge/hug approach of the Bitless Bridle should, ideally, be used simply as a back-up, if required, to the more important aids provided by body weight, balance and breathing. There has been mixed reaction to this bridle. Some people have found it to be super and their horses go well in it. Others have complained that the point where the reins cross over under the jaw should be better designed, as the rein closest to the jaw gets ‘trapped’ by the rein going over it. There is definitely more poll pressure with this bridle than with the plain sidepull bridle.


I often get asked questions about changing bits, misbehaving ponies and so on. Many of the people with questions are under the impression that a change in bit is required to magically change their horses and ponies. How can you tell if the problem you are facing is a bit-related one? I am going to attempt to explain this and give some guidance.

There are some instances where a trainer will be able to see right off the bat that the horse has a bit problem – usually it is a question of too much brakes, hardly ever too little! Problems in the mouth are usually the number one cause of a bit problem, which is sorted out by having the mouth seen to by an expert – not by changing the bit! These would include:

  • Dry, open mouth

  • Tilting of the head when working

  • Leaning on the hands

  • Tongue over the bit

  • Extreme sensitivity to the bit – often shows in its most extreme form as rearing when a rein aid is applied

  • Bolting

  • Head tossing / head shaking

Other problems in the mouth could be because the horse’s oral conformation is not suited to the bit being used – in which case a change of bit might work very well. For example – if you are riding an Arab with a fine, sensitive mouth, you may want to use a snaffle with a thick mouthpiece to keep the bit soft, but remember there is not much space in that mouth! A better option would be a Double jointed snaffle that would conform to the tongue and soften on any hard palate pressure. A thinner mouthpiece could also then be used which would suit the fine structure and yet not be as harsh on the bars.

The most common problem you will see with a horse that is ‘over-braked’ is the tongue over the bit. It is often caused by over-bitting the horse at a young age and the horse learns to put his tongue over the bit to escape the pressure or the discomfort. This type of horse may respond well to a Waterford or a bitless bridle for a while, until his confidence in the bit can slowly be built up again. Be aware of riding with soft hands too, as this horse will be very sensitive to any communication via the bit. A grackle noseband is often a good option as a noseband, but by all means, please stay away from the curbs, pelhams and double bridles – it will exacerbate the problem! A poor fitting bit will also often cause this behaviour, and once learnt, it is very difficult to re-school.

My advice would be to stick to the softest bit possible, and school your horse with the help of a professional – once your horse is ignoring you and you are already on the strongest combination of bit, there is not much hope for you! It will take an intensive re-schooling program to get your horse focused and accepting of the bit again. Also, school your horse in the softest bit possible at home, and fit your pelham or double bridle a week or so before your show. This will keep your horse fresh to the bit and will not cause his mouth to harden up to the bit. If you jump in a Dutch Gag, do the same – school in your snaffle and jump in your gag – that will keep the horse listening and fresh and will also give you an idea of how your horse is accepting the bit and your aids.

Another great tip if your horse has a snaffle mouth but gets a little ‘dead’ or unresponsive every once in a while, is to simply change him over in the snaffle group – for example you might school him in a loose ring snaffle, but he feels a bit dead in front and you are not happy with his sharpness to your aid. Pop him into a Waterford snaffle or a Copper D-Ring snaffle for a few days and he will feel the change and it should get his attention. After a few days, put him back in the loose ring snaffle and he should feel a little more responsive and lighter in front.

A horse that is battling to salivate and soften his mouth to the bit can be helped by using a mouthing bit, which I did not mention in the above text, but which I found to be a fantastic way of loosening up the jaw and mouth. It is basically a snaffle bit (can have loose rings or check pieces) that is jointed in the centre with little ‘beads’ or ‘keys’ in the middle. The keys hang on the tongue and the horse will play with them, thus loosening a tight, clenched jaw and relaxing the mouth. The only problem that this bit may cause if used in a young, sensitive horse is that he may frighten at the keys and pull his tongue back in the mouth, encouraging him to put his tongue over the bit. However, when used with older, more experienced horses, it is a super way of softening the mouth again.

