Types of Snaffle Bits for Horses

D-ring snaffle
A D-ring snaffle with a jointed mouthpiece. Montanabw / Wikimedia Commons

The snaffle bit might be a simple tool, but it makes a world of difference when riding a horse. The snaffle bit, which comes in four main varieties, is the most popular type of horse bit, which the rider puts into the equine's mouth to communicate with the animal through applying and releasing pressure.

Although a snaffle bit usually jointed, it doesn't have to be — it's not the mouthpiece that makes a difference from a curb bit. The snaffle bit differs because it's a non-leverage bit, while the rein attaches to the shank or cheek piece on a curb bit, which adds leverage. This means that the curb bit amplifies the pressure the rider applies on the reins, while the snaffle bit will only apply the same measure of pressure that the rider uses.

It's vital that the snaffle bit that's chosen fits the horse properly. The correct fit refers to the height that the bit is raised in the mouth, which can be adjusted by the cheekpieces, as well as the width of the bit from ring to ring, and the mouthpiece's thickness. Although snaffle bits generally serve the same purpose, it doesn't mean they are all alike. Certain horses will prefer certain bits, and you might need to try out a few before you figure out which one works best for your horse.

Eggbutt Snaffle

The eggbutt snaffle is the gentlest of all types, and it's named after the connection between the mouthpiece and the bit-ring, which looks a bit like an egg. This type of snaffle doesn't pinch the corners of the horse's mouth. This type of snaffle bit is also referred to as a barrel head snaffle bit.

D-Ring (Dee Ring) Snaffle

A D-ring snaffle bit, also referred to as a dee ring, gets its name from the D-shaped bit rings. Although this snaffle bit is similar to the eggbutt snaffle, as the ends of the mouthpiece come together into a hinge, which is where the bit-ring attaches. The shape of the snaffle disallows the corner of the mouth being pinched.

Loose Ring Snaffle

On a loose ring snaffle, the mouthpiece attaches to sliding rings, which rotate the bit when a horse tried to grab hold of it. This makes it difficult for the horse to gain control. However, because the rings are loose, the horse's lips can easily get caught and pinched.

Full Cheek Snaffle

As the name suggests, the full cheek snaffle has cheek pieces that stop the bit from sliding through the mouth. This keeps the bit in the proper position in the horse's mouth and stops it from getting caught on the lips or another part of the mouth.

There's also half-cheek and Baucher, or hanging cheek, snaffles. The first has just an upper or a lower cheek, which keeps the cheeks being caught on the starting gate in racing, while the hanging cheek, or Baucher, snaffle is fixed in the mouth and features a ring on the side of the mouthpiece with a smaller ring attached to the bride's cheekpiece.