Snaffle Bit Types and Their Use on Performance Horses

A snaffle bit is a bit that works without leverage. It’s most commonly made with a jointed (or broken) mouthpiece. Watch along on the video as performance horse trainer Ben Baldus, of Baldus Horsemanship, and Dennis Moreland, discuss snaffle bit types and their use on performance horses.

Three common types of snaffles used in western training are the Eggbutt, the D Ring, and the O Ring. In general, the snaffle mouthpiece applies pressure to 3 areas in the mouth: the tongue, the bars (area of the mouth between the molars and incisors) and the palate. The rings on each type of snaffle apply pressure to the sides of the lips and face.

An Eggbutt is an excellent snaffle to start with, explains Ben. Because an eggbutt is a fixed ring snaffle, the colt feels it both in its mouth and on the cheek opposite the side of the rein pull. The eggbutt has a smooth egg-shaped ring that’s built wider where it connects to the mouthpiece. This wider dimension offers a larger area of contact on the cheek when the opposite rein is pulled. This makes it easier for the colt to understand to turn in the direction of the pull. Ben stresses the importance of using a smooth, “soft” fixed-ring snaffle with a medium to large diameter (3/8 inch to 5/8 inch) mouthpiece when a colt is first introduced to the snaffle. Ben says this way the colt learns to carry the snaffle without being uncomfortable. Ben also believes, with young horses, especially those that are hot-natured, a fixed ring snaffle is a better bit to use. Hot natured horses can tend to work the bit a lot with their mouths. Ben believes having rings that don’t travel and move, like the rings on a ring snaffle do, helps to calm those type of horses.

The Offset D Ring snaffle, like an eggbutt, is a fixed ring snaffle. The length of the straight portion of the D ring, that’s in contact with the cheek, is longer than the contact area on either an eggbutt or an O ring snaffle. This allows the D Ring to put a wider area of lateral pressure on the cheek.  As you pick up on the rein, the solid D ring will have more lateral feel, or a more solid feel to the colt, says Ben. The D Ring snaffle shown in the video has a bend in the mouthpiece (#9 3/8-inch steel 2-piece snaffle mouthpiece) or a more “Mullen” mouthpiece than the mouthpiece on the eggbutt shown in the video. Ben suggests as you progress through the training process that the D Ring snaffle may give you a different type of pressure, or the amount of pressure you need, to help a colt, especially geldings or studs, understand the cues and the training.

The O Ring snaffle has rings that rotate around the mouthpiece. Ben recommends advancing most horses to the O ring snaffle at approximately 6-8 months of training. At this time, you’ve progressed the colt to the point where you’re asking for more body control and softness. Ben also likes to show in an O ring snaffle during a horse’s 3 and 4-year-old years.

As you progress through the training process there are many options in snaffle mouthpieces you can go to says Ben, depending on what a particular horse needs. A wider mouthpiece and a 3-piece dog bone mouthpiece can help horses that are anxious. A twisted wire mouthpiece may help a horse that has gotten heavy or dull as it progresses into the finer-tuning parts of its training.

Ben stresses that it’s as much about how we use our hands as the bits we use. The variety of snaffles and mouthpieces available can be a huge help in the training process as long as we’re using our hands correctly. If our hands are fast and offensive, the bit won’t work as it should, advises Ben.

Dennis Moreland Tack makes Eggbutt, Offset D and O Ring Snaffles, all by hand. There are a variety of mouthpieces available, with inlaid copper to promote salivation. If you have questions about the snaffle you need call 817-312-5305 or email dmtack@vrfmail.com.

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