View Full Version : A "snaffle-mouth"

Mar. 2, 2011, 12:47 AM
For some reason the thread about flash nosebands got me to thinking about the word "snaffle," which has always stuck me as an odd one.

Turns out it's quite old, and really used to be a part of the language, as suggesting a horse (or human) easily controlled.

Herewith, because I'm a wordie, the OED definition and etymology of "snaffle," along with some interesting quotations going back to the 16th century:

snaffle, n.1


Also 6–7 snafle, snaffel (6 -ell, -ul).

[Of doubtful origin: connexion with (M)Du. and (M)LG. snavel (late OFris. snavel, snaul, WFris. snaffel mouth), OHG. snapal (MHG. snabel, G. schnabel), beak, bill, mouth, is not clear; but cf. the use of G. schnabel for a forked instrument used in training hunting-dogs to keep the head up.]

1. a.1.a A simple form of bridle-bit, having less restraining power than one provided with a curb.

***1533 Frith Another Bk. agst. Rastell A vj b, I verye well lyken yow to him that hath a wilde horse to tame,‥when he perceueth that he can not holde him with a scottyshe snafle. ***1577 B. Googe Heresbach's Husb. i. (1586) 15 b, Geue a Horse the whip, an Asse the snaffell, and a Foole the rodde. ***c 1618 Moryson Itin. iv. i. (1903) 48 Their bridles are like our snafles but commonly sett with Copper studds guilded. ***1686 Plot Staffordsh. 377 They make also great variety of bridles, both Snaffles and Bitts: such as the wheel and joynted Snaffle, the neck-Snaffle [etc.]. ***1774 Goldsm. Nat. Hist. (1862) I. 252 They are rid generally in a snaffle, without spurs. ***1833 Reg. & Instr. Cavalry i. 75 Great care must be taken not to press the horse too suddenly up to the snaffle. ***1882 B. D. W. Ramsay Rough Recoll. I. v. 95 Finding [the horse]‥would bear no pressure on his mouth, I at last tried him with a plain light snaffle.

b.1.b fig. or in fig. contexts.

***1542 Brinklow Compl. xii. (1874) 28 This were a good snafful for the tyrannes and oppressers. ***1579 North Plutarch (1896) V. 168 Rome also not being used to be brideled with the snaffle of such insolencie. ***1639 Fuller Holy War iii. xxvii. (1840) 167 Being a place of such importance, it would always be a snaffle in the mouth of the Egyptian king. ***1679 Alsop Melius Inq. ii. v. 264 The Ἄνοµος or Lawless person, who has a curb for every mans Conscience, but will not endure a snaffle upon his own. ***1813 Moore Post-bag i. 49 His Lordship proposes ‘The new Veto-snaffle to bind down their noses’. ***1833 T. Hook Parson's Dau. ii. vii, Give your own passions the curb, and allow mine the snaffle.

c.1.c to ride (one) in, on, or with the snaffle, to rule easily, to guide with a light hand.

***1577 Holinshed Chron., Hist. Scotl. I. 249, I perceyue this man will neuer obey my commaundements, till he be rydden with a snaffle. ***1593 Nashe Christ's T. To Rdr., Ile‥ride him with a snaffle vp & down the whole realme. ***a 1668 R. Lassels Voy. Italy (1670) ii. 281 Such a wanton Courser as Naples is not to be ridden with snaffles. ***1844 Ld. Ashburton in Croker P. (1884) III. xxiii. 18 As old Hunt said of Manners Sutton as Speaker, he rode them in a snaffle. ***1904 Benson Challoners i, The world has begun‥to ride life on the snaffle instead of the curb.

2.2 attrib. and Comb., as snaffle-bit, snaffle-bridle, snaffle-rein; snaffle-bridled, snaffle-mouthed adjs.; snaffle-mouth, the mouth of a horse which can be managed with a snaffle alone.

