Last Updated on February 21, 2022 by Allison Price
There are two main types of bits: the snaffle or the leverage bit. This article will discuss what constitutes a “snaffle”, the various types of snaffles and the uses of different snaffle bits.
What’s a snaffle piece?
A common belief is that any bit with a broken mouthpiece means it is a snaffle. While most snaffle bits have a broken jawpiece, not all do. The Mullen snaffle features a solid mouthpiece. Snaffle bits should not be worn with curb straps. If your horse opens their mouth and allows the bit to slide through, you can see below which snaffle bits are best.
A snaffle piece is any part where the bridle’s halter and the reins attach to the same ring. This attachment produces a 1:1 ratio pull. It means that one pound from the rein equals one-pound pressure to the corners or bars of the horse’s mouth. The length of the shanks determines the pressure ratio for a leverage bit.
You can have snaffle bits that are gentle or very severe.
Thin, gentle mouthpieces are possible in snaffles. Thin mouthpieces like twisted wire are stronger. Snaffle bits can be used to help young horses get started or to retrain older horses who need to go back to basics. Any bit, even snaffles, can be too harsh if it isn’t in the right hands. Horsemanship is best done with soft, low-handled riding.
How can you use a snaffle piece?
Did you know that “plow reining” is a term? To get the horse to turn in one direction, direct pressure is applied. The rider must use two hands to do this. One hand pulls on the rein and the other pushes the opposite one across the horse’s neck. To turn left, for example, the rider would apply slight pressure to the right rein and lay the left rein on top of the horse’s neck. The horse should respond to the pressure by turning in the opposite direction. If the horse resists, more pull can then be applied. This pull works best when the horse resists, and the rider’s hands remain low to the side of the horse’s neck.
Be gentle, ask for light pressure and insist with small tugs. Pull the horse forward if necessary. Your horse will respond to light pressure if you are patient and consistent.
There are many types of snaffle bits
Ring Snaffles (First Choice for Novice Riders):
This snaffle is the most commonly used in training early. It’s also the most forgiving of rider errors. They are loose and have a single joint mouthpiece. You can also find them with a solid Mullen-style mouthpiece.
Ring snaffles can be used to warn the horse of imminent action by the rider picking up the reins. This is possible because of the loose ring design. The pressure is concentrated at the corners of horses’ mouths where the rings touch. The rings are 2.5″ to 3.0 inches in size, which makes it easier to pull the bit through the horse’s mouth.
D-Ring Snaffles (second choice for novice riders).
The D-ring snaffle rings do not swivel and have fixed butts. Pulling on one side of a bit will result in pressure from the other side. Horses will understand when the pressure is on the opposite cheek.
A Dee-ring snaffle can be found often with an eggbutt mouthpiece. Other mouthpieces are available, however. Keep in mind that the bite is more severe if it’s thinner.
The Full Cheek Snaffle is for horses who don’t want to let the rings pass through their mouths. ):
Imagine a Dee Snaffle that has bars running up and down. These bars stop the rings pulling through the horse’s mouth. The bit is pressured on the opposite side, just like the D-Ring. Because the bars cover more of the horse’s face, it is easier to understand the cue to have the horse turn their head with the pull.
Snaffle Bits also has mouthpieces
We have already discussed the rings on Snaffle pieces. Let’s now look at the mouthpieces available.
Eggbutt Snaffles are the mildest mouthpiece:
Eggbutt snaffles are available in O-ring and D-Ring shanked. Named after the mouthpiece. The connection between the mouthpiece and the ring is slightly oval. The fattest bits are those that touch the cheek. They gradually taper towards the center. The horse’s mouth will feel less pressure from the wider, smoother bit.
This is a great way to show it. Take one finger and pull at the corner of your cheek. Next, take three to four fingers and pull. Which feels better? Horses will have their own opinions about what is comfortable and not. Some horses may not like the Eggbutt snaffle’s “heaviness”. You can try a lighter, smaller snaffle if they object.
It is true, I must repeat it: The more severe the bit, the thinner the mouthpiece.
A thinner bit can be used by an experienced trainer to achieve faster results, but it requires skilled hands and light handwork. A mouthpiece that is not too thick or too smooth will be preferred by a novice rider.
Twisted Wire (A mouthpiece suitable for experienced trainers)
Twisted wire is the thinnest mouthpiece. This name describes the appearance of the bit. For experienced trainers who want quick results, the twisted wire bit is ideal. If it is not used correctly, it can cause pain to horses and more problems than they solve.
Other types of mouthpieces
There are many types of mouthpieces available, including the Eggbutt, Lifesaver and Waterford varieties.
These may have two links as opposed to one. Two links distribute pressure more evenly than one. This reduces excessive tongue pressure or palate pressure that can be caused by riders with heavy hands.
Which Snaffle bit do you prefer?
Consider the ability of the rider and the experience of the horse when deciding which bit to use. Young horses and novice riders will need a less harsh bit. You don’t have to fear taking an older horse back in kindergarten. They will need a basic bit to start them off and some basic training to correct any bad behavior. Sometimes, it is not possible to move up to more severe bits. Ask an experienced horseman for help if you require more control with a smaller bit. Remember to use soft, low hands.
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!