Bits, Bits Bits! Bits are a very important piece of equipment, and there are so many, and so much choice. Today I will give a short introduction to each of the main bit groups, and their function to make the choice a little easier!
These bits are usually the first bits used to train the horse, they act on the bars of the mouth (area between the incisors and molars), the tongue, and the corners of the mouth. They are the mildest group of bits, and are suitable for almost all disciplines. Probably the most common snaffle bit is the eggbut snaffle. The softest of all is the rubber snaffle, which consists of a thin piece of straightbar metal, coated with thick, soft black rubber.
Ideally, an eggbut should be used over a loose ring, as a loose ring can pinch the sides of the mouth, and an eggbutt cannot, because the ring is fixed with a hinge.
This is a type of curb bit with a chain, shanks and D-rings. The shanks on the kimblewick are very short, and are not intended for leverage. The D-ring may be ‘slotted’ and the lower the slot used, the more severe the action.
Kimblewicks are not widely used, and are not permitted in dressage or show hunter classes. They can be can be ported, jointed or straightbar (”mullen” ).
The gag bit is one of the most severe bits, acting on the lips and the poll. This bit can be used with two reins, one which gives normal snaffle action, the other levers down o the poll, and gives added control. This bit is most commonly seen in eventing, especially in cross country.
A dutch gag has a snaffle ring, and two lower ‘gag’ rings of varying severity (The lower, the more severe).
This applies pressure to the mouth, tongue, and poll. When the bit reaches a 45 degree angle, the curb chain comes into action, and this puts pressure on the chin groove. Milder curb bits are curved, the straighter the bit, the harsher the effect. The shanks of the bit have a rein attachment at the bottom, and pulling on the reins alter the bit’s angle.
- Stainless Steel – The most common. This material is easy to clean, lasts long and is durable
- Copper – Copper or copper-based mouthpieces are softer than other metals, and promote salivation, which helps soften the mouth, however, copper can tarnish.
- Plastic and Rubber – These are much softer, and usually used to train a horse, or ride a very soft, responsive horse.
- Sweet Iron – This is created through the combination of iron and copper. This makes the bit tronger, and less likely to tarnish, but still gives a sweet taste that makes the horse salivate more
- Aluminium - Lightweight, cheaper and easy to maintain, however it dries the mouth, and most horses do not like the taste. Therefore, this material is not recommended.