Last Updated on April 4, 2022 by Allison Price

Let’s begin with the most basic components of all leverage bits. The cheeks are composed of the purchase as well as the shank. The mouthpiece is composed of the bars, and – depending on how leverage bits are used – the port.


The leverage ratio of a snaffle bit is 1:1. The horse will feel one pound for every pound of pressure on the reins. Shanks provide more leverage and less pressure on the reins. You can measure the length of your purchase and the shank to determine the ratio of a leverage bit. Measure the length of your shank to get 2. Then measure the purchase to get 1. This particular bit has a ratio 1:2. That means that the horse will feel 2 pounds in his mouth for every 1 pound of pressure you put on it. The bit’s function and pressure are affected by a change in the purchase/shank ratio.



A shorter shank generally means that the bit is milder. The rein cues are magnified less with shorter shanks than with longer shanks. Because it takes more rein pressure to press the mouth, long shanks can be more severe. These are often seen during reining events, where the rider expects to be almost invisible. The horse can understand even the smallest movements with a long-shanked bit.


It’s not only the length of your shank that matters. Straighter shanks give horses less time to react before the bit engages. Straight shanks require less rein movement. Straight shank bits are generally more harsh because the horse is not notified before full pressure is applied. A swept-back shank on the other hand gives the horse more warning before the bit engages because the rein must be pulled higher to make contact with the bit.

However, knowing the length and angles of the shanks doesn’t suffice. You still have options. The next question is whether to swivel or not.


The joint between the cheek and the mouthpiece of swivel-shanked bits is called the joint. The whole cheekpiece can move independently of the rest. The mobility of these bits allows for horse and rider to feel more comfortable.

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These are the most popular western bits. These shanks are made for horses that can control their neck reins. They are not designed to allow for one rein correction, and they don’t feel as good.


So, we’re done…right? You might be wondering what to do with those little gags that everyone is carrying around? But what if I really want one?

If you don’t know what you are doing and have a purpose for it, you shouldn’t be able to get a gag. You can use a little humor to make a point. There’s no such thing as too much gag. Never ever indulge in “wonder bits”. Trust me. I’ve been there, done that. DON’T.


For those who have just started to snaffle, but are overwhelmed by information, I would recommend a short-shanked bit that has a lot of sweep and swivel shanks. A mouthpiece similar to your preferred style of snaffle would also work well. One of these would be a good example.

Use a small leverage bit and a mouthpiece from a dog bone roller to help a horse who is stiff or might need more bend. This is the easiest option.

This is a small leverage bit with a lower port barrel mouthpiece (the diagram). is ideal for horses with low pallets or horses that are too bendy in their necks. This is the one that I use most. If your hand is slipping out of alignment, the bit will not work. Although it’s easy to master, you need to be careful with where you hold the reins.

Allison Price
Allison Price

I’m Allison, born and raised in San Diego California, the earliest memory I have with horses was at my grandfather’s farm. I used to sit at the stable as a kid and hang out with my Papa while he was training the horses. When I was invited to watch a horse riding competition, I got so fascinated with riding!