Most people think that snaffles are the mildest bits. for example, you see horses advertised with a “snaffle mouth.” The implication is that these horses have sensitive mouths and don’t require a lot of bit to control them.
In truth, a snaffle is any bit with a solid or jointed mouthpiece that has no leverage; the reins attach directly to the the mouthpiece and the pressure and signal from the rider’s hands is direct.
If you compete in dressage, you are limited to the mildest forms of snaffle bits; show hunters almost all show in a snaffle (because it makes the horse look easy to ride, but anything can be inside the horse’s mouth.
But it isn’t always mild. Take a look at some of these. Twisted wire, segunda, waterford . . . these mouthpieces all have varying degrees of severity and there are plenty more like them. Snaffles apply pressure to the lips, bars of the mouth and, most of all the tongue.
How many joints?
This may age me, but when I started riding, most snaffles had a single joint, like the one below. In fact, I’ve owned this particular bit for at least 20 years, maybe longer.
The potential problem with the single jointed design is that when pressure is applied by the reins, the bit essentially folds up in the horse’s mouth. Some horses, especially those with a low palate, find this uncomfortable. The double jointed designs that were introduced some years back are designed to make the bit drape over the horse’s tongue. You can see the difference between the two types of bits below.
However, just because the double jointed bit looks like it will be more comfortable, not every horse has read the manual. Freedom hates double jointed bits but is happy as a clam in my old single jointed snaffle. Go figure!
5 thoughts on “Yes, these are all snaffles”
what’s the fourth snaffle down? looks snazzy.
I’m so limited–all mine go in the one with the lozenge. I”m bookmarking these for when I have to figure something else out.
they look fearsome, like some torture implements, don’t they?
there was another good article about bits, snaffles, etc. from sherwood equestrian, on their blog http://sherwoodequestrian.blogspot.com
I tried the first type you listed as a first bit for my mare thinking it would be nice and soft. She HATES it!
Waterfords scare me, your picture makes those links look smaller than they really are. You can get some massive sawing with those things.
My horse also hates the double jointed snaffle! I’ve tried a Waterford on one of my horses (thought he’d like it because of the way it draped across the tongue), but found it was way too much bit for him. He curled up behind it rather than take contact. Based on my experience I’ve always shook my head when I hear it recommended as being a mild bit.
My horse was in a single jointed rubber snaffle when I got him, and clearly hated it. He’s one of those horses with a small mouth and low palate – so he prefers double jointed and relatively thin bits. A mullen mouth type bit tends to have the wrong curve for his mouth, too. He also has opinions about weight, though. He’s one of those horses who will never be 5 lbs. of weight in his rider’s hand, as he dislikes that much pressure. Any of the nice, expensive, KK-type bits are too heavy for him and he tries to spit them out as soon as they’re in his mouth. This makes things less expensive for me, as he absolutely adores the cheap double jointed snaffle I found on clearance at my local tack shop. He also loves Happy Mouth bits, but they dry out his mouth as he’s not one to produce much saliva at all.