Commonly Used Bits
A bit is a piece of metal that goes into the horse’s mouth and is then controlled by a set of reins (long leather or nylon lines) that are attached to the bit and extend to a rider’s hands. A horse is trained to respond to a bit based on the ways that it puts pressure in the horse’s mouth; bits can also be used to correct or modify certain behaviors or even help aid in a horse’s breathing at high speeds by keeping his tongue in place. Bits, not unlike the equipment they are used in conjunction with, are plentiful and varied throughout racing.
A bit composed of two connected pieces of rounded metal; snaffle bits vary based on the type of joint in the mouth as well as the rings (outer portion, where the reins connect) of the bit. The joints in the mouthpiece can have one or more joints and the rings can be varied in style to achieve certain training goals- perhaps more steering power or a “toy” for a fussy or nervous horse to play with. The snaffle bit is considered to be a “soft” or “moderate” bit and is one of the most common bits used in horse sports.
Also known as a “Dexter Bit”, a ring bit is a complex bit that includes a snaffle bit that also features an additional metal ring that is seated in front the snaffle joint; the metal ring also encompasses the lower jaw. This particular bit is primarily used on strong or “tough” horses as the more the rider pulls, the more leverage or pressure that it applies to the mouth, with the end goal being a more manageable and trainable horse. The snaffle portion of this bit is sometimes covered with rubber or plastic to make it more kind in the horse’s mouth.
Often called a “dog bone”, a straight bar is a jointless metal bit that often covered in rubber or plastic. Straight bar bits do not offer tongue relief and are not routinely used today. They may be used on young horses learning how to carry a bit and they are useful in teaching young horses how to turn on the ground before a rider is placed on their backs.
This type of bit is primarily used on sales horses and is not a riding-style of bit.This is a semi-circular bit that is flat on the mouthpiece and rounded below the jaw; it features three clips, one on each side of the face that attach to a horse’s halter and a third on the bottom where a lead chain is attached. This particular style of bit offers a groom more control over a young horse on the ground and can serve as a distraction for the horse in a stressful situation.