Horse Bits - Snaffle Bit and Curb Bit

"Snaffle Bit or Curb Bit?"

snaffle bit, horse bit
Snaffle Bit

Know the difference in horse bits

A piece of horse tack, known as a bit, is often used by horsemen to communicate with their horse while riding. The bit rests inside the horse's mouth in the back on the gums where there are no teeth (also known as the bars) and is held in place with a bridle. There are a number of bit designs - some common ones include:

  • Snaffle bit - consists of the bit mouthpiece with rings attached on each side and works by applying direct pressure without leverage on the mouth. It applies pressure on the bars, tongue and corner of the mouth.
  • Curb bit - uses a type of lever called a shank placing pressure on the bars, tongue, and roof of the mouth. The rider's signal is also felt over the horse's poll and on the chin though use of a curb strap.
curb bit, horse bit
Curb Bit

Bits consists of two basic components, the bit mouthpiece, which is placed inside the horse's mouth, and the bit rings (for a snaffle bit) or shanks (for a curb bit) where the bridle and reins attach. 

All bits act with some combination of pressure and leverage. The mouth piece does not define the type of bit. It is the rings or leverage on the side pieces used to act on the horse's mouth that determines if it is a curb bit or snaffle bit. With snaffle bits, the rider is applying pressure directly to the horse's mouth through the reins attached to the rings on each side of the bit. The rider applies pressure indirectly with curb bits through leverage action of the reins attached to the end of the shanks (levers).

A curb bit places considerably more leverage on the horse. Whatever amount of pressure you assert through the reins will be exerted several times greater on the horse's mouth. If a curb bit is used, you should ride with a loose rein and only light pressure should be used. Curb bits are more appropriate for well trained horses and respond to neck reining.

In general, snaffle bits are gentler on a horse's mouth than a curb bit. Snaffle bits tend to be more mild and comfortable for the horse. Unlike, the curb bit that exerts a much greater force through leverage, whatever force you apply on a snaffle bit through the reins is the amount of pressure put on the horse's mouth.