Bits - Direct Pressure vs Leverage

January 04, 2019

Bits work with either direct pressure or leverage. Bits that act with direct pressure on the tongue and lips are in the general category of snaffle bits.

Snaffle bits most commonly have a single jointed mouthpiece and act with a nutcracker effect on the bars, tongue and roof of the mouth. However, any bit that operates with direct pressure is a "snaffle" bit, regardless of mouthpiece. Today’s snaffle bits often have several joints or links, as with a chain mouthpiece.

Bits that have shanks are in the category of curb bits.  Shanks create leverage that applies pressure to the poll, chin and mouth of the horse.

Traditionally, curb bit mouthpieces were solid without joints, ranging from a straight bar with a slight arch, called a "mullen" mouthpiece, through a "ported" bit that is slightly arched in the middle to provide tongue relief, to the full spade bit which combines both a straight bar and a very high "spoon" or "spade" extension that contacts the roof of the mouth.

Today’s curb bits can have single or multiple joints in the mouthpiece combined with various lengths of shanks.  The length of the shank determines the degree of leverage put on the horse's head and mouth. Again, a bit with shanks and leverage is always a "curb" type bit, even when it has a jointed mouthpiece more commonly seen on a snaffle.  Shanked bits require the use of a curb strap for proper action and safe use.

Deciding which bit to use can be a daunting challenge.  Remember what works for one horse and rider might not work for you and your horse.  Each individual horse and rider must be carefully considered.  How sensitive is your horse? Is he hard mouthed or soft?  How sensitive are you?  Do you ride with a light touch on the reins or are you heavy handed?  These are important factors for deciding which bit you should choose.




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