Join Date: Oct 2011
Location: Illinois www.saddleonline.com
With out going into toooooo much depth....
Generally Full cheek snaffles are used for hunter/jumper/flat work, they aren't really a classic "Dressage" type bit, although it is legal to compete at the lower levels with them.
A loose ring snaffle (french link also) is good general "Dressage type" bit.
Many people use flashes/figure 8's when doing dressage/jumpers, as it can keep the horse from opening his mouth wide enough to get his tongue over the bit, and can encourage a horse with a busy mouth to keep it shut. It keeps the horse from moving the bit to an ineffective position in its mouth and bracing against it. You never want to have it so tight that it is forcing his mouth shut or obstructing breathing, you should be able to fit two fingers between your horse and the flash/noseband.
Figure 8 nosebands have become sort of a fashion statement in jumper-land, which is fine, as long as they are adjusted properly, they aren't hurting anything, and some horses like that it isn't interferring with the corners of the mouth. They can be helpful with really strong horses over fences, or a horse that likes to take the bit and run, but no noseband, flash or figure 8, should apply constant pressure.
Hope this clears things up at least a little bit!
"Riding: the art of keeping the horse between you and the ground."