What Different Snaffle Bit Mouthpieces Do.

Posted June 30th, 2011 by gemainz

Generally types of horse bits are divided into either Snaffles and Curb bits.  A somewhat simplistic division but in this article we will be looking in more detail at the different types of Snaffle and some of the more exotic features one can find on this seemingly humble bit.  Snaffles themselves cover quite a broad category of horse bits however they all exhibit a single common feature in that they allow the rider to signal his intention to the horse via direct force by the pulling of one or both reigns.

For a bit of background a snaffle is made from a bar or mouthpiece combined with rings connected with different amounts of freedom to move at each end. The bit goes into the horse’s mouth resting on the gums not the teeth, in the space behind the foremost incisors and the molars behind sometimes refered to as the “bars”.

For this article we are going to concentrate on just some of the different types of mouthpiece that you can get with your snaffle and what function these different types have. 

The mouthpiece can take many forms but for our discussion we are going to review the following mouthpiece styles:

  • one solid piece
  • single jointed in the middle
  • double jointed in the middle
  • multi-link or chain

Solid one piece mouth-pieces may be moulded rubber and sometimes gently curved, called a Mullen.  They tend to be softer and it places even pressure on the mouthpiece, lips, and bars and works well for young horses.  However one must be cautious about describing a bit as mild as the skill of the rider has a big impact on this however all things being equal and when compared to other types this is a mild mouthpiece. 

For horses that are growing and becoming resistant to the simplest snaffle , the bit designers came up with the “broken” bit.  When pressure is placed on the reins, the mouthpiece breaks in the middle , forming an angle and applying a “nutcracker” effect on the horses tongue.  Also the tip of the “V” of the broken mouth piece may prod into the horses mouth roof providing a further “signal”. The mouthpiece can still be made from softer material such as vulcanite.    Remember the skilled rider “signals” their intentions to the horse so force should not be necessary the marjority of the time. Look how the horse behaves with these bits, if it is causing discomfort such as really digging into the mouth and tongue you might see him pushing his nose out to get away from the discomfort .   If you have one of these do a little test and put it on your wrist and close it like a nutcracker, then you’ll get the feel for what the horse gets on their tongue ! So learn to be subtle with your use of these bits, try not to yank hard.

Where the single jointed bit hits the mouth and causes the horse too much discomfort double jointed mouthpieces were developed, which also give the tongue a bit more room .  Two very popular forms of this style of bit are French Link e.g. french mouth full cheek and the Dr Bristol style e.g. dr bristol full cheek.  The Dr Bristol style compared to the French Link has a longer link  i.e. the middle section .  The link is also angled so that when the bit is pulled , the edge of the link presses into the tongue as a fairly sharp signal. The French Link has a shorter link and is flat or angled differently so that the flat edge of the link contacts the tongue therefore being milder.

The chain style of bits often attract a little controversy on their harshness or otherise. At least in part a bit may be a problem if the rider is a problem so whether a bit is mild or harse is not specifically down to the bit.  The waterford type of snaffle such as a waterford full cheek comprises a chain of three or more interlinking pieces.  As such this chain style of bit tends to slide back and forth across the horses mouth with the “nobbly” bits of the chain giving the signal as well as the chain engaging with the sides of the mouth.  If you have a horse that “takes the bit” and runs this bit can be a good solution .  The chain style of bit because of its chain feature doesn’t offer the horse anything to fight against, it is too fluid so can work well in controlling such horses.

The effect on the horse of any bit can be drastic and so if in doubt ask an expert ensuring the bit will actually help you. 

As ever there is a balance between being too soft on the horse and not firm enough. Going for the soft option can lead to bad habbits that are then more difficult to address later on and being too harsh can cause the horse pain and discomfort and is just bad in every way.

The snaffle offers a surprising amount of flexibility in its features so be sure to do your research to find the right one for you.

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