Types of Horse Bits

Bit Types


Bits are a very misunderstood piece of equipment in the horse world. Much of the confusion revolves around the terms ‘snaffle bit’ and ‘curb bit’. Many people, including bit manufacturers themselves, believe the term ?snaffle? refers to a bit with a jointed mouth piece and a ?curb? bit is one with a solid mouth piece. This is incorrect. Both terms refer to the leverage applied by the bit and not the style of the mouthpiece.

Most people would look at the two bits in photo A below and recognize the bottom bit as a snaffle bit. The top bit would likely be referred to as a curb bit. In actuality both bits are snaffle bits.

Snaffle Bits
Photo A – Snaffle Bits


The top bit is a mullen mouth snaffle and the other is a jointed snaffle. Both are ‘snaffle’ bits because the reins, or driving lines attach to the ring and apply pressure directly mouth piece without leverage. With a snaffle bit, the amount of pressure applied to the reins is the same as the amount of pressure applied to the mouth.

Curb Bits
Photo B – Curb Bits


Photo B shows two more bits. In this case the bottom bit would be identified as a curb bit by most people. The top bit, because of it?s jointed mouth, is usually mis-identified as a snaffle bit. Note, that both of these bits have shanks, the metal ‘arms’, that move the rein connection points away from the center of the mouth piece. The reins or lines are not attached directly to the mouth piece. They are attached to the bottom of the shank. A curb bit uses leverage and amplifies the pressure applied by the reins. Both of the pictured bits are curb bits.

The top bit is a jointed Tom Thumb and the other is a ported curb bit. The reins or driving lines are attached at the end of the shanks. This provides leverage on the horse?s mouth and on the poll thus increasing the pressure applied by the reins. The longer the shank the greater the leverage applied. Since leverage increases pressure, curb bits add severity to the bit. Keep this in mind when selecting or changing bits.

Combination or Military Bits
Photo C – Combination or Military Bits


Many driving bits are a combination of snaffle and curb bits.

Pictured are a jointed mouth, butterfly bit and a mullen mouth Liverpool bit. The amount of leverage applied is determined by where the reins or driving lines are attached. When the lines are attached to the ring directly in line with the mouthpiece, the bit is used as a snaffle. If the lines are attached to the lower rings or slots, leverage is applied and the bit is used as a curb bit. The rings farther from the mouthpiece will apply greater pressure.

This type of bit has an advantage of adapting to changing circumstances. If you are driving on a quiet country road, you may choose to drive with a snaffle setting. But if you switch to a noisy parade, you may opt to add some leverage by dropping the lines down to the rings or slots. Keep in mind your horse will react differently to the different pressure. A drastic change in pressure may cause a horse to panic or rear. Understanding how a bit works will help you select the right bit for your horse.

To view a wide variety of bits, go here: Bits

Big Black Horse LLC