Tag Archives: Facts

Five facts about a snaffle: There’s no hiding away from the effect of the bit in your horses mouth.

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Bitting your horse is not to be taken lightly.  It is really important to understand how a bit functions in your horses mouth.  Lets start simple with snaffles.

Horse Scout Blogger was watching some babies out on their first competitive outing yesterday…. I love it, all starey eyed and long legs!! (well some of them anyway). This got me to thinking about the snaffle, and all its variations.  When you go into a tack shop and that multitude of variation set before you. An Aladdin’s cave; but only if you know what you are looking for and why. Knowing how the snaffle bit works is helpful in developing effective rein aids, and avoid either being ineffectual or too hard on your horse’s mouth. Although the basic action of most snaffle bits is the same, it sometimes takes trying a few different bits to find one your horse is comfortable with. After riding my mare in a French Link and finding her fussing with the bit, I changed to the loose ring, which was lighter, and seemed to be much more comfortable for her. Sometimes choosing the right bit, even if you are choosing among snaffles can take a bit of time.

1. Snaffle Basics

A snaffle bit has a straight or jointed mouthpiece with rings on each end of the mouthpiece. There are many different types of snaffle bits. However, the basic structure is the same for all, and the basic action in the horse’s mouth is very similar, with some subtle modifications. The snaffle bit is regarded as a relatively mild bit. The addition of variations can make it much harsher.

When the reins are pulled, pressure is applied to the area of the gums that have no teeth called the bars of the mouth. This gap is between the front teeth that crop grass, and the back teeth, that grind the food. A properly fitting bit sits comfortably within this gap, just forward of the grinding teeth. Occasionally, a horse will have problems carrying a bit comfortably this can be from small teeth called wolf teeth which may have to be removed.

2. How the Horse Reacts to the Signals

The simple snaffle applies pressure to the bars of the horse’s mouth. There is no pressure anywhere else on the horse’s head and no leverage comes into play as it does with a curbed bit or lever action (gag). When you pull straight back, the horse will understand that equal pressure on both sides of its mouth means to stop. A pull to the right, that applies pressure on the right bar, means turn to the right and a pull to the left, of course, means turn left. As you learn to refine your rein aids, combining them with using your seat and leg aids, you will learn to cue your horse for things like leg yields, half-passes, lead changes, changes of gait and other more advanced riding skills. While at first you may be simply ‘pulling’ the reins, you will in a short time learn to give much more subtle signals that can be felt by the horse, but are almost imperceptible to the average observer.

3. The Function of Bit Rings

The rings on a snaffle may be D shaped or have small piece sticking up or down like a full cheek snaffle and Fulmer snaffle. The rings may slide or they may be fixed to the mouthpiece. The shafts perpendicular to the mouthpiece on full cheek and driving bits prevent the bit from slipping through the horse’s mouth. Large leather or rubber type discs can be used to keep bit from chaffing the sides of the horse’s mouth as well. The rings can effect the weight of the bit and prevent the bit from pulling sideways through the horse’s mouth.

4. How Mouthpieces Differ

Bits with jointed mouthpieces will have a nutcracker effect, while straight mouthpieces spread the pressure evenly over tongue and bars. An egg butt snaffle will have oval rings, and the mouth piece will get thicker as it approaches the rings. These bits are amongst the most mild, because they distribute the pressure of the rein aid over a wider area of the bars. Generally the thicker the mouthpiece the milder the bit. However a horse with a large tongue or low palate might be uncomfortable in a bit with a thick mouthpiece. The French link is considered the mildest jointed snaffle. The Dr. Bristol, although it looks very similar, is much more severe, because of the way the plate in the middle of the bit lays in constant contact with the tongue—either flat or on an angle, depending on how the rider attaches the bit to the bridle.

5. Variety

Snaffles can be hollow to reduce weight, flexible, twisted, jointed with one or more links, have keys or rollers, be squared or oval, or have any combination of shapes and joints. Mullen mouth bits are the same width from end to end. Wire bits are quite thin and wire wrapped bits add to the sharpness of the pressure on the bars of the mouth. All of these variations are intended to enhance the rein aids. Different metals and material can be used to encourage the horse to accept the bit for its taste or encourage salivation. Copper, sweet iron, vulcanite and other synthetics can be used. Some bits, often used for teaching a young horse to hold the bit, are flavored.

