Is a snaffle bit right for my horse? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 26 Old 12-15-2012, 10:51 PM Thread Starter
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Is a snaffle bit right for my horse?

I'm just beginning the journey on trying to figure out what types of tack to use on my horse. Unfortunately, he came to us out of a bad situation and as such we have no information on what he was ridden in.

The first thing we tried was a regular ring snaffle bit. As soon as he saw it he started tossing his head. We got it in place and the head tossing got worse. He was very agitated so we removed the bit.

Next up was his halter, which he did surprisingly well in he just wouldn't stop.

Then, I tried a Dr. Cook's bitless bridle. More head tossing. More agitation. Made for a very frustrated horse.

So now I have figured out that the original snaffle we tried him in was too small for him. It was a 5" and he needs a 6 1/2". Could the size be what was causing his distress? Would it be worth my while to purchase another snaffle in the larger size, or would I be better off exploring a different type of bit all together?

I also have a mechanical hackamore I can try. But the shanks are very, very long (8.5") and it scares me a bit since I'm a beginner. He does not shake his head when I put the hackamore on though.

Anyone have thoughts? I have been told to try a snaffle bit with shanks. Is that an Argentine snaffle or a tom thumb? I can't quite figure out the difference between the two.

I know that's a ton of questions but I'd really appreciate any help and information!
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post #2 of 26 Old 12-15-2012, 11:03 PM
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Have you had his teeth checked or had a vet check his ears for sores? That could be a big problem and the reason for agitation. However yes buy the bit that is the correct size it will make a biiig difference. Do you have a trainer around that could assess him and you maybe let you borrow a few different types of snaffles. He may even prefer a dogbone( 3 piece) mouth instead of a single jointed. Play around with it.

Edited to add do NOT use a tomb thumb. A snaffle has no shanks and tomb thumbs are all around bad bits especially if your guy is already having problems. If you are wanting a shanked bit smrobs or one of the other member can probably point you in the direction of a good shanked bit to try out.
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Last edited by BarrelracingArabian; 12-15-2012 at 11:05 PM.
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post #3 of 26 Old 12-15-2012, 11:08 PM Thread Starter
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Yes, he has been completely checked out by a vet in late September. I've only just begun working with him as of Thanksgiving.

I originally thought he might have a sore mouth because he had a ton of dental work done in late September and I thought maybe enough time hadn't passed to allow him to heal up properly yet. The vet had to do quite an extensive amount of work (bone spurs, etc) and we were told he'd be hurting for a while. But two months seemed like it would be sufficient. Perhaps not though. He does seem to eat slowly. So perhaps he's still just sore and we should wait a while longer and then get the proper sized bit?
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post #4 of 26 Old 12-15-2012, 11:09 PM
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There are lots of snaffles. Lots of folks have a box of them stashed away somewhere...borrow some and try. There are 2 link and 3 link, narrow, med & wide links, O-rings, D-rings, eggbutt designs...

2 of my 3 horses don't give a rat's rear what is put in their mouth. OTOH, my mare takes a few rides to decide, and then she'll put up a fuss if she doesn't like it. Right now she seems happiest in a Waterford, which some people consider a harsh bit. However, she seemed almost as content in a copper full cheek snaffle, so I may go back to it. I'm not entirely certain she isn't playing a game to see how many bits she can get me to try...

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post #5 of 26 Old 12-15-2012, 11:16 PM
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You definitely need to get the right size of whatever bit you use. I would go with a dog-bone or french link type snaffle myself as those seem to be be well liked by many horses and they won't pinch or poke the horse's palate like some of the single jointed snaffles can. My horse does not like anything with a single joint and head tosses and gets balky, but goes well in a french link.
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post #6 of 26 Old 12-15-2012, 11:47 PM Thread Starter
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I don't really know many horsey people and a trainer is not in the budget at this moment so I need to do everything I can before going that route. I do have a friend that is going to be bringing over several options for me to borrow and try. I highly doubt any of them will work though because she has Arabians so it seems like they would use much smaller bits. I appreciate her letting me give them a shot at least.

I will check into the dogbone and french link. Also, I just read the edit about the Tom Thumb. Can you elaborate what makes those bits bad? Or is there a website that I could read that compares and contrasts each type of bit?

Thanks for all the help so far!
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post #7 of 26 Old 12-15-2012, 11:55 PM
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Originally Posted by tinaev View Post
I have been told to try a snaffle bit with shanks. Is that an Argentine snaffle or a tom thumb? I can't quite figure out the difference between the two.
I agree with what others have said, and though this doesn't exactly answer your question, I felt someone should clarify there is no such thing as a snaffle bit with shanks.

Snaffle bit = no shanks. A lot of people mistake snaffle to mean it's a broken bit, but what it really means is that there are no shanks and therefore create 1:1 pressure where the pressure on the mouth is exactly what you do with your hands.

Non-snaffle = shanks. Again it doesn't matter if the bit is broken or not - shanks create a ratio of 2+ times the pressure because it creates torque, or the thing that makes it easier to turn a screw the longer your wrench's handle is. Same thing is true with bits - the longer the shanks, the more torque, or multiplied pressure, that is applied to the mouth. You really need to know what you're doing to use a shanked bit - and a tom thumb is terrible because it applies more pressure AND is broken, creating a nutcracker effect on their mouth. This is also true with your hackamore, because it will cause an immense amount of pressure on the nose with such long shanks and you could end up injuring him.
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post #8 of 26 Old 12-16-2012, 12:02 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks Jillybean. That all makes sense now. I did think that everything I've been reading the "snaffle" part meant the two broken pieces. Thanks for the clarification. :)
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post #9 of 26 Old 12-16-2012, 05:15 AM
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I personally think almost every horse can be ridden in a snaffle if you find the right one.

Correct size is important - as are other factors. Some horses like thicker bits but a lot of horses like finer bits. Loose rings can pinch the lips so for some horses Egg-Butts or D-Rings are better. I always ride in a double jointed snaffle, as in my experience my horses go better in it. My preferred bit is a KK bit which is quite soft with loose rings, but right now I am using a French Snaffle as I wanted an egg-butt. Both these bits have worked out well for me.

Some tack stores have a "bit bank" where you can try out bits. Otherwise try to borrow off people because you could go through a lot of bits until you find the right one. If you don't know many people think about joining a Pony Club or something - many people would probably happily lend you a bit to try on a rally day.
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post #10 of 26 Old 12-16-2012, 05:42 AM
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Originally Posted by Saskia View Post
I personally think almost every horse can be ridden in a snaffle if you find the right one.
I have yet to see a horse that can't be ridden in a simple snaffle. We use simple eggbutt snaffles with all our mares, from green to finished.

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