***1576 Gascoigne Steele Gl., Philomene (Arb.) 90 A snaffle Bit or brake, Bebost with gold. ***1668 Lond. Gaz. No. 272/4 He took away with her a deep skirted Saddle‥and a snaffle Bridle. ***1814 Earl of Dudley Lett. 7 May (1840) 35 There is no riding the French in a snaffle-bridle. ***1856 ‘Stonehenge’ Brit. Rural Sports 395/1, I have never yet ridden a snaffle-bridled horse comfortably through a run. ***1856 Lever Martins of Cro' M. xv, An old worsted bell-rope formed the snaffle-rein of his bridle. ***1862 H. H. Dixon Scott & Sebright IV. 308 Early in the ensuing year, Becher was again on the snaffle-mouthed Grimaldi. ***1875 Knight Dict. Mech. 2228/2 Price's bridle-bit‥combines the snaffle-bit with a lever-bar. ***1910 Chambers's Jrnl. 1 Oct. 703/1 A jungle-fowl which‥causes my horse to dance a gavotte‥, a feat for which his snaffle mouth and indolent disposition eminently unfit him. ***1932 J. E. Hance School for Horse & Rider x. 85 From time to time one hears of such and such a horse possessing a ‘snaffle mouth’. To be entitled to such a designation the animal would have to be capable of flexing and bending to this form of bit at all paces, and such animals are extremely rare. ***1977 Horse & Hound 14 Jan. 36/3 (Advt.), Chestnut gelding.‥ Snaffle mouth, quiet in every way.

Does your horse have a snaffle mouth? :yes:

Mar. 2, 2011, 02:07 AM
Me lykkes yowr postte, MelantheLLC! Ey hayve a horse Ey ryde with a Sprengersshe snafle. Yow bette yowr Asse!

Mar. 2, 2011, 12:01 PM
I love it!

My horse is definitely a snaffle mouth. Though he'd probably enjoy bitless even more - I've been tempted to hop on him in just a halter many times, then I remember his spine and withers...

Mar. 2, 2011, 02:08 PM
haha, my horse has a soft mouth and goes in a snaffle bit

Druid Acres
Mar. 2, 2011, 03:46 PM
Interesting post! I wonder if the German "schnabel" is related to the slang term "schnozz" for "nose." Yiddish, maybe?

Your next assignment is to research "Weymouth" and "Kimberwicke" and report back to us. (Just kidding -- they're probably just place names.)

Oh, and where the heck did "egg butt" come from? :D

Mar. 2, 2011, 04:07 PM
Oh, and where the heck did "egg butt" come from? :D

Sayme playce ass "full cheek?"

Mar. 2, 2011, 04:18 PM
Interesting post! I wonder if the German "schnabel" is related to the slang term "schnozz" for "nose." Yiddish, maybe?

Your next assignment is to research "Weymouth" and "Kimberwicke" and report back to us. (Just kidding -- they're probably just place names.)

Oh, and where the heck did "egg butt" come from? :D
Weymouth is indeed a place.

I THINK Kimberwicke is derived form Kimblewicke which is a place.

An Egg Butt has a "butted" joint between the mouthpiece and the rings (a opposed to a "loose" joint on a loose ring), and the ring is "egg" shaped.

Mar. 2, 2011, 04:53 PM
Iwysse, whether ye rid your destrier or your rouncy in a snaffle or a curb, it were good to discouer whence came these wordes:

[II.] [7.]II.7 {egg-butt} Horsemanship, used attrib. to designate a type of snaffle in which the connection between the mouthpiece and each side-ring is an egg-shaped joint.

***1923 Army & Navy Co-op. Soc. Ann. Price List 1923–24 243/2 (heading) *Egg butt race bridoon. ***1927 S. G. Goldschmidt Bridle Wise vi. 35, I recommend egg-butt joints, as they present a smooth surface to the corners of the lips and cannot wound them. ***1986 Your Horse Sept. 27/1, I ride him in a lightweight German eggbutt snaffle.

butt, n.3


Forms: 5 bott, butte, 5–8 but, 7– butt.

