HORSE BITS

by Futurepets.com

Welcome to Horse-Bits.com

A site dedicated to enlightening the novice horse owner about Horse Bits

Horse Bits seem like a straight forward piece of horse tack. Every horse owner has one or more. Many people have tried several in an effort to either fit their horse with an acceptable bit or to have an arsenal of bits for different stages of training. Some trainers have buckets of frustratingly unacceptable bits. There are literally hundreds of horse bits available today and many types that should be understood before you settle on the two or three you will need to take your horse from a green broke colt to a well-trained riding horse.

Bits are for controlling the speed of a horse, his direction and his stop. Your horse should perform all maneuvers with his head in a natural position. However, leg cues and other body cues contribute more than 50% to the experience. In fact in a well-trained horse they may be 90% of the experience. The bit is meant to receive a signal from the rider's hands and tell the horse what the rider wants. When the horse is trained, the other aids speak to the horse and the bit is just a reminder to your horse of what is expected (in case he doesn't respond immediately to your other aids). If you have to pull the horse using his head, he is not trained.

Because this site is for the comparative novice horse trainer, we will concentrate on non-correction bits only, leaving the most complicated and expert bits for another lesson.

 

HORSE BIT ANATOMY

For our purposes, we will break bits down into two main types according to the bar configuration. Most bits with solid mouthpieces are curb-type bits. Bits with broken mouthpieces are snaffle-type bits. Snaffle bits can have either one, two or more joints in the middle. Snaffle bits can have direct rings or shank cheeks.

 

 

HORSE BITS USE PRESSURE TO COMMUNICATE

Horse bits are designed to "pressure" different parts of a horse's mouth and face. As he tries to avoid the pressure, he is induced to change pace, direction, or posture. The bit bars put pressure on the soft gum tissue of the horse's mouth between his front incisors and back molars. Some bits put pressure down onto his tongue or up into the roof of his mouth (palate). Most bits pressure his lips. Bits with shanks and curb chains put pressure under his chin in his curb area and often exert pressure downward on his poll (the sensitive area just behind his ears).

Pressure is uncomfortable. A horse whose ground training has taught him to move away from pressure will have no problem understanding that if pressure is exerted on his head or mouth (ie: pulling him to the right), he can stop the pressure by moving to the right. The goal of pressure is for your horse to figure out how to avoid it. In so doing, he moves the way you want him to move, and he is rewarded with a cessation of pressure.

In the first steps of training, we will use the sensitive areas of a horse's face to communicate to him to move around. After teaching him how to understand what you are asking using early bit cues paired with simultaneous body cues, we substitute the body aids for bit pressure. Body and leg aids will take the place of bit pressure throughout most of his life. But his face and bit pressure is where it all starts.

Most novice trainers think that a trainer goes from gentle bits to harsher bits as training progresses - level one to level 4 means more and more severe. That theory misses the point. The progression is actually from less-sophisticated, harsher bits to more freedom of his face but higher sophistication in the bit. The horse moves through bit stages by learning how to react to different pressure on his face and by repetitive learning of simultaneous body cues that happen with each unique type of pressure.

His first bit is probably fairly simple. It pressures only one or two areas and requires him to make one or two moves to avoid that pressure. His next bit has less pressure where the first bit worked, but adds pressure to a different part of his face and teaches him to move in a different way or move a different part of his body - or stop quickly. Each step up, his bit helps him learn a different maneuver, and the other aids are controlling movements he has already mastered with his previous bit.

A fully trained horse has very little need for his bit. It is there just as a reminder. His face and mouth are very free as he uses more and more leg and body aids and less and less face aids.

It is especially important that a rider stay off the reins (use NO pressure) when a horse is performing a maneuver correctly. It is the stark contrast between bit pressure and bit neutrality that teaches the lesson: Pressure until performance. No pressure when compliance is achieved.

