Bits for horses – basic information& effect simply explained

The subject of bits runs through the rider’s life. Either you are a proud new horse owner and would like to inform yourself about the different types of bits, or you have a horse that no longer wants to wear the bit it is used to. In any case, it makes sense to inform yourself about the different types and materials before buying a new set of teeth. We give you basic knowledge about bits to the hand.

The different bits& their effect

There are different types of dentures. Beside the classical water snaffle, the olive head bit is also used with pleasure. In addition there is still the choice between simple and double broken bit. Double bridle bits and undercut snaffles also have a special significance in dressage. To make it easier for you to get an overview, we have listed the most important types of dentures here.

Water snaffle – the classic

Water snaffle

As A water snaffle is a bit with rings running through it. Water bridles work exclusively on train. Since the ring is movable, it can compensate well for an unsteady or untrained hand. In addition, the horse can avoid excessive pressure in the short term by lifting its tongue.

Water snaffles are available as single-broken and double-broken bit, but also as bar bit. Multijoint bits are also available with continuous rings, but are rarely found. The well-known company Sprenger offers water snaffles in almost all bit series.

The water snaffle is the classic bit, with which all horses usually run well and are also trained. Click here for our water snaffles.

Olive head bit – direct action

Olive head bit

Olive head bits can be compared with water snaffles in their mode of action, but the rein aids are transmitted more directly. Due to the firm connection of mouthpiece and ring, the bit lies quietly in the horse’s mouth. In addition, the lateral guidance of the horse is simplified by this bit. Olive head bits are not recommended for young horses, if the horse does not yet know a bit. Riders with a hard hand or beginners with unsteady hands should rather choose a water snaffle, because the movement is transmitted directly to the tongue and is not cushioned. Olive head bits should generally be 0.5 to 1 cm smaller than a ring snaffle, so that the side pieces fit loosely on the horse’s mouth.

Olive head bits are also available as single and double broken variants, as well as a bar. Here you can find all olive head bits.

Effect of bar bit – for experienced hands only

Bar bits

Bar bits are available in many different materials and shapes. They belong only in experienced rider hands, because one-sided rein aids or the development of position and bending is not possible with a bar bit.

Bar bits exert even pressure on the entire tongue. In contrast to single or double bit, less pressure is applied to the edges of the tongue. You should always choose the right bit for your horse, because if the bit is too big, it can tilt under one-sided pressure. Bar bits are often used for very strong horses, which, for example, when approaching an obstacle, withdraw from the rider’s aids. Also for horses with tongue problems (pressure sensitivity – tongue is pulled up or stuck out to the side) a bar bit with tongue clearance can be advantageous.

Flexible bar bit is particularly suitable for horses that occasionally get stuck and is also often well accepted by horses that do not do well with broken bits. A good alternative to the classic bar bit is also the Max Control bit from Sprenger, which first acts like a normal broken bit and becomes a bar under strong pressure.
However, it is always important to handle the bar bit sensitively. The rider should be able to ride the horse independently of the reins with weight and thigh aids. You can find all bar bits here.

Single or double broken bit? What is better?

A single broken bit consists of the side rings (continuous or D-rings) and the two legs, which are movably connected in the middle. It acts on the horse’s loading and tongue. In the case of one-sided rein aids, it is only applied to the load that is addressed. Thus it is possible to give very differentiated aids. Your horse can counteract pressure for a short time by pressing the bit against the palate with his tongue. Originally it was said that when the reins are pulled hard, the bit sets up in the mouth and presses against the palate, as well as jamming the loading like a nutcracker. The so-called "nutcracker effect" has been disproved by studies. Only if the bit is clearly too big or too thick, it can press against the palate. You can find out how to determine the right size here: Measuring the bit – How to find the right bit for your horse.

A Double broken bit consists of the side pieces, the two legs and an olive shaped piece in the middle. It also acts on the tongue and loading of the horse. Since it "encloses" the tongue, it should lie more quietly in the mouth than a simple broken bit. The pressure should be better distributed. However, the bit can also be very hard on the loads if there is strong rein pressure. If the pressure is too strong on both sides, the tongue will be squeezed. Your horse can NOT escape this pressure by pressing the bit against the palate.

What is better? Single or double broken?

Now we come to the question which is better. In fact, this question cannot be answered in a general way. It always depends on the combination horse and own riding. Because some horses prefer a single broken bit and others a double broken bit. You should also take your own riding into account when making your decision. If you have a stronger hand, the double bit is not the right one for you.

your horse will show you whether he likes the chosen bit or not. Signs of discomfort can be head bobbing, curling, going against the bit, locking, tongue faults (sticking out the tongue), shedding, and generally any sign of lack of looseness. These indications can occur very quickly or gradually over a few weeks. If you are using a new bit, pay close attention to what your horse is telling you.

A well known phrase on this subject is: The rider’s hands determine how the bit works, not the bit itself.

