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Different types of Bit



These can come in a range of different mouth pieces. The number of joints has a direct influence on the areas of the horses mouth the bit works on for example: 

  • Straight bar bits work on the lips, bars of the mouth and the tongue.
  • Single jointed bits have a 'nutcracker' action, meaning that when the reins are pulled the tongue is squeezed between the two halves of the bit. Single jointed bits also work on the bars of the mouth and the lips.
  • Double jointed bits eliminate the above 'nutcracker' action, resulting in a lot less pressure on the tongue. These bits work primarily on the bars of the horses mouth and the lips.

The rings which link the bit to the bridle can also vary:

  • Fixed rings (such as an eggbutt) prevent pinching of the horses lips.
  • Loose rings allow more movement and can help with horses which 'lean' on the bit.
  • D ring bits help prevent the bit being pulled through the horses mouth and aid steering
  • Full cheek bits help with steering and the fixed ring prevents the bit from pinching
  • Fulmer bits have full cheeks to help with steering and loose rings to allow more movement without pinching.
  • Hanging cheeks allow the bit to be suspended in the horses mouth and help prevent the horse getting his tongue over the bit.

Also generally the thicker the bit, the milder it is. However this does depent on the shape of the individual horses mouth. Also any uneven surface within the mouth also increases the severity of the bit.


Double bridles have two bits; the bradoon and the curb bit with curb chain.

Double bridles apply pressure to the tongue, bars and lips as well as the chin groove and the poll. This type of bridle is generally used to bring refinement into a horses training and can encourage a more advanced head carriage. They also can improve control. Their action can be quite severe and aren't generally recommended for inexperienced riders or horses.


The pelham is designed to combine the two bits of a double bridle into one. These bits can be used with one rein (with roundings) or with two reins to further refinement. They have have a similar action to the double bridle above, acting on the chin groove & poll as well as areas of the mouth

They can have a range of mouth pieces, resulting in slightly different actions in addition to the chin groove & poll:

  • Straight bar or the gently curved mullen mouth works on the bars and lips of the horses mouth.
  • Port mouth has a similar action but allows more room for the tongue.
  • Jointed mouth same actions as in the snaffle above.
  • Kimblewick - this variation of pelham bit is has a single rein with the option of two positions. This is a strong bit.
  • Rugby Pelham can be used with a sliphead like a double bridle.

Pelhams are generally considered more severe bits and shold not be used by beginners.



Gags are considered a more severe version of the snaffle bit. They usually have a leverage action on the poll as well as various action on the horses mouth depending on the mouthpiece of the bit.


Gags should be used with two reins, similar to a pelham. Gags are a very severe type of bit and if used by inexperienced hands can cause a lot of problems.



Bitless bridles provide the rider with control without using a traditional bit. These 'bits' work by applying pressure to areas of the horses head other than the mouth. Hackamores have different degreees of severity depending on the length of the shanks and the thickness of the padding and straps.


Bitless bridles are great for horses which don't like traditional bits. Bitless bridles, particularly the traditional hackamore types, can be very severe and are not recommended for use by inexperienced people.