Aside from knowledge and experience, the difference between a novice trainer (rider) and an expert lies in timing and balance. A rider who is still using the reins to balance himself is putting pressure on the horse's face when no pressure should be applied. That definitely confuses the horse and can make him very uncomfortable. As you become a better rider, the false signals to the horse will disappear. As you become a better trainer, the timing of pressure and release will be more and more precise. As you learn about bits and watch your horse's reaction to them, your understanding will grow. Which bits are best for pressuring which points, why, and when?

 

HORSE BIT DESIGNS

Both snaffle bits and curb bits can have cheeks or shanks attached. The beginner bits we will be discussing will be snaffle-type bits with no cheeks or very short cheeks.

Generally speaking the mildest bits are the ones with the thickest, smoothest bars - to a point. Eggbutt bits generally have thicker bars than most and some young horses object to so much metal in their mouth at first. Some snaffles have mouthpieces made of thinner materials such as twisted wire. These put much more concentrated pressure on a horse's mouth with less pressure from the rider's hands(the difference between sitting on a bleacher seat or sitting on a fence rail. Which is more uncomfortable?) and are not usually used as starter bits except by expert trainers.

Cheeks (shanks) also magnify the pressure from a rider's hands to the horse's mouth and face. They are usually not used as starter bits.

Simple snaffle-bits pressure the lips, bars, and tongue. They are used to teach the horse to come around left or right by simple 1:1 ratio of pull from the rider's hands turned into pressure to the horse's mouth and face. If you pull right with one pound of pressure on the reins, he feels one pound of pressure to his face. They are also used to bring the horse into the bit, lowering his head at the poll.

Pulling on one side of a direct-rein bit puts pressure on the opposite side as the off-side of the bit pressures the horse to come around into the turn. Pressure to both sides teaches him to stop. To much two-handed pressure or too much jerk will cause a horse to throw his head up in the stop.

Direct reining puts the weight and turn on the forehand. Snaffles are generally forehand bits, loading your horse primarily on his forehand.

Curb bits, neck reining and combo reining with turning pressure AND back pressure load the horse on his hindquarters as he turns on collected turns.

 

 

HORSE BIT MOUTHPIECE MATERIALS

Bit mouthpieces have several configurations and materials. As you browse the huge selection you will see stainless steel mouths, sweet iron mouths, copper mouths, and rubber mouths.

Stainless steel is, of course, the mainstay of English bits. It lasts a long time and is a generally all-round good material for such uses. Often used in Western riding, Sweet Iron is actually a cold-rolled "mild steel" or carbon steel that has been work hardened. It is often preferred by horses because the oxidation of the rusting or "seasoning" tastes sweet. It also seems to encourage salivation. Salivation is thought to be a "sensitivity enhancer" and many trainers believe their horses work best when their mouths are moist.

Copper also encourages salivation. A salivating horse is a more relaxed horse. The tongue is the gateway to the neck, shoulders, and front of the horse. When he is relaxing his tongue or moving his tongue, he is relaxing his lower jaw as well as his neck, poll and spine. Copper also warms up quickly in cold weather. However, many trainers report that copper can encourage a horse to chew the bit, and copper bits don't last as long. A popular combination is a sweet iron bit with copper inlay.

Rubber mouths are not found on very many bits, but they are, of course, softer than the other materials. Additionally new "happy mouth" bits have been developed. They have a softer plastic polymer coating on the bars of the bit.

 

HORSE BIT CONFIGURATIONS

A horse's tongue is a very thick muscle that fills most of his mouth cavity, pressing against his palate and the back of his incisors when at rest. (Sit with your mouth closed and notice the position of your tongue) The un-pressured bit sits comfortably across the tongue with the metal resting cradled in the muscle and held gently against the palate. If it is not too thick, the horse will not mind "holding" it there.

Mouthpieces on broken-mouth bits can have one joint, two joints, or be flexible all the way round such as a chain bit, Waterford, or some of the precisely engineered Myler bits. The most frequently used (and the first bits for most horses) are the single-joint regular snaffle mouth (right). The mouthpiece has two bars with one joint in the middle. They can have straight bars or slightly curved bars. They can be made of different materials. They can be graduated thickness from center to cheek or straight across. They can be thin or thick.

