English Eggbutt Snaffle

Dressage: portrait of bay horse on nature background.
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One of the most commonly used bits in English riding is the eggbutt snaffle. Because there is no curb or leverage action, it is a mild snaffle bit. The mouthpieces of these bits can vary in materials and widths. It is also possible to see eggbutt snaffles that have dangling keys from the center joint. These are training bits, and they aren’t generally used for riding, but to get a young horse used to the feel of holding onto a bit.

The size of the rings that the headstall and reins attach to varies as well.

Eggbutt Snaffle Appearance

Eggbutt snaffles can have a straight or jointed mouthpiece. The rings are attached to the mouthpiece by wide cylindrical cheek pieces. The mouthpiece of the bit tapers inwards from the cheeks. These tapers may start out very wide or rather narrow depending on the bit. Wider tapers indicate a milder bit, but some horses with small mouths may have problems holding a wide bit. The bit pictured has a narrow taper to the jointed mouthpiece. The mouthpieces of this bit may be soft synthetic material, copper, nickel or stainless steel. The rings will be made of nickel or stainless steel.

Eggbutt Snaffle Uses

One of the most commonly used English snaffle bits is the eggbutt snaffle. It is useful in training a young horse, general riding, and the beginning stages of dressage. Some horses are ridden their whole lives in this type of bit.

It’s also acceptable to start a horse that will later learn to be ridden western in an eggbutt snaffle. These horses will be transitioned out of this mild bit into a curb bit eventually. For dressage, the loose ring snaffle will give a more distinct signal to the horse, so it isn’t common to see these used in any but the most basic levels.

How It Works

Like most English snaffle bits the primary action is the pull on the bars of the mouth. The shape of the cheeks prevents the bit from pinching the horse’s lips and is one of the major appeals of this bit. The jointed mouthpiece exerts a nutcracker effect when the bit is engaged, pressuring the tongue and roof of the mouth. Unlike a loose ring snaffle, the rings on this bit do not rotate freely but are fixed in place. The bit also tends to sit a bit more securely in the horse’s mouth, reducing the chance of the bit sliding sideways in the horse’s mouth. Because of this, there is also some pressure on the cheek opposite the rein pulled on, if it pulled with any force.

This is usually thought of as a very mild bit. It’s wide mouth and gentle curves have no harsh edges that might dig into the sensitive bars of the horse’s mouth, the roof of its mouth or its tongue. It’s possible though, that some horses will object to a very thick mouthpiece. Horses with thick tongues or low palates may find this bit uncomfortable to hold onto.