Archive for the ‘Snaffle Bit’ Category

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Does a Horse Need a Bit to Be Broke?

©  2010 Cherry Hill   © Copyright Information

Horse bucking

Hello Cherry,

I want to say first of all I love your books and look forward to reading more.

Here is my dilemma, I got a new horse about a month ago. He is a 15- yr- old quarter horse gelding, very good conformation, great to work with, great attitude, I mean a all around good horse. I have not noticed any bad vices what so ever, even in a month.

I have had him saddled twice, first time, he would not go forward, only back, I mean would not move only played with the bit. I am a equine massage therapist and he gets body work daily, so I know this is not a issue. Well I examined his teeth and called the dentist immediately and was done three days later. My dentist told me upon exam that he had a injury when he was 4 yrs of age to the mandible but will not affect anything and he is still sound. He was then floated, filed and had a bit seat put in.

I saddled him again tonight for the second time. Keep in mind the horse has not been rode in five or six years, and bucked previous owner off at that time. I proceeded to put the bit {smooth snaffle} in his mouth, he welcomed it nicely too. When I got on him he went plum crazy, bucking and crow hopping, rearing up and backing up.

So I got down and took out the bit, I decided to ride him in just his halter, because he does so well with ground work and yields to nose pressure wonderfully. I got back on him and he loped off like nothing, I had him side-passing, spinning off his front and back end, backing up and much more and all at a very collected gate. He acted as though he has been rode everyday, I was amazed as to the fact he might just make a good cow horse after all { cows all around us too while riding }.

When I told my fiancé he told me that the horse is not broke then if he won’t ride in a bit. I wanted to just go get a bit-less hack and that be that, but he swears that a horse is not broke if you can not ride it in a bit.

How to Think Like A Horse by Cherry HillI don’t understand, doesn’t this make for a better more collected horse. I mean not to have all that metal in the mouth. What should I do? Force him to ride in a bit? I am a third generation cowgirl and know how to train and ride very well, and I definitely know a lot about horses {not to sound high on my horse} everyone I know calls me a horse whisperer. My fiancé is great with horses too but we always have different outlooks on this stuff.

I guess my question after the explanation would be… Is a horse broke with or with out a bit? Or does a bit really mean the horse is “dead” broke? Please help me with this, I would really appreciate the advice from one horse woman to another. I look forward to hearing from you. And THANK YOU in advance.


Hi Laura,

As you have discovered, it is a matter of opinion. All you have to do to make your point to your fiancé is to have him watch Stacy Westfall do her bridleless reining. There is no doubt that her bridleless and sometimes bareback and bridleless riding showcases her finely trained horses. On her website you will find two videos you can watch together: Stacy Westfall videos.

So, on some things, you two can just agree to disagree !

Making Not Breaking by Cherry HillI tend to ride the majority of the time in a snaffle bit. I prefer the feel. But I also like riding certain horses in a bosal or a bitless bridle and others in some type of curb bit.

I do not use or advocate the use of a mechanical hackamore because many of them are mainly designed to stop a horse and don’t offer the variety of communication between rider and horse.

But hey, bottom line, if your horse is as well trained as you say with a halter, then it shouldn’t take you long to get him used to a bit or bosal or a bitless bridle. Here is what I am talking about when I say bitless bridle…just so you don’t end up with a mechanical hackamore: Bitless Bridle.

Best of luck !

Cherry Hill horse trainer and author of 30 books and DVDs

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If you are going to use a bit when training your horse, the logical choice would be a snaffle bit. Alternatives to using a bit are bitless bridles, bosals, sidepulls, halters and tackless. These topics will be discussed in future posts.

A snaffle is a mechanically simple bit that allows you to communicate with your horse in simple terms.  A snaffle bit transmits pressure in a direct line from your hands on the reins to the rings and mouthpiece of the bit to the horse’s mouth.

©  2010 Cherry Hill © Copyright Information

On a snaffle, there are no shanks.  Shanks are the vertical sidepieces on a curb bit to which the reins attach.  Shanks create leverage action.  The snaffle bit operates via direct pressure only. The mouthpiece of a snaffle can be jointed or solid.  The misconception that any bit with a jointed (or “broken”) mouthpiece is a snaffle has given rise to the misnomers: “long-shanked snaffle”, “tom-thumb snaffle”, and “cowboy snaffle”.  All of these are really jointed (or broken mouth) curbs.

The most common snaffle, the jointed O-ring, has four parts: two rings and a mouthpiece comprised of two arms.

A snaffle is customarily used with a brow band headstall that has a throatlatch.  Often a noseband is used with a snaffle.

Snaffle Action The snaffle is useful for teaching a horse to bend his neck and throatlatch laterally so that he can be turned in both directions.  It is also useful for teaching a horse to flex vertically in the lower jaw, at the poll, and at the neck muscles just in front of the withers.  Vertical flexion is necessary for gait and speed control as well as for stopping.

The bars are the flesh-covered portions of the lower jawbone between the incisors and the molars.  This is where the bit lies.  It is the action of the snaffle bit on the bars of the horse’s mouth that produces vertical flexion.

With a regularly configured snaffle, when one rein is pulled out to the side, let’s say the right, the bit will slide slightly through the mouth to the right and the primary pressure will be exerted by the ring on the left side of the horse’s face.  This will cause him to bend laterally and turn right.

When the right line is pulled backward, pressure will be exerted on the right side of the horse’s tongue, the right lower lip, the right corner of the mouth, the right side of the bars and on the left side of the horse’s face.  This will tend to cause the horse to bend laterally and begin to flex vertically so he shifts his weight rearward as he turns right.

Making Not Breaking by Cherry Hill

Making Not Breaking by Cherry Hill

When you pull backward on both lines, pressure will be applied to both corners of the mouth and across the entire tongue and the bit may contact the bars and the lower lips.  This causes a horse to flex vertically, shift his weight rearward, slow down, or stop.

Your hands have the capacity to turn the mildest bit into an instrument of abuse or the most severe bit into a delicate tool of communication.  Above all, good horsemanship is the key to a horse’s acceptance of the bridle.

The introduction of the bit and bridle occur during ground training such as longeing and ground driving.

Longeing and Long Lining the English and Western Horse

Longeing and Long Lining the English and Western Horse

Cherry Hill


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