Unless you are an expert trainer and rider, stay away from twisted wire or other thinner materials. They intensify the pressure on the bars or into the tongue and therefore magnify your mistakes. The thicker bars of a smooth-mouth snaffle spread the pressure over a larger area and are milder than thin-mouth or textured-mouth bits. Curved snaffles delay bar pressure (It takes a harder tug to engage the bar pressure) and are more desirable than straight-bar snaffle mouths.

Snaffles in general give excellent lateral pull for teaching your horse to turn, but they are not the best to teach him to stop. (Study one-rein stops. These bits teach the emergency one-rein stop like a champ.)

There are Western Dees and English Dees. Both have advantages over O-ring snaffles: The rein rings of a D-ring snaffle swivel in and out, but the mouthpiece does not rotate on the ring. For that reason, D-ring snaffles have less tendency to pinch the lips. The Dee snaffle also gives you better lift to keep the horse's shoulders up. They also hold more pressure downward to bring him into the bit.

Think through the angles and stresses of your riding posture. They can have a significant effect on what you are trying to accomplish. Your horse will be trying to avoid the pressure you are imparting. Figure out which way the bit is pressing and which way he will be trying to move to avoid it so you can direct his movement with understanding.

The snaffle's ability to change shape under rein pressure allows it to contract into a nutcracker shape, digging down into the tongue or up into the palate. Also, when contracted, the bars of the bit immediately clamp the sides of the bars of the mouth. This is a severe consequence of a "mild" bit. The goal is to HARNESS the "V".

The angle of the horse's head relative to the ground and the position of the rider's hands are critical to controlling the "V". If the pressure is perpendicular to the face, the nutcracker will be engaged. The Myler brothers contend that the downward pressure on the tongue and vice-gripping the bars are the most prevalent action with standard two-piece snaffle bits in most normal riding postures. The angle of the rider above the horse's withers relative to the angle of the horse's face gives the pull-back the potential to press the point of the "V" into the tongue with considerable pressure and clamp the bars like a vice.

The opposite is true when reins exert pressure from below such as when you lead your horse. The reins pull forward and down, and the point of the "V" goes up (one of the few times that the nutcracker can reach the palate). A sharp downward jerk on the reins can cause a horse to throw his head up dramatically as his bit jabs his palate. (another good reason not to tie a horse with the reins)

The effect can be tested on yourself using your vertical forearm as the horse's mouth and wrapping your single-joint snaffle around it with the joint on the inside of your forearm. Have your friend "pull" on the reins. When he pulls back and up on both reins, the bit immediately snaps into the "V", dropping the point directly into the flesh if your wrist and digging into the soft sides of your arm on both sides with the straight, hard bars of the bit.

When you understand the nutcracker effect you understand that an inexperienced rider CAN cause harm and pain - a fact overlooked by traditional bitting advice that says this is the bit for all inexperienced riders.

Additionally, even if pain is not evident, a rider who does not adequately release the pressure of a two-piece snaffle inadvertently "traps" the horse's tongue, making it very hard for him to swallow. A horse whose tongue is trapped in this way will begin to show all of the signs of bit struggle and become a hard-to-handle mess.

If you can harness the "V" without engaging bar pressure or inhibiting the swallow reflex, you can teach a young horse to soften, turn, and bend using well-timed tongue "pressure" while "saving" the bars for a more finished horse.

 

Our clients have requested that we offer some of the bits we are talking about so that they don't have to go searching.

All horses will learn quickly to give and bend when wearing the two-piece bit. They will be soft to the turn and move easily into the bit. Unfortunately for some, they wear the two-piece snaffle forever. An uncomfortable horse is distracted from learning and is not relaxed. He is neither the best pupil nor the best riding companion. Considering the earlier discussion, a two-piece snaffle may not be the most comfortable bit, and after your horse has understood the initial instruction to soften and bend, he may no longer need the two-piece snaffle with its potential tongue depression.

