Soft Bits vs Harsh bits? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 49 Old 09-11-2008, 04:30 PM Thread Starter
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Soft Bits vs Harsh bits?

I was wanting to know what people consider soft bits (types and makes) and what are harsh bits (types and makes). I personally don't know what one even looks like unless I have a picture.

So, if you got pictures to contribute to the discussion and help me understand this termonology, I would really apperciate it.

I don't want to get my mare hard mouth and she is only 3 years old. I would rather use somethiing that is kind to her and only step up unless I really need it. She is beginning to pick up the neck reining pretty well, so I hope to not have to use the bit as much.
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post #2 of 49 Old 09-11-2008, 05:31 PM
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soft bits or harsh

You are asking a really great question, and I am sorry I don't have photos. But I can give you some pointers that will help.
First, parts of a bit:
The bar is the part that goes into the horse's mouth
The shanks are the part of the bit that lie against the OUTside of the horse's mouth
The barrel is where the bar joins the shank
Snaffle bits have no curb chain
Loose ringed bits have a ring that goes through the butt, or end of the bit - usually the cheekpieces of the bridle and the reins all connect to a single ring - there is a lot of play in this type
Snaffle bits work on the corners of the horse's lips, the bars of the jaw (where the horse has no teeth) AND - if too wide, too narrow, or adjusted too low - the roof of the horse's mouth. Which is why they wing their heads all over the place; it acts like a nutcracker on their jaw as well.
The fatter the bar, generally the kinder the bit. Bars that are twisted, barbed, have an edge, or are wires are NOT kind bits.

Curb bits have curb chains or curb straps and shanks which may be stationary or movable. If you look at a curb bit, the longer the shank is from the barrel (where it connects to the bar) to where the rein connects, the more action is on the curb chain/strap. This will make a horse lower its head, trying to get out of the curb chain's way. Horses with too much curb often have their noses tucked inward as far as the chest.
The higher the shank from the barrel to the ring the cheek piece connects, the more action will be placed on the poll. This is a very tender area for the horse. Horses with too much poll leverage will also lower their heads, but you will see them trying to relieve the pain in their head by dropping through the neck, and the nose pointed OUT. Pity the poor beast wearing an elevator bit with shanks as much as 6" above and below the bar - it basically works like a vise with the head stuck in the middle.

Rings on any bit allow for more lightness of action. If a bit has big rings, things roll around nicely, but still have limits. Small rings - or even rectangular slots - for either the cheek pieces or reins, quiet the motion, or add a stillness, to the bit - which may be good or not so good for the individual horse.

Looking for a kind bit will be looking for a fat bar, the width of which will be suitable for the horse. Whether the bit is a snaffle with one or more joints, or a curb, the fatter, the kinder. If the bit is a curb, go with the shortest shanks possible going down, and little shank above the bar. Try it with a leather curb strap first, then a curb chain - and make sure the chain lies flat.

Hope this helps!
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post #3 of 49 Old 09-12-2008, 01:18 AM
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These are the bits I consider soft
Bits that aren't twisted (like the corkscrew snaffle), have a low or medium port, they don't have excessively long shanks (over 5"), aren't spades, don't have chains for the mouth peice (they really do exsist anywhere, and I think their called mule bits. And some look like bike chains).

This is what I ask myself before I bit a horse, would I be happy and content with that in my mouth, or would I be tossing my head because it was causing pain or rubbing me the wrong way? It's the same thing when I ride a horse, and I was trying to master the 2 point position, would I want someone thumping down hard on may back because they lost their balance? Or pulling on my face because their trying to retain balance. That's how I look at it. Some people think they need harsher bits to control their horses. That's just an obvious sign they don't know how to ride or to ride properly. That is one of my biggest pet peeves.

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post #4 of 49 Old 09-12-2008, 04:22 AM
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Haha... I actually prefer NO bit... but if a bit is needed, I'd say none that add a lot of "bite". Curbs chains, high ports, twisted metal, etc.

I prefer snaffles for everything. But I know that some horses have mouths that are very strong (usually because of bad training), and so they need a slightly harsher bit... but like what horse star said... if you wouldn't like it in your mouth if you were a horse, forget it.
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post #5 of 49 Old 09-12-2008, 05:55 AM
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Soft Bits:
* Snaffle (egg but, loose ring)
*French link (My favourite!)
* Or your rubber bits

Harsh bits:
* Curb Chains
* Gag's
* Pelhams etc

If you want pictures, google it! That way you will learn yourself :)

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post #6 of 49 Old 09-12-2008, 09:53 AM
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I dont really believe there are harsh bits or soft bits, it depends on the way theyre used. I use a tom thumb pelham and a lot of people would call that a harsh bit but i also know how to use it without harming my horse and he prefers that bit to any other bit.

so i believe its also partly the horses decision, i've put a snaffle in my horses mouth, just a regular egg butt and he acted like he was dying and threw a temper tantrum and freaked out, right after that i put the pelham back on and he went absolutely normal.

but i would agree the mule bits are ridiculously harsh just bc of the fact they are not practical.

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post #7 of 49 Old 09-12-2008, 04:21 PM Thread Starter
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Picture 1: Correction Bit

Picture 2: Double Briddle

Picture 3: Dr. Bristole Mouthpiece

Picture 4: D-Ring Snaffle

Picture 5: French Link

Picture 6: Pelham Bit

Picture 7: Tom Thumb Snaffle Bit
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post #8 of 49 Old 09-12-2008, 04:30 PM Thread Starter
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Following pictures were found at:

On the Pelham and others with the chain linked looking curb chain is that a curb chain built into the bit?

Is the longer the Shank the less aggressive the bit with be?

I personally don't like the D-Ring or O-ring snaffles. The only snaffle that I personally found that I like to use with any horse is the Tom Thumb Bit, with the copper mouth piece. However, since I am trying to open my mind to new ideas. I will gladly take suggestions.

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post #9 of 49 Old 09-12-2008, 04:51 PM
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I think the way it goes is the longer the shank, the more leverage you have and the more harsh the bit can be. Don't quote me if I'm wrong though.

I personally use a french link snaffle, that is an eggbutt to start my babies, and then when I want to refine the signal, I will go to a copper bit that is thinner, so more bite.

I always switch my bits depending on how responsive my horse is. If she seems a bit dull in the mouth, I will go to something that I can still use a refined cue on but she will listen to more.

If I'm working with a horse that is destined for just trail, I start them in the french link, then switch to a tom thumb and thats the bit they stay in usually.

My friend STARTS her babies in a half twisted wire snaffle, and they usually get their mouth tore up because she has heavy hands and they don't know how to give to the bit, then with only a few rides, she will switch to a grazing bit. Thats how you get a hard mouthed horse. Hers always go bad after the horse is given back to the owner and they ride in a grazing bit with a month put on them. The horse isn't supple and accepting the bit.
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post #10 of 49 Old 09-12-2008, 05:10 PM
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A tom Thumb is not a snaffle. A lot of people thing it is because it has a broken mouth piece. Just thought I'd throw that in there.

Also, here's an article as to why a tom thumb is not the best of bits...
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