Snaffles are often the first bit a horse will carry. Many will be ridden throughout their entire lives with a snaffle bit.

What about a Warmblood?

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If you plan to ride as a sport you will definitely be seeing the term ‘Warmblood”. Why buy a warmblood breed? Excellent for riding due to their confirmation the warm blooded breeds were created when warriors returned to Europe from the Middle East and Africa with hot blooded Arabian horses captured in battle. Bred for 100‘s of years to strict “specifications” the breeds have a particular stamp and steady temperament and are, generally, easy to do.

A Bit of History!

Breeding the large, heavy war horses of northern Europe with the lighter, faster and fiery tempered hot bloods from the Mongolian steppes created horse breeds that combine the quickness and agility of race horses with the larger build and milder temperament of cold bloods. Over time, the draft horses of Europe were increasingly bred with hot blooded imports, creating the forerunners of dozens of breeds in existence today. Warmbloods have smaller heads and bodies than draft horses and tend to be less excitable than hot blooded horses, making them good all-round horses for riding and light work and yet with the abilities of elite athletes for the Olympic sporting events.

To ensure that breed criteria and standards are still met for warm blood breeds the UK has its own breed society standard grading matrix. Since 1982 the British Warm-Blood Society, now the Warmblood Breeders Studbook – UK, has been operating a Mare Grading scheme and the Mare Grading will form part of the two-day WBS Breed Show. The introduction of the Mare Grading scheme means that only graded mares are eligible for the BWBS Stud Book, which has three separate sections as follows:

  1. SELECT STUD BOOK – must have three generations of fully pedigreed and graded warmblood parents(i.e. Pink Papers).
  2. MAIN STUD BOOK MARES: must have at least one graded parent and a full verified pedigree for three generations on both sides ( i.e. pink or some white papered mares).
  3. PERMANENT BREEDING REGISTER MARES: must have one graded and recognized parent.

All foals sired by WBS graded Stallions are eligible for registration and white papers, but mares only enter the Stud Book only after successfully attending Grading.

Since 1983 only foals with two graded parents and three full BWBS/WBS recognised generations can receive pink papers.

For the competitor Horse Scout has a few British Warmbloods listed with Professional event rider and dressage rider Wayne Garrick who has ridden at 3* international and Advanced medium level dressage. He is currently breaking and producing young horses along side running the competition horses. Two of which are:

Hillgrounds Movinda  for £15,000 an eye catching 16hds dark bay mare rising 5 by T Movistar X Don Premaire. This incredibly eye catching mare has three uphill paces, correct confirmation and a trainable nature. Super young horse ready to start her competition career.

Diamonique Dancer £14,000 Gorgeous 16.2hds 5 year old bay mare by Sandros Dancer X Dimaggio x Pik Trumpf. 3 correct and exuberant paces. Professionally schooled and being slowly produced to allow time to mature. Has been out to unaff. competitions and has proven to be well behaved and well liked in the arena by the judges. Hacks alone or in company and jumps too. As with any horse with lots of scope and potential she is not a novice ride.

With Carron Roberts Equestrian we have:

Cookie a 16.2 British Warmblood x TB Bay Mare, just turned 5. Won & placed Combined Training, Double Clear at first unaffiliated ODE, Won and placed unaffiliated Dressage and Clear at WWEC Hunter Trial.She has super balanced and elevated paces with a bold scopey jump. And to top her off she has a super temperament and wants to learn and please you as a rider. Will happily stand on the lorry alone and with company and is easy to do at competitions. Hacks out alone and in company. She loves people, this horse is easy enough for a good amateur but talented enough for a professional. NO vices. Based at a professional yard since a foal so has been produced and handled correctly, competed by one of our talented working pupils.

In Southampton there is a super 17hh dark bay young horse who would be a great prospect for young horse classes 2015.He is tall but elegant with three quality paces and his owners think he is sure to make a top dressage horse.