An open mind is essential when it comes to bits and mouthpieces. The severity of a bit is not the issue; it is the person who is using it. It is all about finding the right bit for the job and using it correctly. We want to get the desired response as quickly as possible, without having to pull on the bit multiple times.
Every horse is an individual and will respond differently to different bits. We encourage everyone to step outside of their comfort zone and try new bits as they learn more about them. However, it is important to consult with a professional if you are unsure about the severity of a bit.
The shank is the portion of a bit that is located below the mouthpiece.
It acts as a lever, and its length and curve determine how the bit will react to the rider's hand. A bit with a more curved shank will have a slower reaction, while a bit with a straighter shank will have a quicker reaction. A longer shank provides more leverage.
The bit’s purchase is the distance between the headstall attachment and the mouthpiece.
In most cases, a bit with more purchase will help the horse to flex its poll, round its shoulders, and come onto the hindquarters. The longer the purchase, the higher on the jaw the curb strap will attach. This will give some horses a new feel. A bit is a lever. The shorter the purchase, the quicker the response on the mouth so less pulling is needed to control the horse. The longer the purchase, the slower the response will be.
The mouthpiece is one of the most important parts of the bit. There are hundreds of mouthpiece combinations, but one of the main differences is whether they are jointed or solid.
- Thicker mouthpieces are milder.
- More joints = more bend.
- Fewer joints = less bend.
- Solid mouthpieces stiffen a horse that over-bends.
Choose the right bit for your horse's needs.
In general, the more breaks in a mouthpiece, the more lateral flexion (bend) it will provide. Jointed mouthpieces can be less intimidating for young horses. In terms of training, a broken mouthpiece can loosen up a stiff horse by encouraging the horse to flex. A solid mouthpiece can stiffen up a bendy horse by providing more resistance to the horse's movement. Fewer breaks can be more suitable for horses that already have too much bend. Bits with a larger mouthpiece diameter are considered milder or softer than those with a thinner diameter because they distribute the pressure over a larger area of the horse's mouth.
The mouthpiece comes into contact with the bars, tongue, and upper pallet. How it is jointed affects how it interacts with the mouth. Horses are individuals, and each one will have its own preferences when it comes to bits. Some horses will prefer a single-jointed mouthpiece, while others will prefer a different type of bit. It is important to experiment with different bits to find the one that is the best fit for your horse.
The thinner the mouthpiece of a bit, the more feedback the rider will feel in the reins. This is because a thinner mouthpiece will put more pressure on the horse's mouth, which will allow the rider to feel more of what the horse is doing. This can be helpful for riders who want to be more precise in their communication with their horse. However, it is important to note that a thinner mouthpiece can also be more uncomfortable for the horse, so it is important to choose the right mouthpiece for the horse's individual needs.
It is always best to consult with a professional before choosing a bit for your horse if you are unsure.
Mouthpieces go from the mildest to the more direct.
It conforms to the horse's mouth. Rather than hitting specific areas, bar, tongue, lips, and pallet, it conforms over the tongue and lips to distribute even pressure. It is good on a horse that you are looking to add bend to or one that hasn’t found a bit they love. A low palate, fat tongue, or a mouth-damaged horse will prefer a chain. They can be severe when used incorrectly. This soft mouthpiece causes damage if see-sawed or snatched on.
Smooth with 3 Link Middle: This mouthpiece has ¼” smooth sides with a stainless steel chain middle. It is great for the young and old. It allows the sides to work independently. The chain lays nicely across the tongue to prevent pressure points and the nutcracker effect. It is a very easy mouthpiece that most horses respond well to.
2 Piece Smooth:
This is one of the softer mouthpieces. The curved smooth snaffle is for the horse that you are trying to build confidence in bending. Great for young or experienced horses. If you repeatedly pull on a smooth mouthpiece, it can rub on your mouth corners. A 3-piece mouthpiece is recommended in this case. If two-piece is all your horse prefers, Large twisted wire is a viable option.
3 Piece Twisted Wire: oo center
A three-piece bit distributes pressure more evenly across the horse's mouth than a two-piece bit. It is good for horses that are sensitive in the corners of their mouth and need a little more bend. The more breaks, the more bend is encouraged. The twisted sides reduce the amount of pressure required. The mouthpiece is ideal for a horse that may tend to toss its head with other bits. The sides will work independently since the mouthpiece is broken on each side.
2 Piece Twisted Wire:
One of the most common mouthpieces. The contoured twisted mouth design makes this mouthpiece more effective across the bars without being overly severe. It is about the size of a #2 pencil when twisted and easy on the mouth. Thinner twisted wire (⅜”) provides a more pronounced response. Thinner wire provides more feel on some horses. This Mouthpiece helps give the horse signal to lift the shoulders when you pick up, especially in a shanked bit. Excellent for horses that need a little help to rate or flex.
Square with 3 Link Middle:
This mouthpiece has ¼” square sides with a stainless steel chain middle. The square works off the corners of the mouth providing a clear signal when asked. The chain allows the sides to work independently. The chain lays nicely across the tongue to prevent pressure points and the nutcracker effect.
Smooth Sided Port:
Smooth ¼” sides with an upside down “U”. A port brings both security and face control to horses in all stages of training. It gives some tongue relief which prevents the horse from softening the bit's effect with its tongue or flipping the tongue over. Being jointed, the sides work independently with enhanced leverage and lift, The smooth sides allow it to be soft yet on the mouth, but a reminder with the port.
Large Square ¼”:
The square mouthpiece gets a horse’s attention and respect without scaring them. The square works off the corner of the mouth providing a sharper and clearer message to those that need it. The rider’s contact and release are immediate. This mouthpiece should be used by an experienced rider looking for direct and firm contact.
Small Square 3/8”:
This square mouthpiece is designed to gain a horse's attention and respect without frightening them. It is small in diameter so you may receive more feel from the small square mouthpiece which works off the corner of the mouth providing a sharper and clearer message to those that need it. This mouthpiece should be used by an experienced rider looking for direct and firm contact.
Twisted Wire Port:
Twisted wire sides with an upside-down “U”. A port brings both security and face control to horses in all stages of training. It gives some tongue pressure and release. This prevents the horse from softening the effect of the bit with its tongue or possibly getting its tongue over the mouthpiece. Being jointed, the sides work independently with enhanced leverage and lift from a twisted wire mouthpiece for desired stop and collection. A port on a small gag helps a horse keep from getting strung out around a turn.
Mullen:The Mullen mouthpiece is arguably the simplest of all bits. It is a solid bar with a slight bend. It helps take the bend out of a noodle horse. It mainly acts on the corners of the mouth, tongue, and chin. If you put greater pressure, the bit also exerts pressure behind the ears. It helps to raise the poll of the horse, while the curb encourages the horse to round at the poll helping with collection. Some horses can push on it a little bit, but when asked it picks their front end up and gets them square in their shoulders. Excellent for horses that have too much natural bend, even though the bend in the ribcage is perfect. A 75J with the setback curb prevents over-bending and noodley in turns by keeping the horse's nose in line. A long shank 75 bit provides more leverage for "whoa" and overall control on older, stronger horses.
Switch It Up
Top riders use different bits for practice and competition. They may use an O-ring snaffle for everyday riding and a lifter bit for competition. Changing bits can keep smart horses engaged, responsive, and on top of their game.Cassie Seal