Another way of helping your horse to salivate is to apply honey or syrup mollases to the bit. It can then also be rolled in molasses meal. This is a rather messy affair, but the horse will immediately start to mouth the bit and salivate. I always introduce youngsters to the bit like this in the stable, as they associate the sweet, pleasant taste with the bit in their mouths and accept the bridle and bit readily.


The correct fit of the bit is vital in order for it to function correctly and for the horse to be comfortable. Many bit problems are caused by incorrectly fitting bits.

The old saying of fitting a bit so that there are 1 to 2 wrinkles on the side of the mouth is a bit misleading. Horses have different lengths of mouth, jaw and lips and all of that can play a role in the fit of the bit.

I have found that the best fit for the snaffle bit is to fit it to the corner of the lips, then depending on the length of the horse’s face, I drop it one or two holes, so that there is no wrinkle of the lip. Don’t get me wrong here, if the bit is banging about on his inscisor teeth, it is too low! Test the bit by placing it up and down one or two holes until you are sure the horse is comfortable, or ask an instructor to help you. This puts the bit in the part of his jaw where there are no teeth (his diastema), where it will not bang about on any teeth and the horse learns to soften to it. By wrinkling the lips, the bit is placed too high in the mouth, and the bit will rub against the premolars, the lips will pinch in the noseband – especially if you are using a flash – and the horse will often learn to lean on the bit as a way of relieving his discomfort. Be careful not to place the bit too low, as it is a more sensitive area of the mouth.

The width of the bit is also important because it will play a role in the functioning of the bit in the mouth. A bit should fit so that it is just clear of the lips on the side, and when pulled to one side, there should not be much movement of the bit left and right. If you can pull the bit across the mouth and slide more than one finger in between the ring and lip, chances are your bit may be too big! (And of course, in some cases even one finger fitted between the bit and the lip is too big! The bit should fit snugly!)

Also of course, if the bit is barely poking out from under the lips and rings are pinching the corners of the mouth – the bit is too small!

If you're using a curb bit (a pelham, kimblewick or western curb), again, it should rest against the corners of the horse's mouth without making a wrinkle. When fitting a curb chain, always remember to rotate it so that it lies flat, and remember that it should allow the bit to swivel 45 degrees, then be tight against the chin. Any tighter, and the bit becomes a vice – horribly uncomfortable for the horse. Any looser, and the curb flattens out when used and becomes almost no more than a snaffle in action. Putting two fingers sideways under the curb chain is a rough estimate of whether the chain is adjusted properly, but of course that depends on the horse or pony. A lip strap should always be used with a pelham bit, which keeps the curb from inverting, or turning over in the mouth, which can be a horrific experience for the horse.


1. SHOWJUMPING (excerpt from SANEF Showjumping Rules, May 2006): “There is no restriction on bits. However, the Ground Jury has the right, based on veterinary advice, to forbid the use of a bit that may cause injury to the horse. Reins must be attached to the bit(s) or directly to the bridle. Gags and hackamores are allowed. The use of bearing , side and running or draw reins is forbidden. Sheepskin may be used on each cheek piece of the bridle providing the sheepskin does not exceed 3 cm in diameter measured from the horse’s face The use of a tongue-strap is not allowed.”

2. DRESSAGE (excerpt from SANEF Dressage Rules, Aug 2004):


(a) Only those bits illustrated and/or described in Appendix 4 are permitted.

(b) Bit guards are NOT permitted.

(c) The minimum diameter of snaffle bits at the bars of the horse's mouth has been fixed at 10 mm. This is measured either against the outer loose ring, or at the beginning of the radius on egg-butt and similar snaffles.

(d) Pelhams with connectors are allowed for Children’s Preliminary classes. (rule change 1/5/2003)

(e) The Bridoon and Curb bits must be made of metal or rigid plastic and may be covered with rubber (flexible rubber bits are not permitted).

(f) The lever arm of the curb bit is limited to 10cm (length below the mouthpiece). If the curb has a sliding mouthpiece, the lever arm of the curb bit below the mouthpiece should not measure more than 10cm when the mouthpiece is at the uppermost position.

