Description, Action and Uses of a Straight Bar Snaffle

Ancient Snaffle Bits
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A straight bar snaffle is simply a straight mouthpiece attached to two large rings. The rings are loose or fixed. These bits are often found old and rusty at yard sales and farm auctions. Some will look quite primitive because they were probably homemade at a local forge. Straight bar snaffles are still made, and the one pictured has a rubber mouthpiece. 

There are straight bar snaffles that have ‘happy mouths’ or other changes, but these are not quite the same as the old bits that have only a very straight mouthpiece and can be far more comfortable for a horse to carry.

Uses of the Straight Bar Snaffle Bit

The straight bar snaffle in the picture is called a Rubber Mouth Driving Training Snaffle intended for use when training a young horse. Solid metal straight bar snaffle bits were quite widely used on draft horses, and I remember as a child, seeing straight bar snaffles on the horses my family used to draw tobacco boats in from the fields. Probably the reason there are so many in dusty corners of barns and drive sheds is because they were cheap or easy to make back in the day when horses were the engines of the family farm.

They are less used now because the straight bar that makes up the mouthpiece can be quite uncomfortable for many horses to carry. This is because the bit lies across the gums and tongue, with no curve to accommodate the curvature over the tongue. Most horses will appreciate a bit that has a mullen mouth, or joints so that the bit rests more comfortably in the horse’s mouth.

There are straight bar snaffles that have ‘happy mouths’ or other changes, but these are not quite the same as the old bits that have only a very straight mouthpiece and can be far more comfortable for a horse to carry.

These bits, if they are used at all, could be used for riding or driving. Again, they are most commonly seen old and rusted, a relic of when we knew less about how to make our horses agreeable. Chances are, the best use for a bit like this is as a wall decoration.

How the Straight Bar Snaffle Bit Works

This snaffle works on the tongue and bars. When the reins attached to the rings are pulled, the bit will place pressure on the bars of the mouth—the toothless area on the gums between the front cropping teeth and the back grinding teeth. It will also place pressure on the tongue.

Many horses will be uncomfortable with a straight bar that always sits flat upon its tongue and bars. Some horses will have the mouthpiece hit the sides of their palate again. The mouthpieces on these bits tend to be quite thick and heavy which many horses will also dislike, depending on the size of their tongue, and shallowness of their palate. They are also made thinner, which can make a quite simple bit more severe. If your horse is tossing its head, chewing, or misbehaving in any way when you ride, it could be that the bit is uncomfortable for it, and a change is necessary. It often takes trying several different bits before the right one is found.

The bit pictured has a rubber mouth which will be more flexible, soft and less heavy than the iron bits of old.