A bit about bits…
- September 29, 2014
- Jenn Zeller
I see it at least once a week.
In a newspaper ad, on Craigslist, in Facebook Horse Groups – someone says they have a short shanked snaffle for sale. I’d like very much to explain to everyone that writes that, that they don’t technically have a snaffle bit available. You have a leverage bit, or a curb maybe, but a snaffle bit, notsomuch.
You see, a snaffle is a snaffle because it isn’t a leverage bit. Any bit that has shanks becomes a curb bit (or leverage bit)- whether it has a broken mouthpiece (like a snaffle) or is a ported grazing bit. The reason for this is that a snaffle works on a direct rein and doesn’t utilize leverage.
The pressure from the reins on a snaffle bit is not amplified, unlike with a leverage bit. When you pull on a leverage bit, such as a Tom Thumb or Argentine, the pressure is increased the farther back the shank reaches.
There are several different mouthpieces available in “true” snaffle bits:
Jointed -the most common.
Mullen – essentially one piece. There is no break in the mouthpiece.
French link or Dogbone- has a smaller “dog bone” shaped piece in the middle, making it a three piece mouthpiece.
Single and Double Twisted wire – two of the most severe mouthpieces.
Mouthpieces typically come in different dimensions – 7/16th of an inch and 3/8ths of an inch are probably the most common – but you can find them in ½ and ¼ in diameters too. The smaller the diameter, the more severe the bit can become. Myself, I like a 7/16th mouthpiece.
As well as the different mouthpieces, there are many different cheek styles too. In western riding the four most common are:
O-ring or loose ring snaffle.
Egg-butt (because it’s shaped kind of like an egg).
There are basically two different ideas when it comes to where a snaffle bit should hang in the mouth of your horse. I prefer to hang the bit a tad below the corner of the horse’s mouth. I know many of us grew up in the train of thought that we needed a wrinkle (or two) in the horse’s mouth. But, what I’ve learned by riding primarily in snaffle bits (they’re the only bit I now own and I run all my barrel horses in them) is that the horse will learn to carry it where he likes it. Further, it gives us a chance to ask with less pressure, and have the horse respond to less because there is a very discernable release for the horse due to the fact that his mouth isn’t already pressured up due to the “wrinkles”.
So, the next time you see a bit labeled as a “snaffle”, I’d like for you to think of this little Public Service Announcement and ask yourself, is it really?
Happy Trails and Happy Riding!
About Jenn Zeller
Jenn Zeller is the creative mind and boss lady behind The South Dakota Cowgirl. She is an aspiring horsewoman, photographer, brilliant social media strategist and lover of all things western. After a brief career in the investment world to support her horse habit (and satisfy her...