As I read through my Christmas Equine catalogs I noticed that the two terms have become a bit blurred, and prompted the writing of this article. What is the difference between a snaffle and curb? How do I know which is severe and which is not?
Every horse is unique, each horse has a different mouth and most require a bit just for them. If you have multiple horses, chances are you have multiple bits on different bridles, and a box full of alternatives. The bit can be one of several things; a communication device, a tool to create submission, or a way to harm the horse. The rider is in control of what the bit says to the horse.
There are two main categories of bits for the rider to choose from snaffle or curb.
For a bit to be considered a snaffle the reins and headstall must attach to the same ring and be able to shift on the ring. Examples would be traditional D-ring or O-ring type bits. Most people think of snaffles as having a jointed mouth piece, and while most do, it is not what makes them a snaffle. A snaffle bit applies direct pressure to the horses mouth, meaning if I pull the right rein the horse will turn right, he will feel the bit lift in the right side of his mouth.
A curb bit creates leverage pressure. It applies pressure to the poll, the back of the jaw, and the bars of the mouth. A curb has seperate attachments for the headstall and reins usually seperated by the mouth piece. The headstall will attach above the mouth piece and the reins below. A curb can have a jointed mouth piece or ported mouth piece. A curb does not allow you to pull one rein and turn in that direction, and should only be used on horses that neck rein or work off seat and leg aids.
Bits come in different forms of severity. A jointed mouth piece is less severe than a ported one. A curb by nature is more severe than a snaffle. Severity of a curb is measured by two factors the mouth piece, and the length of the shank (the piece of metal dropping from the mouth piece to the rein attachment link). The longer the shank the more severe the bit is. If the shank has curves or an (s) design in it, that reduces the severity of the bit slightly. If you are using a curb bit, it is best to use one less than 3″(inches) in length.
When training your horse if they are not responding to the current bit, rather than moving to a more severe bit evaluate the training process and technique and look for any signs of discomfort in your horse.
The ultimate goal of all Horsemen and Women should be to ride bridleless and have a happy, willing, partner who responds to the lightest of touches.
Your horse can feel a fly on his back, how soft are your aids?
If you have questions or would like more information on bits and bitting, contact [email protected] Also send your information about local events.
Photos from State Line Tack.com