Quiet Riding

Horses and Riders Working in Harmony


Horses in the Fog

Bits

[As additional resources, links to book reviews and book purchasing information can be found beneath the quotations when this information is available.]

Bits – General

"The bit should not be placed too high in the horse's mouth and pull up the corners of the lips. Nor should it lie too low and touch the teeth."

Alois Podhajsky, The Riding Teacher
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"For schooling young horses and young riders, the snaffle bit should always be used, while the double bridle is reserved for horse and rider more advanced in training. But even with the fully trained riding horse it is of advantage if the snaffle is substituted for the double bridle now and again. This method preserves the sensitiveness of the horse's mouth."

Alois Podhajsky, The Riding Teacher
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"After some practice with a looser bit adjustment, the horse is apt to respond more quickly and accurately to less pressure from the rider's legs and arm movements."

Bill Dorrance and Leslie Desmond, True Horsemanship Through Feel
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"...if a person has some education of feel and quite a little experience, why any sort of bit will do."

Bill Dorrance and Leslie Desmond, True Horsemanship Through Feel
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"If a harsh bit is used as the primary method for stopping or controlling forward energy in a horse, long-term results will have a diminishing rate of return."

Donna Snyder–Smith, The Classic Western Rider
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"Most performance problems that come up need to be corrected with training, not a bit change."

Nancy Cahill, The Classic Western Rider
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"...a harsher bit isn't the answer to solving a problem you are having with a horse."

Linda Huck, The Classic Western Rider
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"...make sure that the bit is not so high as to wrinkle the horse's lips at the corners of his mouth nor should it be so low that it is carried against the teeth."

François Robichon de la Guérinière, The School of Horsemanship, Part II
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"...even in prestigious competitions such as the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, Nevada, expert horsemen are increasingly see using snaffles rather than curb bits with their elite cow horses."

Robert M. Miller, D.V.M. and Rick Lamb, The Revolution in Horsemanship
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"Traditionally, a headstall was always adjusted so that the bit created two or three wrinkles in the skin at the corner of the horse's mouth. Many natural horsemen today prefer no wrinkles at all and make the bit loose enough that the horse can find his own comfortable way of carrying it."

Robert M. Miller, D.V.M. and Rick Lamb, The Revolution in Horsemanship
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"While the bit operates on the horse's mouth, the hackamore affects the horse's nose."

Robert M. Miller, D.V.M. and Rick Lamb, The Revolution in Horsemanship
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"Some bits use leverage (shanked bits) or pulley effects (gag bits) to multiply the effect of the rein aids. What feels like a couple ounces on the reins to the rider feels like much more than that on the horse's mouth."

Kathleen Schmitt, The Seamless Seat
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"Riding 'on contact' can make the rider more aware of how the horse experiences the bit, but it also transmits hand mistakes more directly."

Kathleen Schmitt, The Seamless Seat
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"A hose that is not content with the bit may adopt a head carriage a rider imposes, but it will likely be a rigid and inelastic pose rather than a harmonization with the rest of its movement."

Kathleen Schmitt, The Seamless Seat
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"Like whips and spurs, it isn't bits that hurt, it is how we use them."

Kathleen Schmitt, The Seamless Seat
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"A horse who knows that bit movement is always a communication the rider intended is going to attend to its mouth differently than one who knows some bit movements don't count."

Kathleen Schmitt, The Seamless Seat
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"The question is whether the horse remains elastic in its rein responses, which has far more to do with how riders use bits than with the kinds of bit used."

Kathleen Schmitt, The Seamless Seat
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"There is, as the saying goes, 'a bit for every mouth.' I like to think that means that bits would always be properly fitted to the horses' mouths, not that there is some mechanical device that will finally gain the horse's respect. I want my horse to respect my riding, not my tack box."

Kathleen Schmitt, The Seamless Seat
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"If you hurt the horse with the bit, you will never get him relaxed and going forward with lowered head — the first step in correct training."

Mary Twelveponies, Everyday Training: Backyard Dressage
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"A severe bit combined with unreliable hands ruins a horse faster than anything you care to mention."

Mary Twelveponies, Everyday Training: Backyard Dressage
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"If you do bridle him so you can show him [Western horse in curb bit], continue to do most of your work in the snaffle to keep him sweet, working him in the curb just enough to assure good, understanding performance in it."