Because he is already sensitive to the request to turn, bend and come in to you, he can now use a bit with less DEMAND for those maneuvers and more REQUEST - a bit in which he can relax more. A requesting bit has more precise communication and less tongue pressure. To keep your reins from causing an immediate bar vice and to relieve the tongue of the sharp point, move to a bit with a three piece mouth (seen below). The center piece keeps the "V" from forming and stabbing into the muscle of the tongue or palate. If it has curved bars as well, the bar-vice-effect is also delayed.

 

Double-jointed (3-part) mouthpieces put pressure in the horse's mouth in a different way.

The double-jointed bit spreads the pressure throughout the mouth. It pressures the lips and bars and traps the tongue without the stabbing effect. It cannot gouge the palate or stab the tongue but it still applies some tongue pressure if needed. This is also a good starter bit - especially for a horse who seems to object to the shear mass of an Eggbutt D-ring snaffle - or a "next step" after the simple snaffle. A sensitive horse will benefit from the lower PSI of this configuration. It is a bit he can use for a considerably longer time than the single-joint bit.

In the case of the bits pictured above, there is a little more direct tongue pressure from the copper roller than a flat "dog bone" bit. But there is also more to "play" with as the roller rests on the tongue. Copper also helps relax a horse who is having a hard time settling and concentrating. It might also be a good bit for horses being used by less competent riders such as stable horses or horses used for physical therapy as long as they are quite "kid-broke" as far as their "stop".

These bits apply less tongue pressure than a single-joint snaffle but are just as good for turning and far superior for lifting one side of your colt or the other - ie: correcting a dropped shoulder - because the two sides move up independently (without catching at a center joint), giving more lift to one side of the face without disturbing the other.

Remember the statement above, "The tongue is the gateway to the neck, shoulders, and front of the horse." As his training progresses, the more comfortable we can make his mouth and tongue, the more relaxed and receptive he becomes. A single-joint bit has pin-point, deep tongue pressure. The wider the center of a three-piece bit, the wider the area of the tongue that is depressed with a two-handed pull and the more dispersed is the tongue depression. As the horse matures in his training, the center of the bit can become wider and wider, relieving the tongue more and more. At the same time we want to preserve the ability to pick up on either side of the bit independently. Resistance is curtailed. Performance is enhanced.

The next step for a young horse might be to go to a loose-cheek, shanked training bit with a double-jointed mouth

that offers tongue relief but adds the potential for poll and/or curb pressure.

The two Black Iron bits below have slightly different mouths. One has a double-jointed mouth with a straight-up bone-shaped middle and copper-wrapped center. When the rein is pulled back, the bone is pulled back in its vertical posture and has some bite to it as it slides up the tongue. The other has a "dog bone" French Link that is angled at 45 degrees to lay gently on the tongue. When the reins are pulled back with this mouth, the link slides more softly up the tongue.

Neither bit is a curb bit, but both offer poll pressure. (When the reins are pulled back, the bridle loop is pulled forward and down pressuring the poll.) The mild curb pressure enhances "rating back" (whoa).

They both have independent lateral movement for turning.

Or think about the Stainless Steel Kimberwick slotted Dee that keeps the direct rein and adds a small amount of curb (chin) and poll action using only one rein. The curb action is minimal to mild because the shanks have short purchase arms and no actual lever arms to speak of (see discussion of curb bits below). Lower rein slot for more leverage, upper slot for more direct rein.

However, this particular bit is still a 2-piece snaffle with tongue pressure as well as poll and curb pressure. (note: Kimberwick bits are illegal in dressage and show hunter classes. Due to the addition of curb action, they are commonly seen on ponies or where small riders need more control of strong horses.)

 

Cheeks (shanks) magnify the pressure from a rider's hands to the horse's mouth and face.