NOSEBANDS (a) Either a dropped noseband or a Cavesson as illustrated in Appendix 3 may be used with a snaffle bridle, but not both. A cavesson noseband, whether used with a snaffle or double Bridle, may never be so tightly fixed as to harm the horse. The decision of the President of the Ground Jury shall be final. (b) A Mexican noseband or Flash noseband as illustrated in Appendix 3 is also permitted with a snaffle bridle.”

3. EVENTING (Excerpt from SANEF Eventing rules May, 2003):


See National Rules for Dressage Events. For the purposes of conforming with the National Dressage Rules governing Saddlery, Eventing Dressage Tests shall be classified as follows:

Children’s Novice & Intermediate Tests - Novice
Children’s Open Tests - Elementary
All Novice Tests - Novice
Intermediate Tests 1 - 4 - Novice
Intermediate Tests 5 & 6 - Elementary
All Open Tests - Elementary
All Championship Tests – ElementaryThe rule in respect of “Exercising and/or Warming Up at an Event”
(Dressage Rule 33.5.0) will apply from the start of the day of the competitor’s dressage test until the test is completed.At multi discipline shows (e.g. Children’s and Junior’s Championships) this rule will only to competitors on the day of their Dressage Test until their Test is completed.


"English" type saddles are compulsory. The saddle may not have excessive blocking material or padding situated behind the rider’s leg with the apparent intention of retaining or supporting the rider in the saddle. Blinkers and hoods of any kind are prohibited.

Bridles must be worn and must include at least one complete rein which must only be attached to the bit(s).

Gags, hackamores and bitless bridles are allowed provided that the reins are attached in the normal manner.

The following are forbidden:

Any form of side, running, bearing or balancing reins;
Tongue straps and/or tying the horse's tongue;
Any other restriction;
Any bit or other item of saddlery likely to wound a horse.
Stirrup leathers and/or irons may not be attached to the girth neither may the foot be attached to the stirrup in any way.
Only unrestricted running martingales are allowed.
These rules apply equally to the warm up and practice jump areas.
It is strongly recommended that surcingles be worn.
The Technical Delegate and/or Cross-Country Judge shall have absolute authority in deciding whether a bridle and/or saddle complies with these regulations.”

4. SHOWING (Excerpt from SANEF Showing Rules):


Show Hack/Pony, Show Riding Horse/Pony and Show Hunter/Pony competitions.

a) No competitor is permitted to change any tack during the judging of a competition, except in the case of an emergency and provided the judge’s consent has been obtained.

b) No horse competing in a Showing competition may wear a bitless bridle, martingale, auxiliary reins, bandages, gags, flash, grackle, crank, dropped nose bands, breast plates, Hackamores, gag action bits or gadgets.

c) All bits must have smooth mouthpieces.

d) Snaffles or bridoons must only have one ring on each side and one mouthpiece which may not be square, serrated, of wire, chain or have rollers of any kind.

e) The sides of jointed mouthpieces must be of equal length.

f) No tongue checks of any kind are permitted.

g) Pelham or curb bits may only have a moderate port or simple joint in the centre.

h) Only cavesson nosebands are allowed.

i) Pelham or snaffles for all Showing Competitions. A simple double bridle may be used in all but Novice or young children’s competitions.

j) Juniors or adults may not use couplers or rein connectors.


Working Riding and Working Hunter competitions

a) No horse competing in Working competitions may wear auxiliary reins, bandages or bitless bridles.

b) Reins must be attached to bit(s) or directly to the bridle.

c) Martingales must be correctly fitted.

d) The use of string, wire, twine, cord or anything similar in the horse’s mouth is prohibited. Tongue guards are not allowed.

e) Blinkers or earmuffs are not allowed.


a) Plain snaffle bridle

b) Pelham with or without couplers.

c) Simple double bridles but may not be used on First ponies.

d) Simple double bridle or pelham are preferable in Open competitions.

e) Only a cavesson noseband may be worn.”

