English Riding: Different Types of Horse Bits

One of the most important pieces of riding tack is the horse bit. The horse bit is the device that is placed inside the horse’s mouth and is the main tool that communicates with your horse. The bit lets your horse know what direction to go and when to stop. Depending on whether the rider wants to stop, turn left, or turn right, the use of the reins sends a pressure signal to the bit and puts a certain amount of pressure in the horse’s mouth. The horse then feels this pressure and will go in the direction that is being asked of him. There are many different types of horse bits. They are all designed for different purposes and they all do different things.

Bit Dissection:   

                Even though there are many different types of horse bits, majority of bits have the same anatomy.

                Purchase- The purchase is the section that is above the mouthpiece on each side. The shorter the purchase section is, the quicker the bit will react in the horse’s mouth when the reins are pulled. If the purchase is longer, the reaction time is slower.

                Shank- The shank is the section that is below the mouthpiece on each side. The length of the shank determines how much bit control you will have as the rider. The shorter the shank section is on the bit, the less amount of control you will have. The longer the shank section is, the more amount of control you will have.

                Cheek- The whole side section of the bit. This includes both the purchase and the shank.

                Mouthpiece- The mouth piece is the section of the bit that goes inside the horse’s mouth.

Different Types of Mouthpieces:

                Within the different types of horse bits, there are also different types of mouthpieces. The most common metals that are used for mouthpieces include stainless steel, copper, and sweet iron. Stainless steel mouthpieces present a clean look and do not rust. A copper mouthpiece make the horse salivate and help to keep his mouth soft. By making the horse’s mouth more soft and usable, the rider will have an easier time communicating with the horse. Sweet iron is designed to rust. When the mouthpiece starts to rust, it gives off a sweet taste in the horse’s mouth. Listed below are the most common mouthpieces that are found on English riding bits.


                A jointed mouthpiece, also known as a broken mouthpiece, consist of a single joint that is located in the center of the mouthpiece. With the jointed mouthpiece, the mouth pressure is dispersed up and towards the front of the horse’s mouth. When pressure is applied to the bit, the mouthpiece folds and creates a V shape that puts the pressure on the horse’s tongue, bars of the mouth, and lips.

Double Jointed:

                The double jointed mouthpiece are just like the jointed mouthpiece. However, instead of making a V shape when pressure is applied to the bit, the double jointed mouthpiece makes more of a U shape. This results in making it a little bit more of a gentle/softer bit. Just like the jointed mouthpiece, the double jointed mouthpiece also applies pressure the to the horse’s lips, tongue, and bars of the mouth.


                A Mullen mouthpiece is designed to provide an even pressure through the horse’s mouth and also give his tongue a little bit more room. The Mullen has a gentle curve to the mouthpiece and is considered to be more of a mild bit.

Triple Mullen:

                A triple Mullen mouthpiece is one of the most flexible mouthpieces. When relaxed, the mouth piece is very forgiving in the horse’s mouth. When engaged and pressure is applied to the bit, the mouthpiece presents a very strong pressure on the horse’s tongue.



                A chain mouthpiece consists of a link chain instead of a solid metal piece for the mouth. Unlikea snaffle bit that puts pressure on the bars/side of the horse’s mouth, a chained mouthpiece puts more pressure on the corners of the horse’s mouth. Make sure that if you are using a chained mouthpiece that your chain is made with a high quality linked chain. Sometimes a chain mouthpiece can consist of something that resembles a bike chain and those can be very harsh on the horse’s mouth.





              Two of the most common bits that are used for English riding events include the snaffle and the curb bit. The snaffle is the most popular bit for English riding. However, the curb bit is also used for English riding and is a great bit for keeping your horse in his collected frame.  


                The curb bit is designed with the full body anatomy. It has the purchase section, the shank section, and the mouthpiece. A curb bit is categorized as a leverage bit. This means that the mouthpiece has more of a reaction when the reins are pulling on the bit. As stated above, however long/short the purchase is, depicts that amount of pressure that is applied to the horse’s mouth when the reins are pulled. With a curb bit, the amount of pressure that is applied with the reins is not the same amount of pressure that your horse feels. A slight tug on the reins will result in a greater pressure/reaction within the horse’s mouth.

                 Curb bits are great for keeping your horse within his proper frame while riding. In order to keep the bit comfortable in the horse’s mouth, your horse will be required to curve his neck and lower his nose. This will put him in his collected frame and make it easier for your horse to be able to listen to your communicating signals/aids. Curve bits come in a different variety of mouthpieces. Some of the most common include the Mullen, jointed, and chain mouthpieces.


                The snaffle bit consist of a mouthpiece and two D rings on each side of the horse’s mouth. Unlike the curb bit, a snaffle does not contain the full bit anatomy and does not have a purchase or a shank. A snaffle bit does not have the same leverage power as a curb bit. With a snaffle bit, the amount of pressure that you put on the reins, is the same amount of pressure that the horse will feel in his mouth. This results in a direct pressure. Unlike the curb bit, the snaffle bit is able to apply and release pressure a lot faster. Because of this feature, it makes the snaffle bit a great training tool. The snaffle bit also comes on a variety of different side rings and mouthpieces. A few of the most common side rings include O-rings, Eggbutt, D-rings, and full check rings. A few common snaffle mouthpieces include jointed, Mullen, and double jointed.

                Whatever your English discipline may be, a snaffle or a curb bit is the way to go! Bits are designed with different purposes, as well as they come on a variety of different mouthpieces. All you have to do is choose the one that will work best for you and your horse, and you will be ready to hit the trails. Check out our bits at Saddleonline today!