Which one is right for you?
When you get into riding, you will quickly begin to realize how much you can learn and if you want to become a successful and competent rider, you will need to familiarize yourself with all the different pieces of equipment required for riding a horse.
Among these little bits, one is small but vital – and to help you understand everything you need to know, here’s our complete guide to the different types of horse bits.
What is a little?
Let’s start right at the beginning – what’s a little?
It is considered a few of the most important components of a horse’s gear. It is used to communicate with the horse to give it commands and eventually make the horse do what you want it to do.
It is attached to the bridle and bridle and is fixed to the horse’s mouth. The piece then applies pressure to various parts of the mouth and head to pass your commands to the horse as the bridle is pulled.
It is a common misconception that the bit is just a piece that goes inside the horse’s mouth, but there are also many other components that make up the piece – so let’s look at that now.
What are the different parts of a little?
Technically speaking, the “bit” isn’t just the part that goes into a horse’s mouth – that’s just one part called the ‘mouthpiece’. However, people sometimes use the term “bit” to refer to the mouthpiece only.
Here are the names of the most important bit components:
A horse’s mouthpiece is the part that goes inside the horse’s mouth and rests on the “penis,” the toothless gum inside the horse’s mouth between the incisors and molars.
Mouthpieces can be solid or broken (i.e. separated), they can come in many different shapes and can be made from a range of different materials, although metal is the most common. We’ll look at some of them in more detail in the section on horns below.
The port is a raised portion of the mouthpiece that raises the horse’s tongue where the drill bit is rotated through pressure from the bridle. Using a port reduces pressure on the horse’s tongue and focuses it on the bars.
Some of the larger niches can touch the roof of the horse’s mouth.
The bit ring is the bit attached to the mouth piece of the little bit that attaches to the bridle – we’ll talk more about what’s so annoying in a moment.
There are many possible patterns for a bit loop. Among the most common are O-rings, D-rings, and egg butts.
One of the defining features of dock bits (again, more on this in a moment) is the stem. This is the part that creates compression force, and increases pressure on the different parts of the horse’s mouth and head when the bridle is pulled.
The length of the stem affects how severe the bit is. They can also be straight or curved, and curved bits are less sharp than straight bits.
Sometimes, the entire leg is referred to as the ‘cheeks’, in which case the part above the mouth piece is called the ‘pure’ and only the part below the mouthpiece is referred to as the ‘leg’.
Curb strings are found in some of the curb bits – but not all. It consists of a chain that goes under the groove of the horse’s chin to apply additional pressure there as the bridle is pulled.
Different types of bits
Horseshoes come in all shapes and sizes, and there are almost unlimited variations. However, almost all bit designs are based on two basic bit types, the “snaffle” and “curb” (or “lever”) bits – so let’s now talk about these basic bit types in more detail.
The snaffle bit is the traditional style of bit used in English equine disciplines. It is often thought – erroneously – that a snap bit is defined by the presence of a solid mouthpiece, but this is not true. Snaffles can easily have horns of two, three, or more sections.
Instead, what defines a light bit is that it is a direct little verb file. This means that when you pull on the bridle, the pressure you exert is transmitted directly to the horse’s mouth.
This also means that the amount of pressure you apply is exactly the same as what a horse feels in its mouth.
The other type of bit, which we’ll talk about in a bit, uses leverage to increase the amount of pressure the horse feels, and either direct action or the use of leverage is the primary difference between the two bit types.
The other feature of the light bit is the bit loop, which is a loop on either end of the mouth piece that you use to attach the bridle. Popular versions include O-rings, D-rings, and egg butts.
Another type is the full cheek bit, which can be used, along with larger versions of the other types, to train the horse as well as to ensure the part is not pulled through the horse’s mouth.
As mentioned, the mouthpiece does not have to be solid. The mouthpiece can also fracture, affecting the severity of the object and the sensation a horse feels when the bridle is pulled. We’ll talk more about the differences in horns in the section below.
The second major class of bits are quay bits, also known as lever bits, and as we just mentioned, they are identified by the fact that they use sway to apply additional pressure to the horse’s mouth and head. They are the most common type of bit used in Western majors.
To look at, the most obvious feature of a dock top is the shank, which is the part that creates the leverage.
A major consideration when using a dock bit is the length of the stem, above and below the mouthpiece, as this affects the severity of the bit as well as its response speed.
Longer stems produce more sway and are therefore more intense than shorter stems, but shorter stems work faster.
Another important feature to note is the shape of the leg. Pavement stems can be straight, lightly swept or sharp – other specialized formations also exist.
