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Snaffle Bits - A Closer Look

What are Snaffle Bits and How do they Work?

Many of us will learn to ride with a snaffle bit, whether we ride English or Western style. It is the most common type of bit, consisting of a bit mouthpiece with a ring on either side. There are various sorts of snaffles, however, the structure is basically the same for all. The action in the horse's mouth is very similar. Snaffle bits are relatively mild bits, in comparison to those that have additional wire wrapping and other variations that are that can be harsher on the horse's mouth.

Two loose ring snaffle bits and an eggbutt snaffle bit
My own horse goes pretty comfortably in a jointed hollow mouth snaffle. It is used with bit guards so that his lips aren't pinched whilst I am riding him. Even if you don't begin using snaffles, there's a very good chance that you will do at some point during your riding education. Snaffles are usually the very first bit that a horse will carry. Many will be ridden throughout their whole lives with a snaffle bit.

The Action of Snaffle Bits

It can be useful to know how snaffle bits work so that you can learn how to hold the reins correctly and avoid being either too hard or too ineffectual on your horse's mouth. Whilst it's true that the basic action of these bits is the same, you may need to try a few in order to find one that your loyal companion is most comfortable with. Don't be surprised if the task of choosing the right bits takes longer than you expected.

When you pull the reins, pressure is applied to the bars of your horse's mouth (the area of the gums without teeth). The bit should sit comfortably here, just forward of the grinding teeth. Sometimes, if a horse has trouble carrying a bit, its small teeth (referred to as ) may need to be extracted, or a bit seat created.

How the Horse Reacts

The snaffle bits apply pressure to the bars of your horse's mouth. No pressure is felt anywhere else on their head, and no leverage occurs, as it does with curb bits. When you pull the reins back in a straight manner, the horse will understand that equal pressure on the sides of their mouth means to come to a halt. Similarly, if you pull the reins to the right, and pressure is applied to the right bar, they are to turn right. Of course, a pull to the left means they are to turn left.

A Variety of Snaffles

There are a wide variety of snaffles on the market. They can be hollow (great for reducing the weight that the horse must bear), flexible, twisted, jointed with links, have rollers or keys, be oval or squared, or have a combination of joints and shapes. Different metals and materials are used in order to encourage a horse to produce saliva. Synthetics such as copper, vulcanite and sweet iron are frequently used. Some bits, which are often used for teaching a young horse how to hold the bit properly, are flavoured.


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