Mary Twelveponies, Everyday Training: Backyard Dressage
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"Never try to teach the horse a new thing or correct a fault with the curb. Do it first in the snaffle."

Mary Twelveponies, Everyday Training: Backyard Dressage
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Bits – Curb

Regarding the placing of the curb bit: "...the softer the mouth is, the higher should be the mouth-piece; and the harder, the lower should it be placed. In no case, however, should it press on, or even touch, the corners of the lips or the tushes."

James Fillis, Breaking and Riding
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"The curb which is used at the beginning of the breaking should have a thick mouth-piece, low port, and short cheekpieces, so that it may be easy to the mouth. Its width should be proportionate to that of the mouth of the horse."

James Fillis, Breaking and Riding
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"...good riders scarcely touch the curb."

Sylvia Loch, The Classical Rider
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"The curb bit magnifies the rider's signals through the use of leverage. The mouthpiece of a curb bit is usually not jointed or broken, thus one-handed riding is possible."

Robert M. Miller, D.V.M. and Rick Lamb, The Revolution in Horsemanship
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"A horse should not be put into the curb bit until he is thoroughly trained."

Mary Twelveponies, Everyday Training: Backyard Dressage
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"Even when showing a trained horse in the curb, it is best to do most of your homework in the snaffle to keep him sweet and working right."

Mary Twelveponies, Everyday Training: Backyard Dressage
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"A curb bit is not any real use on a pleasure or trail horse; but, unfortunately, horse show rules call for the curb in such classes."

Mary Twelveponies, Everyday Training: Backyard Dressage
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"Never put a horse in the curb bit for the purpose of getting better control."

Mary Twelveponies, Everyday Training: Backyard Dressage
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"The curb is for refinement only — and because archaic show rules require it."

Mary Twelveponies, Everyday Training: Backyard Dressage
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"Never put the horse in the curb before he is fully trained in the basics."

Mary Twelveponies, Everyday Training: Backyard Dressage
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"The best leverage ration is 3:2, certainly no more than 2:1, measured from the rein rings to the center of the mouthpiece and from there to the attachment of the curb strap or chain."

Mary Twelveponies, Everyday Training: Backyard Dressage
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"...your horse should be full trained to neck rein before starting him in the curb."

Mary Twelveponies, Everyday Training: Backyard Dressage
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Bits – Snaffle

"I have nothing particular to say about the snaffle, except that it ought to be rather thick, so as to reduce its severity...."

James Fillis, Breaking and Riding
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"...the bridoon [snaffle] is excellent to use in the beginning, because it exerts very little pressure on the bars and practically no pressure on the chin, a very delicate part where, as the Duke of Newcastle explains so well, the true feeling of the horse's mouth is found."

François Robichon de la Guérinière, The School of Horsemanship, Part II
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"The snaffle bit transmits the rider's signals without magnifying them. It is designed for two-handed riding, and, because the mouthpiece is usually jointed in the middle ('broken'), the rider may influence each side of the horse's mouth independently of the other."

Robert M. Miller, D.V.M. and Rick Lamb, The Revolution in Horsemanship
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"...unlike a curb bit, the snaffle will not intensify the effect of a misstated cue."

Robert M. Miller, D.V.M. and Rick Lamb, The Revolution in Horsemanship
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"No leverage bit is a snaffle regardless of the type of mouthpiece or if it has no mouthpiece at all. Such a bit is a curb bit."

Mary Twelveponies, Everyday Training: Backyard Dressage
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"In order for a horse to be properly trained, he must be taught to bend laterally — bend his spine full length from side to side. The broken snaffle is the most effective tool for this training because you have independent control of each side of the bit."

Mary Twelveponies, Everyday Training: Backyard Dressage
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"A bit that is too short naturally pinches the horse's lips, but one that is too long folds up so much in use that it hurts the horse."

Mary Twelveponies, Everyday Training: Backyard Dressage
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"...a properly adjusted dropped noseband takes some of the pressure off the mouth and puts it on the nose. It also stabilizes the snaffle — much to the horse's relief."

Mary Twelveponies, Everyday Training: Backyard Dressage
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"If you have trained yourself and your horse correctly in the basics, he will work well all his life in the snaffle."

Mary Twelveponies, Everyday Training: Backyard Dressage
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