Gags are defined by the movement of the shank/rope through the bit ring. They are sometimes known as elevator bits, and cause pressure to the mouth and poll in a vice-like way - the tighter you pull, the tighter the circle of strap/bit through the mouth and over the head. As to being "horrible," that will always vary greatly as to the mouthpiece and the rider's hands. Gags can be anything from a fat hollow snaffle (nice) to twisted wire scissors (severely nasty). But some horses who may be a little stronger in a snaffle with the same mouth can benefit from a gag, and they can be quite popular for eventers.
Unlike other bits, gags are never used in conjunction with a curb chain, unlike other fixed-ring/elevator bits like the Kimberwick.
Gags come in three main styles, a running gag with a length of rope through the bit ring, an American style with a long shank, part of which moves through the bit to create the desired elevator effect, and the Dutch/Pessoa gag, in which the entire main bit ring rotates to lift the bit. Running gags are extremely popular for Polo, and are ridden with two reins. In other sports, gags are most often ridden with roundings or with only one rein.
Haha i've always wanted to know this to. Basically those all look like snaffles to me. Besides from the outside part that doesn't go in the mouth. And the 3 piece one looks similar to a dogbone snaffle.. hmm when I first got my horse I just bought a pretty bit and used it and it works well for us... now I wonder what her bit REALLY is.... maybe I need to get some pictures
Yeah I use an american gag for eventing. Pretty much gags are used in upper level jumping or eventing to keep a horse off the forehand and for leverage to slow them down. My gag is actually a waterford to so its prety severe but I tend to have soft giving hands and I only use it when I need it I.e. My 17hh warmblood x tb tank goes into a 25mph flat out gallop out of no where, then I used it lol.
The mouth pace isn't the part that applies the leverage, it's the parts that go outside the mouth that make the leverage, that's why they can look like snaffles which people commonly get confused about
Hmm, I am still a bit (no pun intended) confused. So the point of a gag bit is to put pressure on the poll and mouth, correct? Where as other bits are only working on the mouth? Does a curb bit not do that, because it has a shank as well? Is it because you run something through the circle at the sides of the bit that makes it function differently from other bits?
Curb bits put pressure on the jaw through a chain or strap, as well as on the poll and mouth. I'm not entirely sure, but I think curbs put more even pressure all over the head instead of a sharper pressure on the poll/mouth. Most bits called curbs don't have a snaffle ring though, only a leverage point.
Gags work on the bars through the snaffle point (or direct rein, which attaches to the main ring on, for example, the running gag), and on a "vice" around the poll and mouth through the gag which would attach to the strap running through the main ring on the running gag.