Like length, shape also affects response time, with straight stems running faster than bent ones.
As mentioned earlier, dock bits may also have a curb chain that fits into the groove of a horse’s chin, but not all dock bits have this.
Now that we understand the two basic types of bits, let’s now say a few words about trumpets.
Various types of crossings can be used in conjunction with both types of trim, and the choice of crossing is determined by many factors, including the riding system, the rider’s experience level, and the horse’s experience level and preference.
Both small bits and curb bits can be paired with solid or broken horns.
Straight and rigid horns put pressure on the rod and tongue of the horse while those with a single joint in the middle position put less pressure on the tongue. However, the hinged horns create what’s called a “nutcracker” effect, hitting both sides of the horse’s mouth.
A mouthpiece with two or more hinges will distribute pressure evenly over the horse’s rails, tongue, and lips.
What is known as a “Mullen’s mouthpiece” consists of a hard, curved rod. This type of crosswalk is less sharp than the straight crossbar because it puts less pressure on the bars.
The diameter also affects the severity of the nozzle, and the presence of kinks in the nozzle increases its intensity.
Oral expressing materials
In addition to the design of the nozzle, the material from which it is made is also important.
Ancient pieces were made of rope, wood, or bone, but nowadays most are made of metal. However, there are also parts made of plastic and rubber.
Since about the 1940s, stainless steel has been one of the most popular materials for bits. This is due to the desirable properties of this metal which include strength and rust resistance. Stainless steel horns are also attractive and popular in the competition.
Another popular option is “sweet iron”. This is because the taste is pleasant to the horse and encourages salivation which softens the mouth and relaxes the jaw making it more comfortable for the horse and encouraging the horse to be more compliant.
Similarly, copper is also sometimes incorporated into the mouthpiece for similar reasons. ‘Rotary bits’ are bits with a piece of metal for the horse’s tongue to play with to encourage saliva production – this component is often made of copper.
Rubber and plastic parts are less common. They are designed to be gentler on the horse, but in some cases, they can cause the horse to become unresponsive because a horse with too few of these substances may stop responding to commands.
Variations and specialized bits
Other than simple bits and curbs combined with different types of expressives, there are also several other types of specialized bits that combine elements of both. Here are some of the most common ones:
Also known as Kimberwicke, this type of bit combines elements from both snaffles and sashes. They feature D-rings but also include shanks that provide a certain amount of leverage. For this reason, it is properly considered a type of dock bit.
Like the Kimblewick, the Pelham bit also includes elements of both bits and curbs. It is used with double handles, one set of kerb handles and one set of kerb handles.
Since this type of bit has a shank and uses leverage, it is considered a type of dock bit. However, it also has small rings on either side of the mouth piece like a small piece.
A double bridle, also known as a paradon, is a type of bridle with two bits, one bridle and one bridle.
The dramatic sounding muzzle piece is one of the harshest bit designs and features the cheek piece (the part of the bridle that goes over the horse’s cheeks) and the bridle is attached to various loops.
Muzzle bits apply lip pressure and a poll (the top of a horse’s head between the ears) and are often used to retrain horses. They are also used in situations where a horse may become excited and need to be kept under strict control.
Since this type of configuration creates leverage, gag bits are considered a type of dock bit. Various versions include the snaffle gag, the Dutch gag, and the American gag – also known as a lift.
How do you choose a bit for your horse?
Choosing the right part isn’t always a simple task, and you can never know in advance what the best part will be.
This is because all riders have their own preferences, and different horses respond better to some bits than others – and for this reason, there will always be a certain amount of trial and error before you find the best option for both the horse and rider.
Moreover, the choice of the bit will also be determined by the type of riding – for example, the muzzle part is common in polo because it prevents the horse from running if it is excited, but this type of bit is not allowed in many forms of competition riding.
In general, novice riders and younger, less experienced horses usually do best with an intermediate cut. This is because a new rider will probably not have the skills to use more intensity properly, and strong movements may frighten or even harm the horse.
Likewise, a young horse may not be used to the sensation of intense pressure, and this may cause pain or fear.
In general, the best advice is to seek advice from trainers or advanced riders who can advise you on the best one to use. However, also keep in mind that using a little that doesn’t fit the horse or rider can make riding difficult – and just trying a different piece can make all the difference.
Deceptively complicated topic
So you see, horse parts are a deceptively complex subject, and the variations and combinations used are almost limitless.
However, the topic can also be made relatively simple since practically all bits can be categorized as either small or small bits, and then, it’s just a matter of knowing the different possible types.