10 Types of English Horse Bits for Riding [Explained by An Expert]

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English riding bits are a labyrinth of metal and confusion, even if you have years of experience!

I’m here to make it simple for you, though!

Below, I’ll explain each one so that even a beginner will recognize the most commonly used.

Let’s jump in!

Don’t forget to also check our review of the best western riding boots!

10 Different Types of English Riding Bits

Don’t worry about understanding EVERY single type of bit style. Once you understand these basic ones, you will be flying, or more likely riding off into the sunset.

#1 Snaffle Bit

snaffle bit

The majority of English bits for horses are snaffle bits. However, there are many different types of snaffles.

A snaffle simply means that the bit is a single mouthpiece with no joint, a single joint, or two joints and they all have one ring on either side.

Within this, there are different types of cheekpieces and mouthpieces that affect the action of the bit. Many people assume that a snaffle is the softest type of bit, but this is not necessarily true.

A lot depends on the rider’s hands and the horse’s preference. One thing all English snaffle bits have in common is that they apply no leverage.

They work by putting pressure on the horse’s tongue, roof the mouth, and the bars of the mouth. The configuration can do this in different ways.

Related: Western Riding Pattern and Disciplines

#2 Eggbutt Snaffle

eggbutt snaffle bit

An eggbutt snaffle is usually a single joint bit. The cheekpiece is not completely circular.

Instead, it has a straight bar the runs down the side the attaches to the mouthpiece and rests next to the face.

It works by applying pressure to the outer edges of the tongue and keeps the bit more stable in the mouth than a loose ring. The bit tends to encourage horses to stretch out and seek contact.

Horses that lack confidence often like this bit because its stability can help give encouragement to accept contact.

#3 Loose Ring Snaffle

horse wearing Loose Ring bits

A loose ring snaffle or O ring has completely round cheekpieces, which can move.

This means that the bit is not as stable in the mouth and it doesn’t put constant pressure on the tongue. Some horses do not like this movement.

It provides the rider more control than an eggbutt because it is harder for the horse to ‘grab’ or lean on the bit.

#4 Fullcheek Snaffle

brown horse wearing full cheek English horse bits

A fullcheek snaffle has a long straight bar that extends down the inside of the bit ring. These bars apply pressure to the outside of the horse’s face.

It helps with turning and if often used on young horses to help them understand rein aids instructing them to turn.

Extra care is needed when using this bit, as it is easy for the horse to catch the bit bars on something. So be careful not to let your horse scratch or nose around when using it.

#5 D Ring Snaffle

Dee Ring with Copper Rollers English riding bits

The name of this bit perfectly describes the shape of the cheekpieces, which look like a ‘D’. The ‘D’ shape prevents the bit from pinching the corners of the mouth, which can happen with a loose ring bit.

The mouthpiece is usually thinner than an eggbutt, which some horses, especially those with smaller mouths might prefer.

Dee ring bits can have several mouthpieces, including cooper rollers, which encourage saliva production and help prevent a leaning.

#6 Single Joint

Single joint bit placed on the wooden floor

A single jointed snaffle has a mouthpiece broken in two by one joint. It is one of the most commonly used types.

Its action created what equestrians call the nutcracker effect, which can actually be quite strong with harsh hands.

#7 Double Jointed

a lady touching the double joint English riding bits

As the name indicates, a double-jointed bit has two joints. This is broken up by either a small ball or a slightly longer flat piece of metal.

This bit does not have a nutcracker effect. It also distributes pressure across the tongue more evenly.

#8 Mullen Mouth

A mullen mouth bit has no joints and is a single, solid mouthpiece. It is not a strong bit and is easy for horses to lean on.

However, it has no pinching effect in the mouth and puts less pressure on the tongue, which some horses find more comfortable.

Check out this video to see it up close:

#9 Curb Bits

Pelham - Curb English riding bits worn by a black horse

A curb is stronger than a snaffle. It does have some leverage, but not as much as a true leverage bit.

This is a bit for a more experienced rider and horse with established training.

