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Horses hate snaffles

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  • Horses hate snaffles

    It's a common misconception that snaffles are the mildest bits and, therefore, you should use one whenever possible. While it is true that only the nicest horses go well in a snaffle, it's because they're the only ones that will put up with them, NOT that they are the only ones that don't need extreme pain in their mouths to behave. WHEN did extreme pain make a horse go better? It's all about clear communication and making the horse comfortable, two things that snaffle bits do NOT provide. Why? Let's take a look.

    Communication: Snaffle bits are FLOPPY. Their jointed mouthpieces make them that way. Pick one up and it flops, with a LOT of movement. It's the same way in a horse's mouth. A horse can't tell whether the movement of the bit in their mouth is because they swallowed, moved their tongue, moved their head, or you are putting pressure on the reins.

    Making the horse comfortable: When you put pressure on both reins with a snaffle bit, the bit rings move closer together, which causes the mouthpiece to 'bend,' becoming pointy instead of relatively straight. This 'point' (the joint in the mouthpiece) digs into the roof of the horse's mouth. When a horse raises its head or opens its mouth in response to rein pressure, it's just trying to avoid that pain. If you think the roof of the mouth isn't sensitive, try biting on a potato chip wrong and having it poke you in the roof of the mouth. Ow!!! The common response to that is to tie down the horse's head and tie its mouth shut. Why does every "dressage" bridle come with a flash noseband (only purpose: to tie the horse's mouth shut)? To keep the horse from avoiding pain. How sweet.

    Solution: Unjointed mouthpieces, or no mouthpiece at all. If you want 'safety,' or 'control, try a Pelham. You may say, "but they're so CRUEL!". Not so, but if you think so, try one without the curb chain or curb (lower, thinner) rein. That ELIMINATES the curb action, leaving a straight bar bit (unless you've gotten a jointed-mouth bit, in which case, forget it) that happens to have some extra stuff sticking out. When I Learned to ride, the common thing was to START a horse or pony in a snaffle, and if that didn't work, go to a Pelham. They ALWAYS worked.

  • #2
    I'm inclined to agree with you regarding ordinary snaffle bits. However -- french snaffles with a small third joint between the two large pieces, eliminates this problem (poking the horse in the roof of the mouth).

    Also -- french snaffles that are comprised of curved pieces -- instead of straight -- are even kinder to a horse's mouth.

    Opinion?

    Comment


    • #3
      if you're riding the horse and the pressure is pulling back on the cheekpieces of the snaffle, in most cases, the 'point' will 'point' forward...as in, toward their front teeth, parallel to their tongue, not perpendicular to it pointing into the roof of their mouth. And if this is such a concern, a Dr Bristol or french link (as mentioned above) is easy to find and is an easy fix. A bar pulling on their tongue with no release can be very bothersome to some. Each horse is different and, if you listen, they'll tell you what they prefer.

      Stacy
      www.rushtonstables.com

      Comment

      • Original Poster

        #4
        That might be. They at least REDUCE the "poking in the roof of the mouth" problem, perhaps eliminating it altogether, depending on the fit of the mouthpiece (many people get "standard' width mouthpieces, and I think that 5" is too wide for today's refined-muzzle-type horses). As to the 'floppiness' problem, I've not picked enough french-link mouthpieces to know.

        Comment


        • #5
          Actually, a study was recently done by Dr. Hilary Clayton showing that single-jointed snaffles do NOT hit the roof of the mouth when the reins are engaged. What happens is that the bit bends and applies pressure downwards into the tongue. Obviously this can be uncomfortable for some horses, which is why trying them in a different style of mouthpiece often helps, as the pressure is put on different parts of the horse's mouth instead.

          Here is the article in Horse Journal where she discusses some of the findings: http://www.horse-journal.com/magazin...es-bit-action/

          And here is an explanation from another Horse Journal article:
          And her studies have found that the action of a single-jointed snaffle is not a nutcracker effect, as has long been believed. What really happens is that, when you apply pressure to the reins, it pulls the joint away from the roof of the mouth, or hard palate, to compress the tongue against the bars of the lower jaw. Horses, it turns out, like the snaffle because they don't like getting poked in the palate and because the tongue cushions their bars.
          I've spent most of my life riding horses. The rest I've just wasted.

