Horse bit mouthpieces determine the action and severity of the bit. Horse bits have different mouthpiece styles, and selecting the perfect bit for a horse can be a daunting task. Consider some factors, such as the shape and size of the horse’s mouth, the rider’s skill level, and how the horse was trained while choosing. Ultimately, ensure to choose a mild bit that allows you to communicate effectively with your horse. Here are fifteen horse-bit mouthpiece styles every equestrian should know.
The French link is a peanut-shaped, double-jointed mouthpiece that has a small, flat plate at the middle point. These two joints enable a rider to control each side of the horse’s mouth while easing the nutcracker effect. Some horses prefer the rounder model of this French link called the oval mouth or lozenge.
Mullen mouth is a plain mouthpiece with a curve over a horse’s tongue. It’s more comfortable for a horse to carry than using a straight-bar mouthpiece. Also, the Mullen mouth feels milder than a joint mouthpiece since it doesn’t cause any pinching effect when you pull the reins. Most riders use them for all kinds of equestrian activities except dressage.
For better control of your horse, a single joint allows you to apply targeted pressure on the side of your horse’s mouth. However, a single joint can cause a “nutcracker effect,” pinching your horse’s bars (the flat space between a horse’s molars and incisors teeth) and tongue. Even so, this option might feel more comfortable than using the straight-bar mouthpiece.
Also referred to as Doc Bristol, this double-jointed mouthpiece features a flat link at the center. It looks like a French link, except that it has a longer link positioned at an angle so that it exerts more pressure on your horse’s tongue. Like a French link, this Dr. Bristol doesn’t cause too much nutcracker effect.
Like the French link, this ball link has a unique curved shape and sits directly on your horse’s tongue while exerting pressure. While the bit is more severe than the French link, it’s milder than the Dr. Bristol mouthpiece since the link has no edge to press into the horse’s tongue. It’s ideal for all riding and training needs.
Made of copper, stainless steel, or both, rollers are small, rotating metal pieces that relax on a horse’s tongue and jaw. Some horses easily accept this bit, as it encourages them to play with the mouthpiece. However, the rollers might cause the bit to be more severe, and the design of some models might result in pinching.
Designed with different materials, twisted bits can have a joint, straight, or mullen mouthpiece. The twist applies intense pressure in a horse’s mouth, making the mouthpiece one of the most severe options. A fast twist (more turns) is more severe than a slow twist (with fewer turns). Twisted bits come handy if the horse doesn’t respond to a rounded option.
The keys are small metal beads used to encourage young horses to accept the mouthpiece and horse bit. Mostly designed with stainless steel, they produce a calming distraction to your horse. They consist of three separate keys attached to a ring in the middle of the mouthpiece. It acts majorly across the lips and tongue and exerts some pressure on the horse’s bars, depending on its tongue size. The keys are very mild and soft, which makes them ideal for horses that don’t want complicated horse mouthpieces.
Ports have an inverted “U” shape at the center of the mouthpiece, reducing pressure on the horse’s tongue. The curved area doesn’t extend the horse mouthpiece diameter but is only about one or two inches in the middle of the bar. This structure prevents a horse from softening the bit’s effect using their tongue. There are high ports that exert some pressure on your horse’s palate and low ports, with only a slight rise. Some ports include keys or rollers. Both Western and English bits use ports.
Thin or Thick Bit
Generally, the thinner the bit, the stronger the effect in a horse’s mouth. However, some horses with large tongues or low palate might not be comfortable with thick bits. Unlike a thinner mouthpiece that exerts all its pressure on a narrow area in your horse’s mouth, the thicker mouthpiece is usually less severe.
Half or Quarter Moon Link
The half or quarter moon is another kind of mouthpiece link. The moon provides space for the horse’s tongue, and the double joint reduces the nutcracker effect, unlike a single joint.
A chain mouthpiece can use either a bicycle chain or link. They’re not too common because of their extreme severity. Most trainers and riders don’t use the chain horse mouthpiece, and most equestrian organizations prohibit its use in competitions.
The hollow mouthpiece is often a single jointed mouthpiece with a hollow in the middle that makes it very light. It’s usually thick and spreads out pressure to reduce the severity. But the effect varies depending on the horse’s mouth structure. Some horses have small mouths, which doesn’t have enough space for a thick mouthpiece like the hollow mouthpiece, as it may cause discomfort.
A wire bit can be twisted, jointed, or straight, and it’s very severe. Its twists and thin nature targets the pressure in your horse’s mouth. Commonly used in most western disciplines, this wire bit is for strong horses with “hard” mouths, and only an experienced rider with soft hands should use it. Many people consider them to be cruel.
Spade bits originated from vaquero tradition, where horses only use them after extensive training. When a rider pulls the reins, the spade exerts great pressure on the horse’s palate. It can injure a horse’s mouth if used by an inexperienced rider. The spade bit isn’t for training or correcting a horse’s habits, such as head tossing or pulling.