Now In: Horse Bits Horse Bit Problems


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 particular bit 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 Bristol-type snaffle HERE.

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 (which usually go from the rider's hands through the bit ring and attach to the girth) 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.