Communication with the horse's mouth happens with a horse bit. Western riding and English riding might have different styles of bits, but all bits work the same way by influencing your horse. Choosing from the many different types of bit for your equine partner helps his mouth stay comfortable and safe.
Bits are generally divided into snaffle bits and curb bits. There are bitless options for bridles, like hackamores, which work on nose pressure. The noseband of some bridles can help to keep the bit in the correct spot in your horse's mouth.
Snaffle bits work with direct rein pressures, which travels from your hands to the corners of your horse's mouth. The joint, or joints, in the bit, allow the rider to talk to one side of the horse's mouth at a time with greater precision than an unjointed horse bit.
Curb bits use leverage on the headstall or crown piece to communicate. As the reins are engaged, the bit rotates and pulls down on the cheek pieces to influence your horse's poll.
The mouthpiece is what your horse has in his mouth, from cheek to cheek. Some mouthpieces attach to rings. You might also find shanks instead of a ring, which are the outer sidepieces of the bit and create leverage. The joint, or joints, in the middle of the mouthpiece allow the rider to influence the sides of the horse's mouth.
Ports are a part of the curb bit that resemble an upside-down "U" in the center of the mouthpiece. Ports give a bit of room for the tongue and put more pressure on the mouth. Low ports are milder, whereas high ports are stronger.
Various metals and materials make up bits. For some horses, a rubber coating or happy mouth style covers the bit. Others use sweet iron instead of stainless steel, which creates a taste that many horses like. Other bits might have a copper roller, a jointed mouthpiece, or a twisted wire mouthpiece. These all influence the tongue and may encourage a horse to chew to the bit.
Many types of bits have similar mouthpieces and different rings. In English disciplines, snaffle bits may have no joints, like the Mullen mouth, or be a jointed mouthpiece. The ring snaffle bit varies in design, some are loose ring, or O-ring, meaning the connection isn't firm to the mouthpiece. Fixed rings like the D-ring snaffle and the eggbutt snaffle don't allow for the rings to move.
There are also curb bits for the English disciplines, such as the Weymouth. Used for dressage, the Weymouth is a bridoon bit and curb bit, always paired with a curb chain or curb strap. The gag bit is another style of a curb.
Pelham bits are hybrids, allowing for two reins, or one rein with an adaptor. The mouthpiece is similar to a snaffle but with a shank. The second rein attachment acts as leverage.
In the Western disciplines, snaffles can also be used. There is also the Tom Thumb, another example of a hybrid snaffle bit with curb bit properties. Western bits typically have a long shank, but not always.
The right bit is sometimes tricky to find for your horse, and there may be some trial and error. Corro is committed to providing all equestrians with a large selection of both English and Western horse bits.
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What size bit do I order for my horse?
Bits are measured in inches in between the cheekpieces. You can use twine or your current bit to calculate the best size for your horse. For fixed ring bits, like the eggbutt and the D-ring snaffle, the cheekpieces can be close to your horse's mouth corners. For loose ring styles of bits, add an extra 1/4" for clearance.
How do I Clean my Horse's Bit?
Your horse's bit will stay sanitary and clean with daily care. After each use, dunk the bit into water and wipe it clean with a cloth. Small brushes can clear food from joints and the cheekpieces. Horse bits may change color over time, depending on the material used. A stainless steel bit will stay relatively silver, but a sweet iron bit will change color more drastically.
How do I Choose the Best Bridle for my Horse?
Your horse's bit and headstall should match functionally. A double bridle has extra straps for the curb bit, and a snaffle does not. You can also consider what color suits your horse and your discipline. Along with black, many shades of brown are available. Also, notice the type of reins that come with bridles. Reins may be woven, flat, or have stoppers. Headstalls and reins are also sold separately to create a custom look for your horse.
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