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17 Types of Bits for Horses

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When it comes to horse bits, the options available to riders seem endless.

With so many choices, it may appear impossible to decide on which one is right for your horse.

Before any decisions are made, it is important to know more about some of the different types of horse bits that are being offered to riders today.

horse with a horse bit

Most horse bits, at their core, are either snaffle or curb bits and sometimes a combination of both.

Snaffle bits connect the reins to the mouthpiece though rings located on each side of the bit.

This allows the reins to apply pressure directly to the horse’s mouth. They are typically jointed in the middle of the mouth bar, but not always.

Curb bits, on the other hand, have shanks, long or short cheekpieces, on each side of the bit that attach to the reins.

They can have jointed or unjointed mouthpieces. When the rider pulls on the reins, the horse will feel pressure from the curb strap or chain on its chin instead of directly on its mouth.

This design creates leverage that the horse feels not only on its chin but also on its poll.   

Now that you know the basics, get to know some of the different type of bits for horses that you can choose from. Each bit has a unique design beyond simply being a snaffle or a curb bit.

Materials

Horse bits are usually made from either iron, steel, or aluminum material.

Occasionally, a mouthpiece on a bit will contain copper because it is believed to encourage saliva production in the horse’s mouth.

Rubber material can cover some mouthpieces, but they are usually left bare.

Bits must be sturdy, strong, and unbreakable to keep horses and their riders safe.

1. D-Ring Snaffle

D-Ring Snaffle

Riding Style: English
Classification: Snaffle

On D-ring snaffles, the rings on each side of the bit are in the shape of a “D”.

The mouthpiece of the bit is connected to the “D” rings on a hinge. The hinge helps to keep the horse’s mouth from being pinched by the bit as it moves.

They are commonly used on racehorses and are good for horses that have sensitive mouths.

2. Loose Ring Snaffle

Loose Ring Snaffle

Riding Style: English
Classification: Snaffle

In a loose ring snaffle, the rings on each side of the bit are completely round.

The mouthpiece is connected to the rounded rings openly so that they can move freely and allow the mouthpiece to lay more comfortably in the horse’s mouth.

The loose rings can pinch the sides of the horse’s mouth as it spins.

The loose ring snaffle is good for horses that tend to grab the bit, as the loose rings make it harder to grab.

3. Pelham

Pelham

Riding Style: English and Western
Classification: Curb

The pelham bit is a unique combination of a snaffle and a curb bit.

It has both bit rings on the sides as well as loose, hinged shanks. It can be used with a double set of reins and is great for training a horse or gently switching it to a curb bit from a snaffle.

Pelham bits are illegal to use in western sport events and dressage. They are used in events like polo competitions, show jumping, and in training.

4. Kimberwick Curb

Riding Style: English
Classification: Curb

Although it is usually considered a curb bit at its core, the Kimberwick bit features both shanks as well as “D” ring snaffles.

The shanks are relatively short on Kimberwick bits, so they only offer a moderate amount of leverage.

While the Kimberwick horse bit looks like a mini pelham bit, it can only be used with one set of reins.

5. French Link Snaffle

Riding Style: English
Classification: Snaffle

French link snaffle bits are unique in that they have a double-jointed connection in the middle of the mouthpiece.

The French link in the middle of the mouthpiece is flat and shaped like a figure 8 with a connection on each side.

The rings on each side connect to the mouthpiece through hinged joints.

It is said to be a great option for a horse that has a lower palate because the flat French link allows the mouthpiece to lay flat in the mouth.

6. Weymouth Curb and Bradoon

Weymouth Curb and Bradoon

Riding Style: English
Classification: Curb

Weymouth curb bits are designed specifically to be used in conjunction with a bradoon bit.

Professional dressage riders and other show horse competitors use double bridles during competitions.

The bradoon is a small-sized snaffle bit while the Weymouth is a curb bit.

Riders can manipulate the way they apply pressure to the horse’s mouth to obtain desired results in competitions.

7. Full Cheek Snaffle

Riding Style: English and Western
Classification: Curb

Full cheek snaffle bits are easy to recognize because they have noticeably long joint shafts that extend further than they do on other snaffle bits.

The shafts have hinge connects that join the side rings to the mouthpiece.

These bits are often used on horses that struggle to obey certain commands like turning.

Full cheek snaffles can be used with bit keepers that hold it in place and prevent it from getting hung up in the bridle or other equipment.

8. Eggbutt Snaffle

Riding Style: English
Classification: Snaffle

This bit is one of the gentlest on the horse because it is made so that it will not pinch the sides of a horse’s mouth.

It has a noticeable egg-shaped joint that connects the two side-rings to the mouthpiece.

The mouthpiece is also made wider on the sides so that it is less likely to irritate the horse’s mouth.

