Many horses are driven in a simple snaffle, a type of English riding bit. One of the most common driving snaffles is the half-spoon or half-cheek driving snaffle. But, there are some drivers who feel that their horse needs more bit in their mouth than a simple snaffle. That’s why bits like the Wilson snaffle were created. This is a snaffle bit, because it works only on the horse’s mouth, and does not apply pressure under the chin or over the poll as a curb bit does. As you’ll see though, the four rings of the Wilson snaffle bit can add a bit of extra pressure when used a certain way.
Wilson snaffle bits have been around for a long time, and that’s why you find rusty old ones at auctions and flea markets. Those old rusty ones belong as decoration on a wall, not in your horse’s mouth. New ones are available, although you may have to order one or visit a store that specializes in driving equipment.
This bit is most commonly seen on driving horses, although it can be used for riding. It provides more control than a plain snaffle, as the rings encourage the horse to move laterally, which is needed for turning the vehicle. This also may help riders that need a horse to be responsive to quick turns, such as when showjumping or doing speed games.
Uses of the Wilson Snaffle Bit
The Wilson snaffle bit has been traditionally used as a driving bit. It is occasionally used on riding horses too. Some show jumpers use the bit, as they feel it gives them more control with a horse that pulls. Like any bit, however, the severity is governed by the hands that use it. If the rider is heavy-handed or rough with the horse’s mouth, the horse will learn to evade the aid, and may even misbehave in response to the pain. A more severe bit is no substitute for good schooling and may create more problems than it solves.
The Wilson snaffle has two sets of rings. This bit shown has a jointed mouthpiece although the Wilson snaffle can have a variety of different mouthpieces. Most common is a jointed mouth, but they can also have a straight or a twisted mouthpiece. Twists can increase severity. Some horses may be uncomfortable carrying a bit with a straight mouthpiece.
How the Wilson Snaffle Bit Works
The Wilson snaffle works on the bars of the mouth and is slightly more severe than a loose ring snaffle when the are reins attached to both rings. Severity is increased greatly if the reins are only attached to the outside rings. The headstall of the bridle can be attached to the two loose rings. When the reins are pulled, the two inside rings squeeze the sides of the horse's cheeks rather than just on the horse’s lips or jaws. If the mouthpiece of this bit is jointed, there is a nutcracker effect inside of the horse’s mouth. Used in this manner the Wilson has the potential to be a very harsh bit if misused.