          Comment


          • #6
            I'm not a bit fan, I ride, if possible with the horse, in an english jumping hackamore. I trail ride, and sometimes I let them stop and graze. Yea I know people say that's a no-no but I let them. I want them to enjoy the trail ride also. Plus just easier to put on, slips on like a halter. Especially easy for my mare who develops lockjaw if you come near her with a bit.
            I want a signature but I have nothing original to say except: "STHU and RIDE!!!

            Wonderful COTHER's I've met: belleellis, stefffic, snkstacres and janedoe726.

            Comment


            • #7
              Wow! Single jointed straight snaffle or mullen mouth pelham. Last time I visited a tack shop they had a whole wall of different bits, and they weren't just different sizes of those two bits.

              Curved bars on the single jointed snaffle, double jointed with straight or curved bars, barrel link, ported mouths with different links, peanut link, mullen mouth and on and on and on. Heck you can even get a hanging snaffle with a mullen mouth that would give you the same effect as using one rein on the snaffle ring of a pelham without the excess shank (and it's legal for competition).

              The four horses I've owned went happily in various bits. The first liked a hollow, loose ring, single jointed, straight mouth snaffle of moderate thickness (no noseband of any kind). The second expressed a very clear preference for his ported, barrel jointed D ring with a thin diameter (he'd always preferred thin bits and often went without a noseband). The third liked french link, curved mouth, fairly thin diameter bits (he had the same mouth on a loose ring and a D ring). the fourth has so far been quite happy in a single spin jointed, curved mouth D ring with a thin diameter.

              Welcome to the future of bits!

              Comment


              • #8
                nightsong, I think you are making an awfully big generalization...akin to all kids hate spinach, or all dogs hate cats. And there are a whole lot of bits out there in between a snaffle and a pelham that work for a whole lot of horses.

                Also, an unjointed pelham with no curb rein and no curb chain is not a pelham. It's just a mullen mouth bit, no matter what the cheeks look like.

                Comment


                • #9
                  What chezzie said. Not all snaffles are made equal and not all horses are made equal. I've heard convincing arguments from both sides of the coin & have seen horses go their best in an eggbutt single jointed snaffle and some go their best in a straight bar pelham, and others in everything in between. I've also ridden horses who change their mind on a weekly basis.

                  I do think it is true about french links, and had one well known local trainer do the following 'test' on us. Squeeze a regular single jointed snaffle bit over your arm (fleshiest part) then a double jointed and see which one hurts less. His argument was that horses felt the same. Interestingly, the TB I am riding now braced a lot in the single jointed snaffle I tried on him first but is going way nicer in the french link.

                  I could argue that at the end of the day it is the rider who trains the horse, not the bit.

                  PS - I've seen plenty of hackamore set ups that are way harsher on a horse than any bit.
                  "Choose to chance the rapids, and dare to dance the tides" - Garth Brooks
                  "With your permission, dear, I'll take my fences one at a time" - Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I agree with Kyryder. My mare appears to dislike regular snaffles, (but not for the reason the OP said), but will tolerate the curved JP Korsteel kind. She is much happier in a French Link, so that is our most often used bit. Thanks to SolarFlare for that link to the HJ article, very informative.
                    Last edited by sdlbredfan; Feb. 23, 2013, 10:29 AM. Reason: clarity
                    Jeanie
                    RIP Sasha, best dog ever, pictured shortly before she died, Death either by euthanasia or natural causes is only the end of the animal inhabiting its body; I believe the spirit lives on.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Every mouthpiece that's found in a curb can be found in a snaffle as well. Even all the port variations. Ive even seen a snaffle with a salinas mouth. The only thing I've not seen is a full spade on snaffle rings.

                      For that reason alone any work that starts off assuming none of these variations exist makes me inclined to ignore it.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        my myler comfort snaffle is awesome.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by nightsong View Post
                          (many people get "standard' width mouthpieces, and I think that 5" is too wide for today's refined-muzzle-type horses). As to the 'floppiness' problem, I've not picked enough french-link mouthpieces to know.
                          You must live in a very different world from mine.

                          Everyone I know figures out which size bit their horse needs before buying a new bit (and 5" is too narrow for some of mine).