This is a great bit for horse’s that have sensitive mouths or require a very mild bit.

9. Tom Thumb Snaffle

Riding Style: Western
Classification: Snaffle

The Tom Thumb snaffle bit’s name is a misnomer. This bit is considered a snaffle bit, but it is designed much like a curb bit.

It has a jointed mouthpiece which causes many equestrians to classify it as a snaffle; however, it has shanks on the sides, not rings.

It is made to be used with a curb chain, the same way most curb bits are made.

Either way, this bit is commonly used in the western riding world thanks to its double impact as both a snaffle and a curb bit.

It provides some leverage along with pressure on the sides of the horse’s mouth.

10. Western Correction

Riding Style: Western
Classification: Curb

Western correction bits are curb bits with a port, an upside down U-shaped curved break in the middle of the mouthpiece.

The port is attached in the middle of the mouthpiece by small hinges. The port will help apply pressure inside the horse’s upper palate instead of on the tongue like other bits.

Many riders use the correction bit to train horses.

11. Western Grazing

Riding Style: Western
Classification: Curb

Similar to the correction bit, the western grazing bit has a port that helps take the pressure off the horse’s tongue.

Unlike the correct bit, the grazing bit’s port is a continuous part of the mouthpiece that is just curves upwards.

It is one of the most popular bits in western riding. The western grazing bit is used a lot in cutting and reining competitions, trail riding, and other western events.

Ignore the ‘grazing’ part of the bit name. Horses should not eat grass or anything when they have a grazing bit in their mouths.  

12. Hanging Creek Snaffle

Riding Style: English
Classification: Snaffle

The hanging creek snaffle bit is another unique looking bit that does not follow all the snaffle rules.

Like a snaffle bit, this bit has a jointed mouthpiece and a D-shaped ring on each side. Like a curb bit, though, it has a mini shank that comes off each ring.

Also known as a Baucher snaffle, this bit requires an experienced rider and the right horse.

It can be a bit harsh on the mouth and is said to provide more leverage for the rider.

13. S-Shank Curb

Riding Style: Western
Classification: Curb

The s-shank curb bit is a distinctive looking bit thanks to the curved S-shape in each of the curb shanks.

The unique shape of the shanks provides even more leverage for the rider, making this bit a little harsher that the average curb bit.

It has a hinged port on the middle of the mouthpiece that relieves the pressure from the horse’s tongue.

This bit should only be used by experienced riders who understand its limits.

14. Mullen Mouth Bits

Riding Style: Western and English
Classification: Curb or Snaffle

The mullen mouth bits have a continuous mouthpiece that have a very slight downward curve.

It can be a snaffle or a curb depending on the overall design of the bit. It is really the only snaffle bit without a mouthpiece joint.

Mullen mouth bits are ideal for horses that struggle with jointed bits and need a milder bit.

15. Chain

Chain

Riding Style: Western
Classification: Curb

Chain bits are curb bits that have an actual chain mouthpiece instead of a solid steel mouthpiece.

While it sounds harsh, the chain rests comfortably on the horse’s tongue and, with the right rider, the bit can do wonders for a horse.

It is commonly used on barrel racing and roping competition horses in the western rodeo ring.

16. Gag Bit

Riding Style: English and Western   
Classification: Curb or Snaffle         

Gag bits are style bits that are designed to encourage horses through pressure to raise their head.

They can be a snaffle or a curb bit depending on the riding style. Western gag bits are typically curb bits with shanks while English gag bits are usually snaffles.

Either way, the gag bit has uniquely designed rings or shanks that apply added pressure to the poll to help riders gain better control of their horse.

It is often used with 2 sets of reins.

17. Hackamore

Hackamore

Riding Style: Mainly western, rarely seen in English
Classification: Other

Hackamores are not bits, but they are used in the place of a bit and are a valid “bit” option for some riders.

A hackamore is a bridle that is designed to place pressure on a horse’s head without the use of a bit.

It is ideal for horses that do not need or cannot handle a bit for some reason or another.

Hackamores can contain mechanical components like shanks and curb chains, but not all do. (source)

Things to Keep in Mind

  1. Not every bit will work for every horse.
  2. Work with a horse trainer if needed to find the right bit for your horse.
  3. Watch your horse’s mouth for injuries.
  4. Harsher bits require experienced riders to avoid injuring the horse.
  5. Learn the horse’s history with bits and stick with what works if possible.

Final Thoughts

There are many of types of horse bits to choose from.

Do not let it deter you from finding the one that is right for your horse. Each style of bit can offer something different to riders and their horses.

Not every bit will work on every horse, and that is okay.

There will be a bit out there that is ideal for your horse and your riding style, and if for some reason there is not, the hackamore may just fit the bill!

Resources

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