My father has built me one of the coolest tack rooms around, and when I am showing it off to someone new the first thing that they say is “Man you have got a lot of bits”. This may not sound odd to you, but it is because they notice this first before they notice that my tack room. It also has a full sized old time western bar in it! Not to mention the beaded wood ceiling and sky light along with the whole thing done in old barn wood. Thanks Dad!!
I have to admit that I am somewhat bit crazy. I just love bits and understanding all of their functions. I probably will not be happy until I have at least a couple hundred bits. So I decided to share a bit of my bit knowledge and their functions. Where better to start than with what I use to start colts.
Typically I will start horses out in their first week or so in the bosal, hackemore, or just a halter and lead rope. This allows me to give them their first ride with little or no pull from me. I will continue on with a halter or bosal for a couple of weeks or until I feel like they are ready for a snaffle bit. I usually make this decision when the colt feels like he is comfortable with me being on his back.
What snaffle bit to use? There are a ton of different snaffle bits out there and all work the same basic way, which is to teach lateral movement to your horse. In my opinion the kind of mouth piece that the snaffle bit has is for the horse and the kind of rings or attachment points are for the rider. What I mean by this is that you can get a snaffle bit that has regulation mouth piece, or one that has a twisted wire, textured, copper inlaid, hinged in the middle to create leverage. All of which come in contact with the mouth and effect the horse and his feel in the mouth. Regulation snaffle is a broken mouth piece being a minimum of 3/8 inch in diameter from the corners, with a gradual taper ending in no less than 5/32 of an inch at the middle of the bit. So, all the twisted wire or textured snaffle does, when used properly is create more feel in the mouth and a faster response for a quicker understanding. This is all based on the fact that a bit is only as harsh as the hands that use it.
The other part to the snaffle is the rings and they come in several different designs which are in my opinion for the rider. You can get O ring, D ring, gag type, and about a hundred different others. For me I prefer the D ring that has a bearing or type of hinge that is made out of stainless steel. I prefer the stainless steel because it lasts longer and does not corrode. The D ring gives me a flatter and more direct pressure to the bars when being used. More so than the O ring. I have also had some O rings that pinched the lip after being used for some time. Also a common mistake that I see being made when using a snaffle is the chin strap. This should be attached below the reins, if attached above the reins it gives leverage against the chin but not an effective leverage. More often it just confuses the young horse.
The snaffle bit in my opinion is one of the more important bits. It is just as important as the condition of the horses mouth. It is extremely important to have your horse’s teeth floated properly, without a comfortable mouth no bit will be comfortable. It is especially important during the young years when the horses mouth is changing so much. A good rule of thumb is to have your horses teeth looked at every 6 months.