Bits with shanks are not usually used as starter bits. Your horse needs plenty of ground training and lots of hours in the arena wearing his advanced snaffle before using leveraged shanks.

Shanks add pressure by use of a curb strap that traps the lower jaw between the bit above and the curb (chin) strap below. This vice-like action magnifies the pressure down onto the bars as well as adding pressure to the sensitive chin groove under the jaw. The reins (via the curb strap and bit grip) also leverage the headstall down against the nerve-rich poll area of the head just behind the ears. All in all, shanks are meant to bring the point home with less effort from the rider.

Shanks add the Whoa! to the turn. If you remember, we said that the simple snaffle was strong in turns but weak in the stop. Shanks add the stop you are looking for. However, the action of the "snaffle" part of a two-piece shanked-snaffle bit is even more intense than a simple snaffle. The "V" shape changes dramatically when the curb strap is engaged. The "nutcracker" action rotates down on the tongue and the bars with the V causing intense depression to the tongue. It can be a very severe bit if improperly used. Even intermediate riders should not use shanks (lever) longer than about 4-1/2" and it requires very soft hands in the stop.

The double-jointed shanked snaffle helps avoid the tongue pressure. However, it adds bar pressure that was not formerly highlighted with the Dee three-piece snaffle, and it adds curb pressure.

No one bit can offer everything. What the loose-cheek snaffle bit gains in the stop it loses in the direct turn because the rein loop is usually too far down the shank for efficient pull-through for direct pressure to both sides of the face. When one rein is pulled, the bit begins to twist and engage the chin strap with a muddied signal to the other side of the face that your horse previously has understood from his simple snaffle bit but now finds slightly confusing. This up-and-out type of pull from the rein loop also causes the upper part of the cheek to dig into the horse's face and press the skin against the upper molars.

There is a better way. Some shanked-snaffle bits offer two rein loops so that you can use one rein as a simple Dee snaffle and the other as a curb snaffle (see the image at the top of the page as well as the previous image). With the Pelham bit pictured at right, the top rein is for better heads-down turning. The bottom rein engages the curb strap and is for stopping. The top rein will help to remind your horse to keep his head down, collecting in an appropriate fashion and turning without throwing his head out. The lower rein is good for bringing his head up into position if necessary. The combination makes a very powerful tool. (For dressage work, this type of bit is considered a must by many trainers.)

However, remember that in the end the Pelham is a simple two-piece snaffle, while the bit above and the bit to the right have a three-piece mouthpiece with the same abilities as the Pelham and fewer disadvantages to the tongue.

Loose-cheek snaffles are often used as the bridge from a two-handed snaffle to a one-handed curb bit. You can use a connecting bar on your shanks where the rein loops are attached to hold the bit together and make it act more like a stiff bit (restricting its direct side-pull action) before actually shifting to a curb bit.

Side-pull hackamores are also a good bridge toward neck reining. They are without the scope of this current discussion but will be added later.

And the most impressive NEW piece of equipment is the Neck-training hackamore developed specifically to teach a horse to neck rein and to stop without dishing his back.

 

For our purposes, curb bits will be defined as solid mouthpieces with solid (non-rotating) shanks.

The mouthpieces are made of the same materials we have discussed above. The port can be very low (or non-existent such as in a straight mullen-mouth bit) to very high such as in a spoon-shaped correction bit. Generally speaking, until you enter the correction bits, the height of the port is to provide relief to the horse's tongue, not to pressure the palate.

Solid-shank curb bits are one-handed bits. They are weak for teaching turning, but strong for the stop.

Most are at least a LEVEL THREE bit. That is the horse has progressed from his simple snaffle through his loose-cheek snaffle to this bit. The shanks add a great deal of leverage to your reins. That is: the pressure exerted by your rein movements are no longer simply one pound of pressure for one pound of rein. Depending on how long the shanks are and the ratio between the upper shank (purchase) and the lower (lever), the pressure is greatly magnified. The longer the shanks are (specifically the Lever) the more leverage they impart. The bit at the right has both purchase and lever. The Kimberwick bit above has purchase cheeks but no lever. The Kimberwick imparts far less leverage than the bit here.

