The term ‘BIT’ is like the term ‘HORSE”. A HORSE can be a mare, gelding, stallion, colt, foal etc, and a BIT is a loose name for an item that is placed in a horse’s mouth to aid control. BITS fall into three main groups. The snaffle group, the double bridle, and the pelham group.
SNAFFLES come in a huge variety of shapes, sizes and designs and may be manufactured from a variety, or combination, of materials. To be a snaffle, the action on the horse’s mouth must be direct. Only one rein is necessary for the bit to be used, and there is not a leverage or pulley action on the mouth.
The DOUBLE BRIDLE has two bits fitted on to it – a snaffle bit and a curb bit. When a snaffle is used with a double bridle, it’s name changes to ‘BRIDOON’ and the curb changes it’s name to ‘BIT’. This means the two pieces that fit into the horse’s mouth are called the Bit and Bridoon. The double bridle is best for the trained horse where the rider can give his or her full attention to the aids - such as in dressage or show riding. A double bridle allows for greater riding accuracy.
The PELHAM theoretically gathers the effect of the snaffle and a curb together, as the top rein used by itself has a snaffle action and the bottom rein used by itself has a curb, or leverage action. But the two reins used together (or in conjunction with a rounding or link rein) do not have a BIT and BRIDOON action.
Which type of bit is suitable for your horse must be discussed and analysed in relationship to which is best for you, the rider, as well. The type of work your horse is doing, the level of training you are at, the kind of personality both you and your horse have etc, are all factors to be taken into account when deciding on the right bit. This decision will vary with different combinations of horse, rider and occasion. As riders, we are the PROFESSIONAL members of the team and it is up to us to assess each situation, to listen to what the horse is telling us and to find humane solutions to the problems that crop up during our riding.
Next month I shall discuss the PELHAM – a sometimes very misunderstood beast.