The Dutch/Pessoa/Continental/3-Ring/4-Ring Gag Bit
A 3-ring pessoa gag.
The most common of these bits was one that became very popular, at least in Sweden, around 1994-95. It was generally referred to as the bit that would put the horse on the bit. Also, it got its Swedish name from world famous jumper stars Nelson and Rodrigo Pessoa, and is simply called a pessoa bit. It's english name, Pessoa-gag
, 3-ring gag
or simply jumper gag
is much more suitable. Because it IS a gag bit, have no doubt.
Many dressage riders resorted to this bit while training at home, because it could control hot horses, and most of all, put unwilling horses "on the bit". People generally speak of 'lever action' and how it was 'softer' than a pelham or a curb. But what this bit really does is create leverage, and by this leverage pull itself up towards the teeth, and cause the rider to ride way too heavy in the hands with a trapped horse who focuses totally on getting his teeth around the bit in some way. QUITE contrary to any unjointed curb bit with a chain.
How does that work? Well to start off, yes, it has leverage, because the side piece
is fastened at a given point on the bit-ring, and the rein
is fastened at another given point opposite to the side piece.
The bizarre function of a pessoa gag.
The mouth piece is somewhere in the middle and more or less stuck in the horse's mouth. So any pull on the reins will move the fastening point of the side piece in relation to the rein fastening around an axis which is the mouth cavity of the horse. This is the general function of any lever bit.
With the exception of course that it has a jointed mouth piece and no chin chain. The fact that it has no chin chain is in my view the worst part. Because when the rein is pulled back and up, the side piece is pulled forward and down. But since the side piece stops it from actually moving down, the pivotal point - the mouth piece
will instead be pulled up, into the corner of the mouth, and against the teeth. The snaffle ring is pulled through the mouthpiece
, just like the rolled leather sidepieces are pulled through the regular gag.
That would never happen if the fastening ring of the side piece had been fixed to the lower jaw by a restraining chin chain. That would have kept the side piece fastening from being pulled to the front altogether, and thus stopped the mouth piece from being pulled up into the corner of the mouth and against the teeth.
It would also have rendered a much more severe effect since the mouth piece would be pulled back against the bars and tongue and squeezed the lower jaw between mouth piece and chin chain.
But since it does not, it also does not have any direct effect on a slightly disobedient/rushing horse. All the parts of the bit and bridle give to some extent, when the rider pulls on the rein, and together that becomes quite a bit. The rider can actually pull the hand(s) back 4-6 inches before a really resistant horse is overcome by pain. (A rider with his hands 6 inches back from neutral position has his hands at the sides of his hips and the elbows waaaay back. Not exactly a position where it feels natural for a rider to release.)
First the side piece gives an inch forward (while the bit moves up) which results in 2 inches in the hand.Then the bit bends around the jaw because it is jointed which renders it even more horizontal and gives another 2 inches to the rider. Then the horse starts to open his mouth as far as the noseband allows, and then gives some in the neck. The rider can thus pull the rein back about 4-8 inches with a slowly increasing amount of discomfort for the horse. And if you pull your hand so far back from its assigned place above the withers, your fists will now be at your hips. Which will put your elbows well behind the vertical line of the upper arm. And from this position, you are not likely to yield with any quickness or feel. You will be pulling.