                          Unlike you, I can't remember the last time I handled a single jointed snaffle. All of my horses (and just about every horse I know well enough to know what bit it wears) goes in either double jointed snaffle, or a mullen mouth snaffle. It would not even occur to me to use a single jointed snaffle unless there was some reason the horse was unhappy with the double jointed or mullen mouth.
                          Janet

                          chief feeder and mucker for Music, Spy, Belle and Tiara. Someone else is now feeding and mucking for Chief and Brain (both foxhunting now).

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by SolarFlare View Post
                            Actually, a study was recently done by Dr. Hilary Clayton showing that single-jointed snaffles do NOT hit the roof of the mouth when the reins are engaged. ...
                            ...

                            Here is the article in Horse Journal where she discusses some of the findings: http://www.horse-journal.com/magazin...es-bit-action/

                            That article appeasrs to be 2001
                            Janet

                            chief feeder and mucker for Music, Spy, Belle and Tiara. Someone else is now feeding and mucking for Chief and Brain (both foxhunting now).

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I thought a snaffle was just a non-leverage bit, not necessarily jointed.

                              My horse is in a Waterford. No joint - or lots of joints, depending on how you look at it - but I'd still call it a snaffle bit, because the reins connect directly to the rings.

                              It's pretty "floppy" but it's supposed to be - so he can't lean on the bit. I'm not sure how this feature might cause a "communication problem." At least I've never experienced that problem. What does that mean, exactly?
                              I'm not ignoring the rules. I'm interpreting the rules. Tamal, The Great British Baking Show

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Dr. Clayton has conducted several studies of how bits work, IIRC, most/all were funded by USDF. This web page has links to all of them:

                                http://www.theoriginalbitfit.com/v4/...ts&product=427

                                They're fascinating studies.
                                "Facts are meaningless. You can use facts to prove anything
                                that's even remotely true."

                                Homer Simpson

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by pAin't_Misbehavin' View Post
                                  I thought a snaffle was just a non-leverage bit, not necessarily jointed.

                                  My horse is in a Waterford. No joint - or lots of joints, depending on how you look at it - but I'd still call it a snaffle bit, because the reins connect directly to the rings.

                                  It's pretty "floppy" but it's supposed to be - so he can't lean on the bit. I'm not sure how this feature might cause a "communication problem." At least I've never experienced that problem. What does that mean, exactly?
                                  One of my favorite bits on my old OTTB.

                                  I almost ALWAYS use a french link eggbutt as my go to, and then change if needed. I like the eggbutt over a loose ring, just because of the pinching factor. But let's face it; if the majority of horses I've sat on have "seemed" happier in a french link, you can't tell me that they were ALL just saintly martyrs trying to please me even when in extreme pain. Pretty sure I'd have eaten dirt if some of those guys had been in any amount of pain.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by pAin't_Misbehavin' View Post
                                    I thought a snaffle was just a non-leverage bit, not necessarily jointed.
                                    you are correct. A snaffle can be a mullen mouth. It means no leverage.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      All a snaffle is, is a non-leverage bit. It has to do with the rings, not the mouth piece.

                                      I'm assuming by Pelham, you mean a Mullen mouth Pelham, since a single joint is apparently a device straight from the Devil.

                                      I personally love my KK Oval link Eggbutt Snaffle. I have shown hunters, and jumpers in it, and it was even the bit I broke, galloped and worked racehorses in. But, my current little horse hates it, and much prefers her curved mouth D ring. I tried every double jointed bit I had with her, but she just didn't like any of them.

                                      Personally, I like going with whatever bit my horses like, instead of making blanket statements like "all snaffles are evil"
                                      The Equine Wellness and Nutrition FB Group - Come join us!!
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                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Like a lot of people here, my go to is a french link. I generally use eggbut bits because of the pinching possibilities with a loose ring. I've used mylers, happy mouth, pelhams, hackamores, etc. I had one horse who absolutely LOVED his mikmar. It really depends on the horse, and the skill level of the rider. ANY bit can be harsh (or downright abusive) if it's put in the wrong hands. Some hackamores can go so far as to break a horse's jaw if used incorrectly. In the right hands, however, bits and their variations are one more tool for the team, and each team will go best in something slightly different. To generalize that "all snaffles are bad" shows me that you might want to do a bit more research, and talk to a few more people with an open mind.

                                        Comment

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