The massive collection of bits hanging on the tack shops can confuse any neophyte equestrian. If you take a closer look, bits are not so tough to understand.
During the initial days of my training, I was most curious about knowing more about bits. As bits are put directly inside the horse’s mouth, I was unsure how they felt about them.
Bits are not only used for turning the horse left and right; instead, they have a wide range of functions. Many people differentiate bits according to the mouthpiece joints. They assume single joint bits are snaffle bits, and the others are curb bits.
But that’s far from the actual point! Are you confused about their differences too? I will elaborate and differentiate the two bits in this snaffle bit vs curb bit guide.
Let’s take Weaver’s snaffle and curb bits to differentiate between these two.
Types of snaffle bits:
Some popular types of snaffle bits are:
It’s the riders’ favorite snaffle bit. Eggbutt snaffle bits are considered the kindest bits for horses. They don’t pinch the horse’s mouth as the rings are in fixed places. Eggbutt bits are also called barrel heads.
These bits function similarly to the Eggbutts. The ring or mouthpieces are shaped as D hence the name D-Ring. These bits are also called dee rings.
The D shape prevents the mouth from being pinched. These bits are popularly seen on Thoroughbred racehorses, so they are called racing D bits too.
They are also called the O-Ring snaffle. These rings cause more problems than actions. So, they are not so popular among riders.
At first glance, they might look like curb bits, but they are not. The cheekpieces have D-shaped rings with a long bar-like structure at the junction of the mouthpiece and rings.
With such cheekpieces, the mouthpiece doesn’t rotate inside the mouth and keeps the bit in the proper place, avoiding pinching or discomfort.
Types of curb bits:
There are many types of leverage bits. Some popular kinds of curb bits among them are:
These curb bits use two reins, one attached with the upper or snaffle ring and the other with the lower/curb ring. So, you see that this bit does the function of both snaffle and leverage bit. The lower rein applies pressure to the mouth, tongue, poll, and bars.
Kimberwicks are a great choice for starting leverage bits. You can attach the rein to either of the upper and lower slots of the bit. Here, the upper ring attached to the rein applies pressure to the poll, and the lower ones have more control.
Weymouth’s are designed for the double bridle. It has a bridoon or smaller snaffle bit. One of the reins attaches to the Weymouth and the other to the bridoon.
The gag bits have the ring bits drilled, through which the reins are attached. These bits apply mild pressure, and the direction of the pressure is upwards.
This snaffle bit has two rings on each side of the mouthpiece. It’s also called a hanging cheek or Baucher. The smaller ring at the top is attached to the bride’s cheekpiece, and the larger ring is fixed in the mouth.
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Snaffle bits are the most common and basic bits that you see every equestrian using. These bits have single cheekpieces/rings on each side of the mouthpiece. I will point out all the properties of snaffle bits now:
Weaver Leather Ring Snaffle Bit has single 3-inch O rings on each side. They impact direct pressure on the sides of the mouth, bar, tongue, and sometimes the upper palate of the mouth.
Snaffle bits are popular for early training, teaching new disciplines, or bringing an undisciplined horse back on track. These bits are designed best for two-handed riding.
In the D-ring, or Eggbutt snaffle bits, we can see that the rings are directly attached to the mouthpieces, but here in O-Ring snaffle bits, the rings can move up and down in the mouthpieces.
The mouthpiece here is 5-inch made of sweet iron Copper inlay. Horses love the taste of sweet iron or Copper inlay, so it increases salivation. The joint in this bit, double-jointed, is the kindest and best joint for any snaffle bit.
- Best for young/ green horse training
- Applies direct pressure on the bars, tongue, the roof of the mouth for clear signals
- Sweet iron mouthpieces promote salivation and comfort
- Double-jointed/ French bit for avoiding nutcracker action
- They don’t use leverage pressure
- Hard to control as the rein moves on the rings and can also cause pinching
The easiest and most obvious way to differentiate curb bits is their shanks or levers at each side of the mouthpieces. Some also call these shank snaffle bits.
Let’s start with the structure of the curb bits. A typical curb bit has long or medium-sized shanks with two small rings at the top and bottom of the shanks.
The lower rings are attached with the chain straps/ curb strap and the upper rings with the headstall. Here, the Weaver Leather All Purpose Bit has 6-inch cheekpieces.
The longer the shanks, the more pressure is applied. The shape of the shanks also matters. Too straight shanks deliver more pressure. A moderate-length curb bit generates three times more pressure to the pressure points to the pressure applied by the rider.
The Weaver Leather All Purpose Bit’s shanks are bent for moderate pressure. The 4 1/2-inch copper mouth is bent upwards in the middle to give the tongue enough space to taste.
These bits are ideal for control and safety. Though direct pressure through the curb bit is not recommended, sometimes in trails, it becomes necessary.
- Ideal for reschooling undisciplined horses or new training.
- With low pressure, they are more gentle than snaffle bits
- Applies pressure to as many as five different pressure points
- Bent Copper mouthpiece for more area for the tongue to rest
- As pressure multiplies to three times, it can get too harsh for the horse if not used by experienced horse riders.
- The mouthpiece can hit the upper palate of the mouth if pulled too hard
- Curb bits react negatively to direct pressure and twists the bit, creating confusion
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):
What is the difference between a snaffle and a curb bit?
The key difference between the snaffle bit vs curb bit is their structure, i.e., the shanks on the curb bits. A curb bit incorporates leverage, but a snaffle bit doesn’t.
What is a curb bit used for?
Curb bits can amplify the pressure applied by the rider up to three times. So, they can be used for more tough training.
Is a snaffle bit harsh?
Whether a bit is harsh or not depends on the rider, not the type of the bit. But practically between snaffle bit vs curb bit, no leverage, or snaffle bits are gentler than leverage bits.
What is the mildest bit for a horse?
The mildest bits are snaffle bits with French joints. Eggbutt snaffle bits are considered the overall most gentle bits.
What is the kindest bit?
As I have already said earlier, the harshness of a bit depends on the rider. So, the kindest bit is the one used by the softest hands.
What is the best bit to start a horse with?
The best bit to start training your horse with is D-Ring Snaffle bits with french joints. They apply mild to moderate pressure, perfect for green horses.
When choosing the right bit for your horse, it is a prerequisite that you know about all the bits available in the market. The most common types in the market now are snaffle and curb bits, not to mention there are more.
However, some riders are still unsure about the differences between these two hence this snaffle bit vs curb bit guide.
Make sure you have built up smooth communication with your horse before switching to curb bits from a snaffle.
My name is Kenneth E. Johnson and I am an equestrian enthusiast. I have a passion for helping others learn more about horses and their care, and I have written extensively on topics such as nutrition, behavior, health, riding, care, etc.