If the curb strap is placed properly, the shanks should rotate about 45 degrees back toward the horse's chest before the curb strap is engaged.

Curb bits also pressure more areas more intensely than simple snaffles. Pressure is magnified to the bars of the mouth, the chin area, and the poll. Curb bits can make a horse high headed. It is hard to teach a horse to turn and slow down (rate back) at the same time using a curb bit because the bars are pressured equally on the pull-back, slowing the pace, but they lack the one-sided-pressure signal needed to cue which way to turn.

Curb Bits are for horses who will be neck reining and whose training has progressed well into this level. They are rarely used on horses of less than about 5-6 years of age. Both horse and trainer should be getting much more experienced before this bit is suitable.

Some curb bits have fancier mouthpieces such as the black bit at the right that has a copper roller (cricket). Copper enhances salivation and will help to relax a nervous horse - keep him more relaxed in his head, neck, poll and spine. The roller gives a nervous horse something in his mouth to "play with" to distract him from his fears. The roller also helps to roll the bit over the tongue as it is pulled back. However, the roller also lessens the tongue relief usually afforded by the raised port of a curb bit.

Some horses appear to be "claustrophobic" when this large piece of iron is put into their mouths. If your horse has trouble with a low port bit, try a little higher port to give his tongue more room. However, a port over 2" high can actually reach the palate of some shallow-mouth horses, so don't get too dramatic. A high-port gives more tongue relief, but it also reaches the bars more quickly and pressures them more intensely. It has a stronger signal. Heavy-handed reining in a high-port bit can turn it into a correction bit.

When asking a horse to turn using a snaffle bit, the snaffle puts pressure on both sides of the mouth - pulling the ring on the opposite cheek into the face as well as pressure on the pulling side. Training with a snaffle and then moving quickly to a stiff curb bit used with one hand can "reverse" a horse and give him a tendency to go the wrong way on rein pressure. If you are trying to neck rein, the neck-side rein is shortened to press against the neck and it feels like the pulling side to the horse, sending him in the wrong direction.

It is very important that a curb bit be well balanced. It should be heavier on the bottom or designed so that the shanks are forward of the center of balance of the bit so that it hangs in a neutral position when the rider is not on the reins. Proper balance keeps the curb chain off the lower jaw. Remember that it is the stark contrast between bit pressure and bit neutrality that teaches the lesson: Pressure until performance. No pressure when compliance is achieved.

 

INTRODUCING THE BIT FOR THE FIRST TIME

TRANSITIONING TO A NEW BIT

Whether bitting your horse for the first time or transitioning to a new bit, put the headstall and bit onto your horse in a comfortable, confined space such as his stall, and let him wear it daily - slowly working the time up to several hours - before you add reins or pressure. You can put his rope halter under his headstall and take him to the round pen, wearing his bit but using his halter to lunge and practice gaiting exercises. He will learn to "carry" his bit before any pressure is applied.

Rule of thumb is to fit your bit with one or two wrinkles at the corner of your horse's mouth. It is common to put the bit a little lower in a green colt's mouth so that he learns to pick it up himself and carry it (usually with his tongue arched against it). Later it should be lifted a little to the standard position.

Watch for wolf teeth in the young horse. They are the vestigial teeth thought to be the evolved useless "tusks" from early horses - called wolf teeth because they look much like a small fang. Most common in colts, they are also frequently found in fillies. Most young horses lose their wolf teeth by 4 years of age. They can be an irritant to a horse wearing a bit.

 

After your horse has worn his bit with no pressure, start adding his ground training exercises. Start from the beginning as if he were just learning to wear his halter. The routine is the same for transitioning to a new bit as for experiencing one for the first time. Either way, the feel is different than he has experienced previously, and he must learn how to understand the new pressures.

