Pelham bit? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 6 Old 07-05-2010, 01:26 AM Thread Starter
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Pelham bit?

Okay so I was at the tack store looking at the huge wall of bits. First off, I saw some TERRIBLY cruel bits, some almost hurt to wrap your hand around, I could not BELIEVE people used those kinds of things on horses! (and Rena thinks im a mean owner when I give her a bath...) the poor poor horses!

Anyways, heres my question, they had bit called plham bits... the ones that are used with two reins. What are they used for? Why are they different from other bits? Are they mostly used in hunters/jumpers? Or are they used in dressage a lot too?
Thanks :)

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post #2 of 6 Old 07-05-2010, 03:40 AM
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Perkele! - Epic Post.

There are two types of pelhams - the more common english pelham, and the lesser known western or "cowboy" pelham.
It has a similar action to a snaffle/curb double bridle, as seen from Third Level and on in dressage. The snaffle rein on both the double bridle and pelham is for the aid in lateral flexion, where the curb rein provides the aid in vertical flexion of the poll, and also asks the horse to sit more on his hind end. The drawback is that the curb action on the pelham, even when not intentionally used, will come into play slightly because the snaffle and curb are not truely seperate. There is also a disadvantage in that when the mouth piece is jointed, the curb action is greatly altered, and vice versa when it is solid. Shank length can vary from five centimetres to ten centimetres.

The english pelham was originally designed with the intent of being a dressage bit, mostly for riders learning to use double reins and horses moving up to double bridles. However, it was later banned in competitive dressage (by the FEI and national dressage federations), I'm not sure of the official cited reason for this.
The western pelham was primarily created as a training bit, modeled after the english pelham.
The english pelham is legal in jumper rings, eventing rings (cross-country and jumper phases, not sure about the dressage phase), and hunter rings. It is also legal in polo. I'm not sure of the legalities in saddleseat. The western pelham, as far as I know, is not legal in any competitive ring.


As mentioned, both the english and western pelhams are often used as "transition" bits for switching horses from snaffles to double bridles or curb bits, and for riders learning to use double reins and respect of the curb.

People also use it for hunter/jumper horses. Just this past Thursday, my sister and I schooled a hunter mare in a pelham for the first time. We call her "Tank Girl", because she is known for dropping her shoulder and head and tanking around corners and into jumps. However, the curb rein on the pelham got the point across really quickly that she wasn't allowed to do this, and by the end of the lesson she was more adjustable and her form over fences was much better because of it.


The pelham is sometimes used in strange or cruel ways - just as any bit. Decide for yourself what you consider each of these.
In the hunter ring, it has become a fashion statement, much like the standing martingale (though this is not always the case, of course).
Rein convertors are used - most notably in the jumper or eventing ring - to turn the double reins into a single rein. This combines the action or the curb and snaffle together, creating the action of a kimberwicke. This practice is also called "pelham rounding".
Some riders will even remove the snaffle rein completely and ride solely off the curb - they should have bought a different bit!
In polo, it is sometimes converted into a gag bit. I do not know much about this practice.


Some pictures;


The western pelham.


The english pelham. This one features a jointed rubber mouthpiece.


A polo horse in a pelham, draw-reins through the snaffle ring.


Eric Lamaze's Hickstead in a rounded pelham.


Hickstead ridden only on the curb. Bad boy, Eric!


Me and Freddy. He did great in a pelham.
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Last edited by dressagexlee; 07-05-2010 at 03:42 AM.
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post #3 of 6 Old 07-05-2010, 12:25 PM
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That just about sums it up, dressagexlee!

Pelhams, I have found, with a well-trained horse, look very nice in the hunter ring. The horse carries his head in an attractive way (most of the time!), and usually very little pressure needs to be exerted on the reins, giving it a nice, gentle, loose-reined look. That's usually not the case, however. Many people (and you see this a lot in lesson students who ride a variety of horses in a variety of bits) don't adjust their rein pressure to the type of bit being used. When you pull on a pelham the way you would in a snaffle, it creates quite a bit of uncomfortable pressure in the horse's mouth.

Here's what I mean about the "attractiveness" of a well-trained horse in a pelham:
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Walking on Breezy.jpg (30.5 KB, 2274 views)
File Type: jpg Cantering on Breezy5.jpg (27.2 KB, 2283 views)

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post #4 of 6 Old 07-05-2010, 12:26 PM
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^^ Those are pics of me and Breezy at a show last weekend :)

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post #5 of 6 Old 07-05-2010, 09:07 PM Thread Starter
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thank you guys! That helped a LOT! I've seen a lot of hunters use them, and on double bridles and stuff, I just never really asked what they were or what made them different. :) thanks again guys

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post #6 of 6 Old 10-01-2012, 12:26 AM
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hi, I just wanted to comment on the use of the term "cruel" as applied to a bit. In the hands of a trainer, a "cruel" appearing bit may in fact be the much kinder bit. For instance with a pelham, the force applied to a long shank bit is much more minimal and more delicately applied and in fact less harsh. It is much more desirable to have plenty of action available in a bit for communication purposes though the action may not be used, but is available. To have a horse's attention, can not only enhance his ability to perform, but may be a matter of safety, even life and limb. For many reasons, then, a bit described by those who are unknowledgeable as "cruel" appearing, is in fact the kinder and safer device. However, this is only in the hands of an expert. Beginners are advised to use any bitting device only under the supervision of a trainer.
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