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Are Pelham Bits Harsh?

If your horse is strong and you find that you are struggling to exert sufficient control, then using Pelham bits could be your solution. This type of bit gives riders a mechanical advantage as it is possible to exert more pressure. However, this bit is suited only to experienced riders its lever action means that in the wrong hands too much pressure is applied, and it would become harsh on the horse’s mouth.

What are Pelham Bits?

Pelham bits are designed to function in a similar way to a double bridle but with the Pelham, the horse will only have one mouthpiece in its mouth. The Pelham combines the action of a snaffle bit and the curb action of a Weymouth and comes as straight bars and jointed. It exerts pressure on the horse’s mouth and its chin. Some horses react well to a Pelham, others dislike them intensely!

This type of bit features two sets of rings and so is used with two sets of reins. The lever action means that the reins attached to the lower or curb ring exert more force on the horse’s mouth than the reins attached to the upper or snaffle rings. Riders should be aware that the forces exerted on the horse here are up to three times stronger than they can feel in their hands. For this reason it is best to ride with the snaffle reigns below the curb reins in your hands so that you primarily use the less forceful reins.

How to Use a Pelham with a Single Rein

If your horse performs well in Pelham bits but you do not wish to ride using two reins then there is another option. You can use roundings to bridge the snaffle rings and curb rings. Roundings are basically leather loops to which you attach a single rein. Using a single rein in this way largely negates the extra control you can achieve with this bit but is a good solution if your horse happens to be comfortable with the bit.

The Curb Chain

Pelham bits also feature a curb chain which sits under the horse’s chin when the bit is in place. When you pull back on the reins attached to the curb rings, this chain applies pressure to the chin. Care should be taken when fitting the bit to ensure that this chain is unwound and lies flat against the horse. When at rest the chain should appear slack. It should only apply pressure to the horse when you pull on the reins.

Pelham bits can be used in most riding disciplines but is not permitted for use in dressage. It gives the experienced rider the control they need if their horse is headstrong. It effectively gives rider’s more powerful brakes! But it is all too easy to exert too much pressure on the horse’s mouth. For this reason the Pelham is a bit for experienced riders who can use the double reins with the necessary finesse.


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