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What Is a Snaffle Bit?

What Is a Snaffle Bit?

While a snaffle bit may seem like a simple, go-to piece of tack, there's much more to it than meets the eye. Learn all about the snaffle bit, its proper uses and the different styles available from NRS in this high-level guide. We'll also help you find the best snaffle bit for your needs.

Just What is a Snaffle Bit Exactly?

The snaffle bit is the most routinely used type of bit. It's a non-leverage bit designed to be used laterally (with two hands). A snaffle bit includes a mouthpiece that can be straight or jointed and has rings at both ends that attach directly to the reins and do not have a shank. The bridle's headstall and the reins attach in the same ring. Pressure is applied equally on the corners of the mouth, tongue and bars of the lower jaw which makes the horse bring his head up and in. Their action is relatively mild, and it's made to slide across your horse's mouth without pinching. Snaffle bits always have a 1:1 ratio of pull.

Loose Ring Snaffle vs. Eggbutt

The loose ring construction allows for easy movement because it slides through the mouthpiece. Because of the free movement, it encourages a relaxed jaw and may pinch the sides of the mouth, so a bit guard might need to be added. The eggbutt cheek prevents rotation and keeps the bit stable. Many horses prefer it because it doesn't pinch the lips.

O-Ring Snaffle vs. D-Ring Snaffle

An O-ring snaffle is a loose snaffle, and the D-ring is the bit that is attached to the ring. The D-ring joint is away from the mouthpiece, which helps to keep the horse's lips from being pinched.

How Does A Snaffle Bit Work?

So now that you know what a snaffle bit is, how does a snaffle bit work? This type of bit works by the application and release of pressure. When we say that this bit is characterized by a 1:1 ratio, this means that one pound of pressure from the reins equals one pound of pressure to the corners and bars of the horse's mouth.

The 1:1 pressure is lighter and is one of the reasons that snaffle bits are frequently used when starting young horses or retraining more experienced animals that need some back-to-basics work.

How To Measure A Snaffle Bit

The best snaffle bit is one that fits your horse's mouth and doesn't pull. Frequent tossing of the head and biting on the bit are signs that your bit doesn’t fit right. When learning how to fit a snaffle bit properly, remember that the bit should fit comfortably across the bars — the gap in your horse's mouth behind the incisors.

The first step is to check inside the horse's mouth — see how much space is there and how big their tongue is. All horses have unique mouths, so you always keep the following in mind when mastering how to measure a snaffle bit:

  • Position - The bar should be balanced. Adjust the bit according to where it sits in the horse's mouth, making sure it doesn't strike the teeth.
  • Size - A bit that is too small may pinch the tongue or impair the ability to close the mouth. A bit that is too big can slide back and forth and hit the horse's teeth.
  • Shape - The width, shape and thickness of the mouthpiece should complement the horse's anatomy.

Go for a slightly loose adjustment — the snaffle bit should just touch the corners of the horse's mouth so it can slide across their bars without being sloppy. Make sure you measure your horse’s mouth from one side to the other where the bit will sit. You can stick a measuring tape through the horse’s mouth or, if they have a smaller mouth, use a string that you measure afterward. Bits in the US are sold by inches, so you will want to measure your horse’s mouth by the same scale.

How To Put A Snaffle Bit On A Bridle

Learning how to put a snaffle bit on a bridle is easy if you remember these three steps:

  1. Make sure the bit is facing the right direction. Pick up the snaffle bit in your hands and try pressing the ends together. The bit should fold smoothly onto itself when bent. If the bit doesn't collapse easily, it is backward.
  2. Attach the bit to the bridle. Hold your bridle so that it is facing the way the horse will be wearing it. Make sure that the front of the bit is facing the front of the bridle, then attach it by buckling or snapping the loops to the cheek pieces on the outside of your snaffle bit.
  3. Adjust the bit. Adjust the cheek pieces on the bridle to ensure the bit is not sitting so loosely that it dangles inside the mouth nor so tightly that the snaffle bit cannot slide.

It is generally best to use a snaffle bit with a browband headstall instead of a one-ear or slit-ear headstall.

How Does a Snaffle Bit Compare to Other Bits?

Below are some common comparisons between snaffle bits and other types of bits.

Shank Bit vs. Snaffle Bit

Shank bits are leverage bits. This means that instead of the mouthpiece attaching directly to the reins like a snaffle bit, it connects to a shank. Because of the leverage created by the shank, the ratio of pull is 1:10.

Curb Bit vs. Snaffle Bit

Unlike a snaffle bit, the curb bit incorporates rotation and leverage via a leverage piece that is attached to the mouthpiece. This increases the amount of pressure. There is also a curb or chin strap attached to the mouthpiece to stabilize the shanks.

Tom Thumb Bit vs. Snaffle Bit

Because of the jointed mouthpiece, many people confuse the Tom Thumb bit with a snaffle bit, but the shank gives it away. The Tom Thumb bit is actually a leverage bit with shanks ranging from five to seven inches long. It includes a curb chain or strap that attaches to D-shaped slots and is more severe than a snaffle.

For more in-depth information about Western bits, you can check out our buying guide for horse bits.

Get the Best Snaffle Bits at NRS

Now that you know all how to fit a snaffle bit properly, it's time to put your knowledge to work. When you want to choose the best snaffle bit for your horse, rely on NRS. Our collection of tack and supplies has everything you need for a happy horse and a great ride!

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