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A properly picked bit can take your training to the next level. A wrong bit can prevent you from seeing the results you want. If your horse lacks balance, is fearful of the bit, avoids steady contact or feels generally stiff and tense, it might be time to reconsider the bit you are using. Below are some of the most common bits in the UK among with my personal tips and recommendations.
The most popular bit out there. It is a perfect bit to start off a green horse and used correctly it is one of the softer bits. It can be used throughout all the levels of training. There are many variations of snaffle bits which can make things confusing. Below are some of them:
Snaffle bit for a young (green) horse
A bit for a young and inexperienced horse should be gentle on the mouth. Generally speaking the lighter and thicker the bit the softer it is.
Korsteel Stainless Steel Hollow Mouth French Link Loose Snaffle Bit is lighter and thicker than typical snaffle bits found on the market. It also has a French link which prevents the bit from bending and poking your horses upper jaw. It is very important in building trust and confidence in a green horse.
Eggbutt snaffle bit for a horse that lacks balance and avoids contact
If you can feel your horse drifting from left to right and avoiding a steady contact, or not accepting the bit, you might want to try an eggbutt snaffle bit. Korsteel Stainless Steel Oval Link Eggbutt Snaffle Bit encourages the horse to look for steady contact. It is ideal for delicate horses fearful of the hand. It is a good all-around bit but I would especially recommend it for showjumping as it encourages stiff horses to dive in a bit more with their neck. I found it was not ideal for higher class dressage training as it is not sharp enough to perform many movements.
Full cheek snaffle bit for horses that open their mouth
Super popular among showjumpers. It is a variation of eggbutt snaffle bit. Prevents the bit from moving around and being pulled sideways, very useful for horses that open their mouth during riding, keeping the bit in the right place. Should be used by riders that understand the outer rein concept. A rider that abuses the inner rein to turn will keep on pulling the whole horses face and provoking an unwanted bend. Busse Full Cheek French Link Stainless Steel Snaffle Bit is one of full cheek snaffle bits I had a pleasure to use and can honestly recommend it. Busse is one of my favorite companies, it uses high quality metal elements very easy in maintenance. The metal doesn’t scratch easily.
Gag bit can be used in horses that pull a lot and have tendencies to be out of control. Gag bit provides more pressure on the mouth than regular bits. It is versatile and can be used with your normal reins, extra pair of reins or roundings. It comes in different varieties that differ in the number of rings. I would recommend getting a gag bit such as Korsteel Stainless Steel French Link Three Ring Dutch Gag Bit that has a greater number of rings because it gives you more options for use. Typically the lower the ring, the higher the pressure applied.
Pelham is one of the harsher bits and should only be used by experienced riders with a steady hand. It is commonly used bit in dressage training or for hot horses during cross country. It can be used with double reins or roundings. It should only be used on horses accepting the bit. Double Jointed Copper Lozenge Pelham is highly rated among the users and a good value for money.
Shires Blenheim Hackamore Leathers
Technically not a bit but totally underrated and deserves more attention. Can be used by itself or as an addition to a snaffle bit. Works by putting pressure on the horses nose and face. A great alternative for super sensitive horses, that do not accept a normal bit or horses after dental procedures. It is commonly picked by professional show jumpers or eventers for bit shy sport horses.
What Horse Bit to Choose
The bit you choose depends on the level of your horses training and your experience as a rider. Snaffle bit is a good all-around bit that can be recommended to anyone. Picking other bits is very individual and depends on how stable your hand is and how accepting your horse is of the bit. You should always consult it with your trainer or professional because a wrong bit can cause plenty of damage. Another thing to look at, is the materials the bit is made of. Stainless steel is always a safe option because it doesn’t collect rust and is easy in cleaning and maintenance. I also always recommend getting a bit with a french link. French link prevents the bit from bending and causing a nutcracker effect.