Effect of Baucher bit / Fillistrense / B-ring bit

Bits for horses - basic information& effect simply explained

This type of bit is not seen very often. The belly bit, also called Fillistrense or B-ring bit, sits much more calmly in the horse’s mouth due to its firm buckling with the bridle, than a water snaffle. This bit also works in the direction of the mouth angle, which leads to more uprightness for many horses. Besides it has by the firm side parts also a sideways pointing effect.
B-ring bits, unlike simple snaffles, do not sag downward and can only be pushed minimally toward the stallion and incisors. Therefore, this type of bit is also suitable for horses with a short mouth gap.

Contrary to popular belief, this bit does NOT have leverage. When the reins are tightened, the strap to which the bit is attached turns outward, similar to a water snaffle. Because in order to be able to exert pressure on the neck, the bit needs a counter pole, i.e. a chin chain. This leverage effect is found in curb bits.

Femoral snaffle – also called toggle snaffle

Bits for horses - basic information& effect simply explained

Thigh snaffles, or gag bits, have side bars that have a directional effect. Furthermore, the bit, similar to an olive head bit, lies more quietly in the horse’s mouth than a water snaffle. It is often used for training young horses, for lunging or by show jumpers, because the bit cannot be pulled through the mouth. The term gag snaffle sounds very cruel at the first moment. Important with this type of bit is the suitable size to be used so that the corners of the mouth are not pinched.

Pull-on snaffle – only for experienced riders

Bits for horses - basic information& effect simply explained

The Pull-on snaffle is a special type of bit, which, due to the effective and targeted action on the angle of the mouth and the nape of the neck, provides maximum control. This bit also has a straightening effect and can only be used with special cheek pieces.

D-Ring bit – also called racing bit

Bits for horses - basic information& effect simply explained

D-ring bits do not differ from olive head bits in the way they work. The difference lies in the slightly more angular shape of the sides. In addition, the shekels are usually firmly attached to the side pieces.

3-ring bit, multi-ring bit or pessoa

Pessoa bit

The 3-ring bit, also called Pessoa or jumping bit, belongs only in experienced rider hands. It acts on the angle of the mouth and the nape of the neck, and is rather classified in the category "Sharp bits", because it acts very quickly.

The Pessoa or 3-ring bit can be used differently. If you buckle the reins in the big middle ring, the bit acts like a water snaffle.

If, on the other hand, you buckle the rein in the lower small ring, it becomes a sharp bit, because here the leverage effect and thus pressure on the neck is added. This type of buckling is used for stormy horses in cross-country and show jumping, which are not happy running with a Pelham.

The Pessoa bit is usually used with two pairs of reins, as with a curb bit. So you ride with the "water snaffle" rein. The lower rein is then used to reinforce and refine the aids, so only when absolutely necessary. In show jumping you can also see the use of only one rein in combination with a Pelham strap, or with a converter rein.

Nathe bit – the brand for plastic bits

Nathe bits are made of thermoplastic. The high-quality plastic bits are suitable for sensitive and mouth-sensitive horses. Since the beginning of 2020 Sprenger has taken over the distribution of Nathe bits. Advantage: the bits are improved in quality, design and functionality by the long experience of the Westphalian company.

Nathe bits are anti-allergenic and thus have a very high tolerance. They are also food safe and free of softeners and solvents. If your horse is sensitive to metal bits, you should take a look at this brand.

Disadvantage of the material is the medium to low durability. Thermoplastic has a very high mechanical strength, but if a horse tends to chew heavily on the bit, this will be noticeable after a while by scoring and tooth marks. A denture with bite marks should be replaced immediately, as the sharp edges can injure the soft oral mucosa.

Double bridle& Lower bridle – for fine hands

Bits for horses - basic information& effect simply explained

Double bridle bits are mostly only used in higher dressage and serve to refine the aids in higher lessons. Both rider and horse should be appropriately trained. The rider should have a rein-independent seat and a fine, gentle hand. This is called the "curb bit". The curb bit has a much sharper effect on the horse’s mouth than, for example, a single-break water snaffle due to the leverage effect of the tongues. In dressage, the curb bit is always accompanied by a bridle.

A distinction is made between the French curb bit / dressage curb bit and the post curb bit / Liverpool curb bit, also called a driving curb bit.

The post curb bit is used without a bridle and has up to three rings, one below the other. The deeper you buckle the driving line, the sharper the effect of this curb bit.

Dressage bit – short or long suit?

The dressage or French curb bit is the most commonly used type of curb bit. They are available with short (5 cm) and long (7 cm) attachments. The type known as "baby curb" with short suits is unfortunately a bit of a sham. The name conveys the feeling that these curb bits are "softer" and serve as an introduction to riding with a curb bit. This is not the case. Due to the short suits, the bit works significantly faster than its big brother.

With a long bit there is a little more leeway and you can dose the pressure in finer gradations. Remember: the angle of attack, which results from a certain shortening of the reins, is smaller the longer the bit is. This means that the "baby" curb bit acts much faster and thus sharper when the reins are applied in the same way. Basically you now have to consider whether your hand is fine enough to work in millimeters and whether your horse needs more direct, clear aids or a little more time to think.

A curb bit with only a slightly bent bar is called a French curb bit. A curb bit with little to much tongue freedom is called a dressage curb bit.