They should be used with two reins, though some people use roundings, which allow the use of only one rein. It puts pressure on the horse’s poll, behind the chin, and in the mouth.

Curb bits can have single, double, or mullen mouthpieces, although most have a mullen.

The most common type of English curb bit is the pelham. The shanks on the side, which provide a bit of leverage come in different lengths.

The longer the shank, the stronger the bit. The pelham also has a chain or leather strap that goes under the jaw, just behind the chin.

#10 Leverage Bits

Leverage bit - Dutch gag, one of English riding bits

Leverage bits are the strongest type. The severity of these bits will increase with the length of the cheekpieces.

One example of a leverage bit is the Dutch gag. This bit can have two or three rings on the sides. 

They should always be ridden with two reins, one on the normal snaffle ring and the other on one of the lower rings.

The lower ring causes the leverage, which is pressure on the horse’s poll.

A common rider mistake with Dutch gags is to use only one rein on the lower ring. By doing it this way, you are putting constant pressure on the top of the horse’s head. 

This bit helps lift the horse’s head and is used on horses that tend to pull hard. However, in reality, with some horses, it helps to lower the head.

Another type of leverage bit is the elevator. This is a strong bit for strong, but sensitive horses. It really lifts the horse’s front end and sits him on his hocks. It also helps with turning.

Like the Dutch gag, you need to use two reins.

How to Choose the Right English Bit for My Horse

Choosing the right English bit for your horse is a challenge. You will first have to evaluate your horse’s mouth confirmation and get an understanding of its preferences and your needs.

ALSO READ: Horse Riding Lessons Cost

Get Expert Advice

If you don’t have a lot of experience in choosing bits, the best thing to do is enlist the help of a bitting expert. You can seek out a specialist or a trainer with a lot of experience in this area.

They will help you test and try different mouthpieces to see what suits your horse the best.

Correct Bit Size

You will also have to make sure that the bit is the right size for your horse’s mouth. You can do this using some simple measuring techniques. Some mouthpieces are thicker than others.

Thinner bits apply more precise and stronger pressure. However, some horses with small mouths will prefer a thin bit as it is more comfortable for them.

FAQs

What materials are English horse bits made with?

English horse bits are made with stainless steel. They can also have rubber or leather coatings and copper elements.

Are western riding bits the same as English?

Yes, and no. Western riding bits will sometimes have snaffle mouthpieces. But it is more common to use a ported bit. Leverage bits are also very common on a finished western horse.

What is a Myler bit?

A Myler is a bit brand that has specially designed mouthpieces that have more curves than common bits. It avoids putting pressure on the bars of the mouth.

Conclusion

Now you have a great introduction to English bits and their uses. There are literally hundreds of different bits types and it is certainly overwhelming. There is so much information about bits and their uses, it is could fill a large book!

References

  • Bateman, Stephanie. 2021. “Eggbutt Snaffle or Loose Ring: What’s the Difference?” Horse & Hound. Horse & Hound. February 27, 2021. https://www.horseandhound.co.uk/features/eggbutt-snaffle-or-loose-ring-whats-the-difference-526352.
  • Francesca. 2015. “The Myler Bitting System – New Brand.” Naylors Blog. May 7, 2015. https://www.naylors.com/blog/new-brand-myler-bits/#:~:text=Myler%20bits%20have%20a%20curved,applying%20bar%20or%20lip%20pressure.
  • “Plain English Please: Types of English Horse Bits Explained.” 2019. Horse Rookie. February 23, 2019. https://horserookie.com/types-of-english-horse-bits/.
stainless steel english horse bits

What English riding bits are you familiar with? Please share with us below!

Siun L
Siun L

Siun is an all-around animal lover, with a passion for horses. She grew up in the United States, competing in the hunters, equitation, and jumpers. Now living in Ireland, she competes with her own showjumping horses. She is experienced in the care and training of horses, as well as teaching riding lessons. She loves to combine her love for horses with her work. When not working, Siun will be found at the stables, rain or shine.
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