The mouth pieces used on your horse is just as important as other equine tack and should not be overlooked. This blog post will focus on a selection of bits that may best fit your horses needs. Here are descriptions of the most common types you may see when choosing a bit for your horse.
Mullen Mouthed Bits
A mullen mouthed bit is a plain mouthpiece, with a slight curve so that it sits over the horse's tongue without causing too much discomfort. This type of mouthpiece will be slightly more comfortable for a horse to carry in comparison to a straight bar mouthpiece. The mullen mouth is thought to be a gentler bit, as there is no nutcracker effect when the reins are pulled. Mullen mouths are seen on both snaffle and curb bits including mullen mouth grazing bits, or English and western-style pelhams.
Rollers are usually made of stainless steel or copper, and are often seen in an alternating pattern. The function of the copper rollers is to trigger and encourage salivation in the horse, while the rollers themselves are used to prevent the horse from leaning on the bit. The rollers increase the severity of the bit slightly. Rollers are also sometimes on bits with ports and spades.
A hollow mouth bit is lighter in weight than the same bit made with a solid mouth. Many horses carry this bit comfortably because of its weight.
Single joints create what is known as a “nutcracker effect,” which acts on the bars of the mouth, over the tongue and on the lips. For some horses, this bit may actually be easier to carry than a straight bar snaffle.
French Link Mouthpiece
French link mouthpieces have a flat peanut shaped link in the middle. The French link mouthpiece is thought to be milder when compared to a single joint or mullen mouth.It is also easier for the horse to carry.
Dr. Bristol Mouthpiece
Also known as a Doc Bristol, this bit has a flat link in the middle, and resembles a French link. However, the link is longer and set at a slight angle, so the edge of the link has more bearing on the tongue when the reins are pulled. Like the French link, the Dr. Bristol has a slight nutcracker action, but is more severe than a French mouth or mullen mouth.
Ball Link Mouthpieces
The ball link of this bit sits directly on the horse's tongue. Although the nutcracker effect is lessened, there is more pressure on the horse's tongue. This bit is slightly more severe than a French link, but less than a Dr. Bristol.
Wire Bit Mouthpieces
Thin and very severe, a Wired Bit concentrates the pressure on a small area of the tongue, bars of the mouth and lips. Wire mouthpieces come in many forms including straight, jointed or made with double offset twists. The wires can be made of one or a combination of metals. However, many people feel wire mouthpieces are cruel.
Twisted mouthpieces can be made from a combination of materials and may have a straight, mullen or jointed mouthpiece. They are similar to simple jointed snaffles with a twist formed into the mouthpiece. While not quite as severe as a wire mouthed bit, these are still very severe bits.
Chain mouthed bits use either a regular chain, bicycle or chainsaw link chain. These bits are very severe, and should be used by experienced horsemen.
Keys are small elongated beads of metal that are most often seen on bits intended for introducing young horses to the bit. There are usually three keys attached to a center ring in the mouthpiece. It may also be called a mouthing bit. However, many trainers no longer favor these bits as it is felt the bit encourages the horse to play with the bit too much.
The use of the spade bit is rooted in vaquero tradition. The spade or spoon comes into contact with the palate of the mouth when the reins are pulled and because bits with spades or spoons traditionally have long shanks, the leverage can be quite great. In inexperienced hands, this bit can cause physical damage to a horse's mouth. It is not a bit to be used in training horses or correcting habits like pulling or head tossing.
Quarter or Half Moon Linked Mouthpieces
The half moon is another type of joint, and on this bit it is made of copper to encourage salivation. The half moon provides room for the tongue, while the double links soften the nutcracker action compared to a regular jointed snaffle.
Although, some are intended to be more severe than others, you should always ensure that the bit is comfortable for the horse and does not cause too much pain. If you’re unsure of what bit works best for your horse, you should ask around and always do your research.