The tongue freedom is a bit controversial nowadays. According to the latest knowledge the tongue is more likely to be pinched by the tongue freedom and the horse does not have the possibility to push the bit up with the tongue. So it can not counteract too much pressure. The greater the freedom of the tongue, the sharper the effect of the bit. If the rod is only slightly bent, it has an even effect on the entire tongue when pressure is applied from the same side. With too much one-sided tightening, however, there is the danger of tilting.

Which bit material is suitable for my horse??

Sensogan bit – slightly sweet

Sensogan is one developed by Sprenger. It is specially designed for use in the horse’s mouth and is made of a special composition of copper, manganese and zinc. Sensogan bits taste slightly sweet, which should encourage your horse to chew. The veterinary university of Hanover has tested the material toxicologically and classified it as harmless. You can recognize the material by the white-gold surface. This can neither flake off, nor crumble off, because the bit is solidly manufactured, i.e. consists of the same material throughout.

Stainless steel bit – the inexpensive classic

Stainless steel bits do not rust, are very durable and absolutely tasteless. The weight of these bits depends on whether they are made solid or hollow. If your horse does not like light bits, you should go for a solid stainless steel bit. Many horses prefer the bit to be a bit heavier. As with any bit, you should inspect it for possible damage before use. With heavy use, sharp edges can form over time, which can injure the mucous membrane in the mouth.

Soft bit – plastic, rubber or leather

What sounds a bit strange at first, is the solution especially for sensitive horses. If your horse is allergic to metal, you can offer him a bit made of plastic, rubber or leather. But you should keep in mind that soft bits require more care and show signs of wear more quickly. They are not suitable for strong chewing horses, as heavy use can result in sharp edges. Almost every manufacturer offers its own type of soft bit. Happy Mouth apple bit stimulates the chewing activity due to the lasting apple taste and is gladly accepted by horses.

Copper bit – sweet iron bit with a slight susceptibility to wear

The copper in the bit is supposed to stimulate salivation and thus the mouth activity of your horse. Although these types of bits are made of a stainless steel core with copper alloy, the surface scratches easily due to the soft surface material and can form sharp edges. Therefore always make sure it is in perfect condition.

Sweet Iron – the blue bit from Trust

Sweet Iron is a material alloy of the company Trust. You can recognize Sweet Iron bits by their bluish color. This changes by use of the bit in brown-gray. This is intentional, because the surface forms a light layer of rust through contact with moisture. This tastes sweet and encourages your horse to salivate and chew more.

FAQ – The most frequently asked questions about bits

We often get this question. The answer depends on the circumstances and can not be generalized. As a rule, all horses run well with a water snaffle – be it single or double broken. For horses that need a little more lateral contact or for lunging, a thigh snaffle or olive head snaffle is a good choice. Your horse has a special problem? Then read this report on the different bits carefully or let us advise you by phone / e-mail.

Does your horse curl, or does it lift out? You should answer this question first, because it leads to different answers. Horses that do not approach the bit properly usually do not have a problem with the bit itself. The engine (hindquarters) is simply made of. First try to get the hindquarters of your horse more diligent before you look for the problem in the bit.

If your horse is already very busy (fast is not synonymous with busy& ), you can test different bits.

Sprenger offers for example WH Ultra Dentition to. The rolling element promotes mouth activity, permeability& Concentration. It relaxes the jaw and the topline, causing the horse to chew faster.

The Sprenger Turnado bit is suitable for horses with tongue problems.

Very special is the Sprenger Novocontact bit. The single broken version is suitable for horses that do not want to approach the bit. Whereas the double broken version is designed for horses that occasionally get strong and go against the hand.

You can learn more about these bits on the respective bit page.

We have already answered this question in the previous question. First and foremost, your horse’s hindquarters should be active. Hardworking horses also become soft in the hand.

If your horse simply likes to carry your head around, you can look for another bit. Many advise directly to a bar bit. However, this is only appropriate for experienced rider’s hands and only for short correction.

A good middle ground is offered by the Sprenger Novocontact bit. It is suitable for horses that are strong but too sensitive for a sharp bit.

For young horses, single- or double-breasted water snaffles are suitable. Because with it usually first of all all horse run well. An unsteady hand is compensated by the movable rings and the horse can escape too much pressure for a short time by lifting the tongue.

In the case of a bit with movable side pieces (e.g.b. If you are using a water snaffle, the bit should not fit very tightly, as the rings must remain free to move. Bits with fixed side parts (z.B. Olive head bits) can be selected a half to a whole size smaller. You can find out exactly how to measure out the right bit in our guide: Measuring the bit – How to find the right bit for your horse

As a first rough estimate you can use the "2-finger-test". To do this, put your index and middle finger into the horse’s mouth at the same place where the bit will be inserted. If you feel pressure on both fingers, the recommended strength is 14 – 16 mm. If, on the other hand, you feel little pressure, you can also use a bit with a thickness of 16 – 18 mm. How exactly you measure the right bit, you will learn in our guide: Measuring the bit – How to find the right bit for your horse

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