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Difference Between Curb Bit and Snaffle Bit
 By Winniefield Park   •   30th Jul 2017   •   3,612 views   •   0 comments


Do you know what type of bit this is? Is it a curb or a snaffle? How can you tell? What is the difference between a curb and a snaffle bit? Whether to call a bit is a curb or snaffle can be hard to determine, because in some circles a snaffle bit might be quite different than in others. Add to that the competition of snaffle horses that appear to be wearing just about any type of bit, and you’ve got some confusion.

First, we need to know what a curb and a snaffle bit are. A snaffle bit only puts pressure within the mouth of the horse when the reins are used by the rider. A snaffle bit, through the leverage of its shanks, places pressure inside the mouth, over the horse’s poll, and under the chin. It can also put pressure on the palate depending on whether there is a high enough port or spoon to rotate upwards when the reins are pulled. Simply, the curb bits action involves leverage, and the snaffle bit involves only direct pressure.

Snaffle bits are simple. They can have a solid or jointed mouthpiece. Most of the action of the bit and the severity is governed by the mouthpiece. In some cases, the cheek rings might move, and apply pressure on the outside of the mouth, but this is only a small number of snaffle bits like a Wilson Snaffle Bit, that has two rings on each side of the bit, rather than one. But in most cases, the width and shape, and whether or not the mouthpiece is jointed dictate the severity.

A curb bit has a lot more going on, however. Curb bits have shanks. These shanks when pulled back make the bit put pressure inside the mouth and make the mouthpiece rotate slightly in the mouth. Pulling back on the reins also pulls the headstall of the bridle downwards, so there is pressure over the poll. The chin strap or curb chain sits under the horse’s chin. This helps prevent the bit from rotating too far in the horse’s mouth and applies pressure against the horse’s chin, where it lies.

The confusion comes in when some people call a curb bit a snaffle. Any bit with a jointed mouthpiece is regarded as a snaffle. This means that a curb bit could be a snaffle, as could a real snaffle. So, something like a Tom Thumb bit is sometimes called a Tom Thumb snaffle, even though it is very much a curb bit with shanks. A kimberwicke or Kimblewicke is a curb bit as well, even though it doesn’t have obvious shanks.

To add to the confusion, are snaffle bit classes at Western shows, where horses are clearly wearing leverage type bits. These shows often do have classes for horses wearing real snaffle bits. They are often for young horses, under the age of five, that have not been trained to carry and respond to a curb bit.

So when deciding on whether a bit is a curb or snaffle, remember that a curb bit works with leverage. A snaffle bit does not.
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