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Product Advice

What is a bit?

Bits are for controlling the speed of the horse, containing the impulsion created by the rider's seat and leg, for turning and stopping. Some bits are good at one and not as good at others. Riders often expect too much of bits, thinking immediately that a horse that is difficult to stop or turn must have a bitting problem. There are a lot of other things to be taken into consideration. Out of all the pieces of equipment that we use on our horses the bit is a major source of control so it is vital that you choose a good quality well designed and balanced bit that will be strong in structure and not break, that allows your horse to be comfortable and gives you the right signals and degree of control. Buying a Saddle for £1200 and a Bit for £19.99 just does not make sense when you consider how much we rely on the bit to keep us safe.

The horse's tongue fills the whole of the inside of its mouth and the top of the tongue touches the roof of the mouth so there is no space for a bit to go. Whatever bit you put in your horses mouth has to fit between the tongue and the roof. The tongue is also a massive muscle we only tend to see the part of it that is in the lower jaw but it is actually three times as long.

The Snaffle

It will depend on what mouthpiece is chosen as to the action of the Bit.


Jointed: if the Snaffle has a jointed mouthpiece, whether single or double jointed the action is a closing one so as rein pressure is applied the branches of the bit collapse in at the sides of the mouth and squeeze the tongue and outer bars of the mouth between the two branches pushing the tongue forward into the shape that the bit has now collapsed to, applying pressure to the sides of the tongue the corners of the lips, the sides of the lips, and the sides of the lower jaw..

Mullen: the solid mouthpieces such as Mullen does not collapse in the mouth and places even pressure straight across the tongue pulling the tongue evenly down into the lower jaw and onto the bars of the mouth.

Ported: a Ported mouthpiece allows the tongue to scoop forward into the ported space in the centre of the bit taking pressure off the very middle of the tongue and distributing more pressure onto the sides of the tongue and the bars of the mouth. Remember with a port the bit is always pulled down into the lower jaw so the space that you have to work with is from the bottom bar into the roof of the mouth and on most horses that distance is at least an inch to and inch and a quarter. 


Loose: Loose Rings are just as the name suggests loose so good while you are starting to train but as the horse moves forward in its education not a really slick signal as you need the signals to improve and refine with your horse's training. As you apply rein pressure the rein rolls on the cheek, the cheek rolls on the mouthpiece and then the signal gets to the horse. Makes a good cheek as a bradoon but not always as a stand alone bit. You have to be careful of the fitting as where the cheek joins the mouthpiece can easily rub the corners of the lips.

Eggbutt: Automatically improves the signal between the horse and rider as there is less play between the rein and the mouth. Comfortable for the corners of the lips as there is not gap between the mouth and the cheek to catch a lip.

Hanging: Again improves the signals from rider to horse and because the cheek of your bridle is placed into a small ring the Bbt sits up neatly in the horse's mouth and some of the weight of the bit is taken onto the bridle and out of the mouth. You also get more directional support to your signals. No Poll pressure is applied as some people seem to think.

Full: there are a variety of Full and Half cheeks which basically are more comfortable to the corner of the lips neaten the signal from Rider to Horse a give a little directional support.

The Gag

Gag is a term that can be used for a variety of bits but the traditional gags are really the Balding the Cheltenham and the Duncan all of which have either a leather or a rope gag cheek piece running through the cheek of the bit. The action is as the reins are used the gag cheek slides through the cheek of the cheek piece pulling the bit upwards in the mouth and acting on the corners of the lips and the upper parts of the mouth just in front of the molar teeth. The gag is designed to be used with two reins one on the gag cheek and one on the bit ring itself so that the rider can alternate between a Snaffle action and Leverage action.

The Double Bridle

The whole point of choosing to use a Double Bridle should be for refinement and definition. It is a way of getting much clearer rein signals by using two completely different bits. The Bradoon, as it is the only jointed bit has the best turning signal and gives the horse a lift to its frame, but does not have a stop or a signal for the horse to maintain its frame. The Weymouth if it has a port or curve that the horse is comfortable with, allows it out into the bit, sends the horse to the end of the rein gives you your degree of Hhad tip and is your brakes and way of transferring weight back, as long as you set your curb chain correctly so that the three actions of the Weymouth, downward mouth pressure. poll pressure and curb pressure are evenly balanced.

The Pelham

Is a way of having only one bit in the Horses mouth and being able to ride with two reins. Particularly useful in the Showing World where ponies and horses have only one season as a Novice and then have to go into Doubles or Pelhams for their second season. The Pelham only works well ridden with two reins. If you use one with Pelham Roundings you lose the use of any leverage or the balance of a chain. As you use the  top rein the bit simply gets pulled back onto the horses mouth very like the action of a hanging cheek. As you use the bottom rein the cheek of the bit turns applying downward mouth pressure. Poll pressure which should all be balanced out by a well set chain so that just like the Weymouth the three pressures are even.

Leverage Bits 

The Four Ring bit, known by a variety of names most notably the Dutch gag, is included in this section as well as the American Gag and the Elevator as they are all leverage bits that normally do not employ the use of a curb strap or chain. As you apply rein pressure depending on where you have your rein set the cheek of the bit turns to almost horizontal especially in the case of the 4 Ring and American Gag if the mouthpiece is jointed the bit's mouthpiece collapses in on the inside of the mouth and then as the cheek continues to turn the mouthpiece rotates down into the mouth. Bits designed to encourage the horse to yield quickly from the pressure and lighten in the bridle which works as long as the rider spots the yield and lightens the hands accordingly.

These notes on bit action are provided as a guide only and do not imply that a particular bit will always have the same effect on every horse. and Abbey Bits take no responsibility for the use of any bit detailed on this site and make no claim as to their suitability for any use whatsoever.


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