Lateral Flex: Put reins on the bit and stand at your horse's girth facing his side. Loop the reins over his neck. Pull the rein on the near side toward the saddle cinch area, forcing his head to his girth. (This should not be as difficult as it was the first time you tried it with a halter). He may object at first, feeling the bit pull on his mouth for the first time. Expect a head toss or two, but hold on until he actually comes toward your pull with his own motion and then drop the pressure on the rein like a hot potato (release). After doing this two or three times, he should become a master at bit-induced lateral softening. Don't forget to do it on both sides.

Poll Flex: Stand in the same position at your horse's shoulder. With both reins in one hand (as if ready to mount) hold the reins at his neck, pull them back until his head is on the vertical and (at the same time) grab a fist full of mane. Hold the reins AND the mane until he relents and comes in to you (brings his head into his chest). Release instantly. Expect him to try to force the reins to relax by tossing his head. Or he may try to walk through the bit by moving forward. Follow him but don't let go until he lowers his head. This exercise will show him that bringing his head down in response to pull-back bit pressure will release the pressure. After a couple of times when you release, you will find that you can just hang onto the mane and he will lower his face by himself - releasing the pressure by himself. He will have found the "sweet spot" head position.

After learning to both flex laterally and come back to you with his head, he is ready to practice the same exercises with you on his back. (assuming he is rideable at this stage of training)

 

HORSE BIT PROBLEMS & SOLUTIONS

Pinching bits cause pain. Horses in pain turn into run-aways, buckers, high-headed or rearing mounts. Look for pinching at the junction of the bit and the shanks on loose-shanked or swivel type bits. A bit guard can help to correct that problem. Look for pinching between the curb chain and the top of the shank. If it catches the back of the lip at the corner of the mouth and pinches severely when the reins are pulled to the "full-on" position, your horse will react swiftly and adversely. Curb chain hooks are often pinchers. Better to tie the curb chain on with a leather thong or use a quick link.

The curb chain should be well seated in the groove under the horse's chin. If the chain is allowed to ride up, it can produce a horse that throws his head up. Bits with a curb loop tend to hold the chain in the right position more precisely.

"Lipping" the shanks: Grazing bits were developed so that a horse could wear his bit and still graze. They also stay out of the way of a roping rider's lariat.

This partaicular bat is Black Steel with 5" Medium Port Black Steel Mouth and 6-1/2" Cheeks.

Grazing bits' swept back configuration mitigates leverage and shortens signal time. However, perhaps more importantly for this discussion, the grazing bit has the shanks bent back in such a way that it is harder for a horse to "lip" the shanks. If your horse has that problem try a grazing bit or the very short-shanked double-jointed snaffles above.

Head throwing: This can be caused by a myriad of improper tools or rider actions. Tie-downs are very good tools in early training of a green horse to keep you from being hit in the face with the back of a horse's head. However, always counting on a tie down is a mistake. Use the proper bits as training progresses to teach your horse to keep his head in the proper position. If you are in the habit of getting too aggressive or over-pulling two reins to the point that the curb strap pressure hurts, the horse's head will fly up and he will instantly forget his heads-down-on-pressure lessons. This can be disastrous, as it usually requires that you go back to the beginning with that training.

Two-handed over-pulling a snaffle bit will tend to raise the head with the nose out and drive both front legs "stiff" into the ground with the majority of his weight on the front end. (called "propping") It is best to lightly see-saw the reins slowly at first in the primary training and then work into two-handed pulling for the stop. That will avoid the tendency for the horse to stop on the front.

Draw reins change the angle of pressure on your snaffle or Pelham bit to encourage the heads-down, sideways neck position in turns. They compensate for high-handed rein carriage but should be used as training tools only and not props to offset poor rein technique. They are often used for lunging a horse to give a more rider-natural feel to the rein cues during ground exercises.

There are volumes and volumes of materials needed to educate the average horse owner about bits. We hope this has at least started you on your way to choosing your first horse bits. We will continue to add to this discussion as time permits.