[First appears in 15th c., but must be much older if buttock (13th c.) be a dim. of it. Of obscure etymology: words apparently cognate are ON. butt-r (‘short’ Vigf.; but occurring only as a nickname); Da., LG. but, Du. bot, blunt, short, thickset, stumpy; Sp., Pg. boto blunt, F. bot in pied-bot (club foot). Cf. further ON. bút-r (but-r, Fritzner) log of wood, Sw. but clod, stump, MHG. butze clod, mod.G. butze(n ‘log, piece cut from a tree-trunk’ (Sanders) = sense 2 below, also ‘core of apples, catkin or bud of shrubs and trees’ (Grimm) = sense 4.
***F. bout end (OF. also bot, but) is apparently not connected with these words. It has naturally been thought of as the source of the Eng. word, but it does not appear to be recorded in the specific sense of ‘thick end’. But cf. butt n.7]

1. a.1.a The thicker end of anything, esp. of a tool or weapon, the part by which it is held or on which it rests; e.g. the lower end of a spear-shaft, whip-handle, fishing-rod, the broad end of the stock of a gun or pistol.

***1470–85 Malory Arthur x. ii, Sir Tristram awaked hym with the but of his spere. ***1548 Hall Chron., 10 Hen. V, 82 Round about the charet rode ccccc men of armes‥with the but of their speres vpward. ***1814 Scott Wav. II. xiii. 205 The pedlar, snatching a musket‥bestowed the butt of it‥on the head of his late instructor. ***1872 Baker Nile Tribut. x. 158 My only way of working him [a fish] was to project the butt of the rod in the usual manner. ***1873 Bennett & Cavendish Billiards 25 The cues should taper gradually from a diameter of two and a half inches at the butt. ***1871 Kingsley At Last II. xiii. 214 Three e



1.1 [The title of the first Lord Weymouth, by whom the tree was extensively planted after its introduction into England in 1705] Weymouth Pine, the American white pine, Pinus Strobus.

2.2 Horse-riding. Designating a type of curb bit (see quot. 1963) or a double bridle comprising this bit and a snaffle with two sets of reins.

***1792 T. H. Morland Every Man his Own Judge 70 A Weymouth bridle, with bit, and bradoon, is in my opinion preferable to any other sort for the road. ***1919 R. S. Timmis Notes on Riding & Driving iii. 39 A few good snaffles, both racing and exercising (with cross-pieces outside the cheek), and a Weymouth or a Pelham bit and bridoon are all that are necessary for practically all horses. ***1938 F. C. Hitchcock To Horse! ix. 274 The only objection to a double bridle is that its use entails two separate mouthpieces in the horse's mouth. The usual pattern bit used is called the Weymouth. ***1946 M. C. Self Horseman's Encycl. 433 The Weymouth bridle consists of a bit and bridoon. It is the bridle most usually used for the finished saddle horse. ***1963 Bloodgood & Santini Horseman's Dict. 21 Weymouth or Ward Union bit, bit consisting of straight, moderately long cheek-pieces, stationary or sliding mouthpiece, either straight or with a slight Muller or Cambridge port. Simplest of all curb bits and most generally used. ***1965 C. E. G. Hope Riding v. 59 The curb used with a double bridle, known as the Weymouth or Ward Union, invariably has a plain port mouth.

Ne dost the OED admit of "Kimberwicke," but that spawn of Satan, the wikipedia, spekes much on the matter as Janet spake, of a towne called Kimblewick whereat was made this bit.

Mar. 2, 2011, 05:07 PM
Try looking up "butted", (as in "butted against") especially as a shortened form of "abutted", derived from the verb "but" or "abut".

I think that may be more productive than the noun "butt" even though they are probably related if you go back far enough.

Mar. 2, 2011, 06:27 PM
Interesting post! I wonder if the German "schnabel" is related to the slang term "schnozz" for "nose." Yiddish, maybe?

Sort of related. Schnabel means beak! ;)

Mar. 4, 2011, 10:19 PM
Great post, a bit of a wordie myself. Thank you.