Unless you are using a hackamore or bitless bridle, you’ll have to select a bit for your horse. The many types of horse bits available can make this choice a tough one. The correct bit for each horse is different and depends on a variety of factors. The experience of the rider, temperament and training level of the horse, discipline being ridden and training goals all factor into bit selection. Some riders even use various bits on the same horse to address a range of challenges in the horse’s development.
All types of horse bits are comprised of two main pieces: the mouthpiece and the cheek pieces.
Each of these components comes in a variety of designs and materials that range in strength and purpose. Different combinations of mouthpieces and cheek pieces will have different effects. Talk with your trainer to determine which bits are right for your horse. To get you started, here are the basics on common types of mouthpieces available:
- Jointed – A single joint in the middle of the mouthpiece. When rein aids are applied, the bit creates a “V” shape and puts pressure to the top and front of the horse’s mouth as well as on the bars of the mouth. An example is the Hunter Dee Ring Snaffle Bit.
- Double-Jointed –A separate piece in the middle of the mouthpiece is connected by a joint on either side. When the reins are used, the bit creates a “U” shape, which is gentler than a single joint, and puts pressure on the bars of the mouth, lips and tongue. An example is the HS Dynamic RS Sensogan® D-Ring Snaffle.
- French Link – A separate flat piece in the middle of the mouthpiece is connected by a joint on either side and lays flat across the tongue. This type of horse bit has close contact with the horse’s tongue and may help horses go lighter and lean less on the bit. An example is the HS Aurigan® French Mouth Bradoon. A similar mouthpiece is the Dr. Bristol, which is a French Link where the middle piece is set at an angle to allow the edge to put more pressure on the tongue.
- Mullen Mouth – A smooth mouthpiece with no joints. When the reins are used, this bit applies even pressure across the tongue, lips and bars of the mouth. The tongue is allowed more room to move with this type of bit, but not as much as with a ported bit. An example is the Happy Mouth Shaped Mullen Mouth Loose Ring Snaffle Bit.
- Ported – A smooth mouthpiece with a low, medium or high narrow or wide arch in the middle, sometimes featuring a roller at the top. When rein aids are applied, the bit puts pressure on the roof and bars of the mouth, lips and tongue. A low port will be very similar to a mullen mouth, with higher ports putting more pressure on the roof of the mouth, and all types giving relief to the tongue. An example is the Myler Ported Barrel Dee Bit.
- Roller – A series of rollers makes up the mouthpiece with a joint in the middle, or a single roller in the middle of the bit is connected by a joint on either side. Frequently rollers made of copper are used to encourage salivation. This type of mouthpiece helps to prevent the horse from leaning on the bit and becoming heavy and is slightly stronger than a bit without rollers. An example is the HS Stainless Copper Roller D-Ring Bit.
- Twisted – The metal appears to be twisted across the length of the mouthpiece. A slow twist has large, spiral-like turns, while a corkscrew has small, tight turns. Twists can feature a joint, but do not always. These bits are more severe than non-twisted varieties of similar styles, which can help the horse be lighter if he leans on the bit. An example is the Slow Twist Hunter Dee Ring Bit.
- Waterford – A multi-jointed mouthpiece made up of many rounded segments.
Due to the flexibility of the mouthpiece, it encourages salivation and softness as the horse mouths the bit. This bit also discourages the horse from leaning or becoming heavy in the rider’s hands. When the reins are used evenly, pressure is applied gently across the bit as a solid unit. When the reins are used independently, the bit becomes stronger as the rolling action of the bit is engaged. An example is the Waterford Loose Ring Snaffle Bit.
In addition to these mouthpiece elements of different types of horse bits, there are also different types of cheek pieces that will impact how the overall bit functions. Check back, as we will cover bit cheek pieces in another blog post soon! Until then, browse our selection of bits and talk with your trainer about what types of horse bits might be beneficial for you to try.