5. EQUITATION (Excerpt from SANEF Equitation Rules):


81.3.1 All bits/bridles and equipment as per current Showjumping regulations are permissible, except as per 81.3.5

81.3.2 Bearing, side and running reins are prohibited in all competitions, including in the practice arena.

81.3.3 Only whips not longer than 75 cm, including a compulsory flap, may be used.

81.3.4 No saddlery changes are allowed during a competition except when authorised by the senior judge.

81.3.5 No sheepskin saddle covers are allowed.

6. VAULTING (Excerpt from SANEF Vaulting Rules, May 2005):


71.11.1 Snaffle bridle, with smooth bit, no more than two joints. Rubber bit guards are permitted.

71.11.2 Side reins with or without rubber rings or elastic inserts, adjusted appropriately for the gait (see Guidelines for Judges), even if this entails adjusting their length between canter compulsory and walk free-style tests.

71.11.3 Vaulting surcingle with under pad and preferably wither and girth padding. No more than two grips. No more than one Cossack strap/loop on each side below the grip. No hand or foothold may be attached to the back, wither or girth pad. Gel pads are allowed. The surcingle may have one loop between grips. See Appendix C.”


*(I have not discussed the driving bits in this discussion – my apologies to all driving enthusiasts! For more info please contact your local Sporting Body, like THS, etc or check the sane website

8. POLOCROSSE (Excerpt from the International Polocrosse Rules):

(a) Players must be properly dressed in registered National Association colours, riding boots and approved headgear, breeches or jodhpurs.

(b) The Umpire shall be properly dressed in recognized and distinctive riding dress.

(c) No player shall wear spurs with sharp rowels.

(d) The Umpire shall have the right to determine the safety of all bits. Bits with protruding sidebars shall not be permitted.

(e) All gear must be sound and in good order.

(f) Polo or lightweight Poley saddles are recommended which shall be equipped with girth, surcingle and breastplate or combination girth, surcingle and with breastplate.

(g) Roping saddles or saddles equipped with a horn shall not be used.

(h) The Polocrosse stick may be of any length but the head shall have an internal stringing area no greater than 216 mm in length by 184 mm and shall have no metal reinforcements or any protrusions.

(i) Players must be correctly numbered with clearly visible numbers not less than 230 mm high on their backs and a second number of no less than 115 mm which shall be clearly visible on either the front or the arm.

"Attack" players shall be numbered 1

"Centre" players shall be numbered 2

"Defence" players shall be numbered 3

In local competition numbers on the back only are acceptable

(j) Horses will play with protective bandages/boots and coronet boots on all four legs.

(k) All whips to have a flapper on the end at least 12.5 mm wide and 50 mm long. A professionally manufactured crop is required

(l) No split or running reins shall be allowed. A running rein is defined as any attachment from hand through bit to saddle, girth, breastplate etc., or anything, which may be construed as a second rein. A professionally manufactured Market Harborough is accepted provided a single rein is used.

(m) A list specifying the use of spurs/whips and any other equipment usually used on the horse whilst playing polocrosse be supplied and the owner to supply the bit with the horse in which it is to be ridden in at all times.”

9. POLO (Excerpt from the International Polo Rules):


(a) Protection of ponies by boots or bandages on all 4 legs is compulsory.

(b) Blinkers or any form of noseband or other equipment which obstructs the vision of the pony, are not allowed.

(c) A calkin or stud must only be fitted on the last inch (2.5 cms) of the hind shoes.
(d) Shoes with an outer rim, toe grab, screws, studs with hard centres or frost nails are not allowed.
(e) Certain rules regarding the equipment for ponies may vary from country to country. These rules must be obeyed when playing in that country.


(a) Players must take all reasonable steps to ensure the welfare of their ponies.
(b) Any pony showing blood, whether from the mouth, flanks or any other part, shall be removed from the game.

(c) After the fall of a pony, it shall be trotted up sound and fit to play before the player remounts.

(d) Any pony that is lame shall be removed from the game.

(e) The umpires have the authority to order the removal of any pony from the game.

(f) Certain rules regarding the welfare of ponies may vary from country to country and such rules must be obeyed when playing in that country.”


I have tried to cover as many aspects of the types of bits as possible, and hope it has helped the rider to understand the basic principles of bitting and bits.
Renee Swanepoel / Alixe Etherington with additions from [Cathy Sheets Tauer]

RETURN TO INDEX  or  call now to place an order: 507-723-5937  or  Toll Free in US: 866-723-5937 or  Order Form

© 2001-2017
Web Master - Cathy Sheets Tauer