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Choosing a Snaffle Bit

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Evidence of extensive snaffle bit use has been found in the ancient world for both riding and driving. There are new innovations to the basic snaffle.

There is a 1:1 ratio of leverage when using a snaffle. This creates direct pressure with no leverage. With the addition of cheeks or shanks, the bit becomes a pelham capable of exerting leverage. The so-called Tom Thumb snaffle is often considered a "gentle" novice bit. Little could be further from the truth. Short or small does not mean gentle.

Used in combination with a curb bit, a snaffle is regarded as a bradoon or the English "double rein." This is not the case with Western snaffle bits.

Proper width, weight, action, style, mouthpieces, finish and yes, taste, all matter as does the time for the action and the return to the "neutral" state. Headstall adjustment should be checked regularly. Contrary to common practice, we have found that there should not be any wrinkles, nor a "smile" with the snaffle.

Areas of caution include: the corners of the lips, pulling a horse around by his mouth (when riding or leading from the ground), sharp edges, getting the tongue over the bit's mouthpiece, and pulling the snaffle through the mouth.

Bits made in questionable workshops have to be examined and tested if you are not certain what is used as solder (or in the metal employed to make the bits). Some of these can be toxic.


A customer was riding a hunter/jumper in competition with one of these types of snaffles (not a CC). She and her horse took a jump and the snaffle broke. When the horse landed he was subject to intense pain. If they hadn't developed a close relationship, they would have both been in trouble. This is why, for safety's sake and your peace of mind, we strongly recommend buying your snaffle from an American craftsman who can tell you how the snaffle is made as well as what materials are used.
Make certain that the connecting ends of the headstall (preferably a brow band style) turn up and secure around the ring ends of the snaffle. If made correctly there remains a flat surface for support. Securing can be done with water ties or a Chicago screw backed concho or buckles. This will aid in supporting the snaffle and regulating the degree of its movement. Check these periodically for wear.

A snaffle hobble (rather than a bridle curb strap) is helpful in retaining the snaffle bit in the horse's mouth. The hobble is an aid in restraining his tongue preventing it from getting over the bit. It does not exert pressure, but does help in retaining a balanced position.

Copper inlays in the steel are found (more often than silver, gold, etc.) to encourage salivation. Keeping the mouth moist and soft, aids in the process. When saliva and the metals are combined, they create a "galvanic reaction" (a low level "battery" of sorts) encouraging more saliva. A moist mouth is said to be a "soft mouth." You will also note that the back near the hip will be relaxed. A freely working loin and associated muscles must be relaxed.

 

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