BITS are a highly subjective area due to the various effects of the bits themselves, results required, rider ability and mouth conformation; the latter greatly influencing the final outcome.  Bits can be divided into the three main groups of snaffles, curbs and pelhams, with other related options, such as gags.

Group 1
Snaffles vary in severity and a large influencing factor is the choice of material; stainless steel is the hardest, vulcanite popular and less so, with Nylon and soft rubber the most sympathetic.  In recent times the use of copper and sweet iron has become fashionable as these materials are thought to increase salivation and hence comfort.  The narrower the bit, the stronger it is, but a thick mouthpiece often will not suit a small mouth so a suitable compromise must be sought.

Mullen Mouth
The kindest in the group.   Unjointed and slightly curved these act mainly on the tongue and lips, removing the emphasis from the bars.  Suitable for horses that resent the nutcracker action of a standard snaffle.

Slightly stronger than the mullen mouth due to a more direct action.

Double Jointed
Once again designed to lessen pressure to the bars of the mouth and lessens emphasis on the tongue.  While gentler than the single jointed, horses happy in the latter do not necessarily go better in this option.

Rollered Mouthpieces
Designed to prevent the horse from grabbing hold of the bit and increase salivation.  Thought by some to be very useful, while others find them no more effective than a standard snaffle.

Snaffle Bit Cheeks
There are 10 established options, the full cheek being the best known for the purpose, with all variations on the "norm" designed to influence guidance, with the exception of the hanging cheek which is intended to maintain a relatively high pisition in the mouth thus relieving pressure from the tongue and bars.

Dr Bristol
A strong bit offering an alternative for those horses who resent a curb.  The central plate lies at a 45 degree angle to the tongue unless the head is correctly on the vertical, thereby forcing the horse to comply or suffer discomfort.

Designed to ensure sharp turns, but can be very severe on the sheeks and jaw producing a pinching action.

Part of the roller family, designed to encourage salivation, however, not liked by all horses.

Wilson Bradoon
Can be severe due to possible pinching action.

Double Mouth Bradoon
Force is exerted over a wider area of the tongue, thereby increasing control and making an option for those unable to use a curb.  However, can be very severe and unlikely to suit everybody.

Dutch Gag
Very popular for competition use due to its flexibility allowing for a snaffle, pelham or curb action depending on rein position.  Not however suitable for horses that resent a gag action, which it imitates on the lower fixings.

The gag is technically a snaffle with the addition of leverage action acting on the poll.  Popular although strong and can be an absolute blessing for pulling horses or those that resent a curb.  If worn correctly two reins should be attached thereby allowing more subtle use.  A curb chain is either not fitted, or not needed, even for hard pullers. NOTE: Horses that dive on the bit or become strong in order to evade the contact are often best suited to other methods of control.

Group 2
The pelham is the most commonly used group after the standard snaffle, as most horses respond favourably to it, without is being severe.  Ideally it should be used with two reins as in this way fine tuning is possible, whereby the curb action is only applied by the second rein when needed.  However, pelham roundings (converters) are used by most to the detriment of the bit, as many riders dislike two reins for cross country use.  The same rules apply as for group one whereby choice of material, thickness etc will effect the severity of the bit, but equally important for thisgroup is the length of the cheek, which will greatly effect the amount of poll pressure available and hence control and this aspect is a crucial consideration in making a purchase.

The Kimberwick
A useful bit that falls between a snaffle and a pelham.   The curb action makes it stronger that the former, but it has far less poll action than the pelham.  A fairly thick, ported mouthpiece also makes it acceptable to most horses.

Group 3
The curb family revolves around the double bridle.  Severity is determined in the same way as the previous groups.  The Tom Thumb Weymouth is the mildest and the sliding cheek the most commonly used.  Increasingly popular are the thick, hollow mouthpieces associated with the German Dressage Weymouth.  Although the cheeks are of medium length it is a fairly kind bit when correctly used and has a neat appearance.

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