Snaffle bits come in many different styles. To name a snaffle bit you label the mouthpiece and then the type of cheek piece. The mouthpiece of a snaffle bit is the part that goes into the horse’s mouth. There are a wide variety of types of mouthpieces. The cheekpiece of a snaffle bit is the part that the reins attach to. So, What are the different types of snaffle bits?
The different cheek pieces can provide more or less stability on the sides of the horse’s mouth. The combination of these two things makes up the type of snaffle bit that you have. Although there are many different types of snaffle bits, they all share one function – snaffle bits put direct pressure onto the horse’s mouth without any leverage. If a bit has a shank on it, the bit is not a snaffle. (Single Joint, Loose Ring)
Is a Snaffle Bit Harsh?
A snaffle bit can be harsh or gentle depending on the combination of mouthpiece and cheekpieces used. A basic single jointed, loose ring bit is gentle. Snaffle bits gradually increase in harshness and become quite strong, like the double twisted wire with a full cheek. Bits with thinner mouthpieces are harsher than bits with thicker or hollow mouthpieces.
The shape of a horse’s mouth will also help determine if a bit is gentle or harsh. A typically gentle bit that is too big or small, or that hangs too high or low in the mouth can cause pain and become more harsh than normal. To understand which bits are harsh or gentle, you should understand how different bits work in the mouth.
Here are just a few common types of mouthpieces for snaffle bits:
- French-Link – This is a very gentle, double jointed mouthpiece with a “dogbone” shaped piece in the middle. This bit distributes pressure evenly across the horse’s mouth. Check Today’s Amazon Price
- Double Jointed Oval Link – This is a very gentle mouthpiece with a “football” shaped piece in the middle. This bit distributes pressure evenly across the horse’s mouth. Check Today’s Amazon Price
- Single Joint – Arguably the most commonly used mouthpiece, it is relatively gentle. This bit puts more pressure on the bars of the horse’s mouth. Check Today’s Amazon Price
- Copper Roller – Has one or multiple pieces of copper that roll around the mouthpiece. Check Today’s Amazon Price
- Mullen Mouth – This bit is not jointed, it commonly comes as either metal, hard rubber, or soft rubber. Check Today’s Amazon Price
- Low Port – This bit is not jointed, it has a slight curve or bridge in the middle to relieve pressure off of the horse’s tongue. Check Today’s Amazon Price
- Slow Twist – A single jointed bit, the soft twist in the metal makes the bit more harsh. Check Today’s Amazon Price
- Double Twisted Wire – A very harsh single jointed mouthpiece, the two layers of “corkscrew” metal put a lot of pressure on the horse’s mouth. Check Today’s Amazon Price
- Dr. Bristol – A very harsh double jointed mouthpiece. The center piece is flat and angled, putting hard pressure on the tongue. Check Today’s Amazon Price
Here are the types of cheek pieces for snaffle bits:
- D-Ring – The large D-shape increases pressure on the sides of the horse’s face. Check Today’s Amazon Price
- Baucher – The bridle and reins do not connect to the same ring on the bit, creating a small hinge action when used. Check Today’s Amazon Price
- Fulmer – A combination of a full-cheek with a large fixed ring for the reins. Check Today’s Amazon Price
What is the Softest Bit for a Horse?
The softest bits will use either a loose ring or eggbutt cheekpiece. To make sure the loose ring bit does not accidentally pinch your horse’s cheeks you can use rubber bit guards. The softest mouthpiece will be a french-link or double-jointed oval link. Single jointed snaffles are commonly mistaken as the most gentle mouthpiece.
The single joint snaffle creates a nutcracker-like action on the horse’s jaw, which puts a lot of pressure on the bars of the horse’s mouth. The point of the single joint can also poke the roof of the mouth or front teeth on shallow-mouthed horses.
Double-jointed snaffles disperse the pressure of the bit more even across the horse’s tongue and mouth, making it more gentle. To make the bit even more gentle, you can choose a bit with a soft rubber mouthpiece, or wrap the bit in bit tape.
Snaffle bits can be made out of different materials such as:
- Copper – Many bits are made of copper or have copper inlay. This encourages the horse to salivate as well as provides a sweeter taste. Check Today’s Amazon Price
- Sweet Iron – More popular in western disciplines, sweet iron rusts easily which encourages salivation. Check Today’s Amazon Price
- Hard Rubber – This is a more gentle material to use on a horse with a more sensitive mouth. Check Today’s Amazon Price
- Soft Rubber – Often used on horses with extremely sensitive mouths or past mouth trauma, soft rubber is more flexible in the horse’s mouth but not very durable. Check Today’s Amazon Price
What is the Purpose of a Snaffle Bit?
Snaffle bits work on different parts of the horse’s mouth depending on the type of mouthpiece used. The snaffle allows the pressure from the rider’s hands to go directly to the horse’s mouth. Young horses should always be worked in a gentle snaffle bit before moving to more complicated, harsher, or leverage bits.
Snaffle bits are meant to be used two-handed. This means that the rider holds one rein in each hand. If you intend to ride your horse one-handed, you must teach your horse to ride from your seat and leg cues while using a snaffle bit before you can ride a horse one-handed in a leverage bit.
Riders should always learn to ride in gentle snaffle bits before they are allowed to ride in a strong bit or one that has leverage. If a rider has unstable or harsh hands, they need to learn to quiet their hands while riding their horse in a gentle bit. If you put a strong or harsh bit in a rider with poor hands they can unintentionally cause pain or damage to a horse’s mouth.
Do You Need a Chin Strap for a Snaffle Bit?
Leverage bits like pelhams, kimberwicks, and shanks need something called a “curb strap” or “curb chain” to function properly. Because snaffles do not use leverage, these straps are not necessary for the function of the bit to work properly.
However, some people may choose to use a strap with a snaffle bit. When used with a snaffle, these straps are called “chin straps”. The only reason you would need to use a chin strap with a snaffle is to keep the bit from pulling through the horse’s mouth. This is most commonly used with loose ring snaffles on a young or green horse. Chin straps should only be made of soft leather.
English vs Western Snaffle Bits
Although there are many different types of snaffle bits, there are not many differences between English and western snaffles. Some bits are more popular for different disciplines. For example, D-rings are popular amongst hunter riders, and loose rings are popular with dressage riders.
The shape of the “D” is slightly different on English and western D-ring bits. Some types of English competition, such as dressage, only allow certain types of snaffle bits to be used. English riders will never choose to compete with a chin strap on a snaffle bit.
Western riders tend to use snaffle bits with decorated cheekpieces. Some western riders will also choose to use a chin strap during the competition for a more put-together look. In some western competitions, only horses under the age of 6 years old are allowed to compete in a snaffle.
If that is the case, after the age of 6 years old they are required to show in a shank bit while being ridden one-handed. Whether you ride English or western, you should always check with your discipline’s rule book to make sure the bit you are using is legal for your choice of competition.
There are just as many snaffle bits to choose from as there are colors in the rainbow. Snaffle bits can be very gentle or extremely harsh depending on the type of mouthpiece and cheekpiece used. Bits also come in different materials, either metal or rubber.
Snaffle bits use direct pressure from the rider’s hands so they do not need to use a chin strap to function properly, although some riders may choose to use them. There are not many differences between english and western bits, but remember to check with your discipline’s rulebook to make sure you are using the correct bit for your type of competition.