Tuesday, March 31, 2009

7 Pressure Points Applied by a Bit

Humans determined many eons ago that by placing a bit in a horse's mouth, you can exert pressure in several places in the mouth and head to give effective communication (or pain) to a horse. (I will address pain in another article since a student asked me about that not long ago.)
(photo on left of a cathedral spoon mouth bit that I use on my show horses to flex at the poll easily as I have such tiny, light hands. And I want to keep it that way!)

There are 4 pressure points in the horse's mouth and 3 pressure points on the head that can be affected by the bit and bridle:

  1. Bars of the mouth. Or the spaces or gums on the lower jaw of the horse, between the incisors and molars. Most bits will exert some pressure here on the gums at some point.
  2. Tongue. All bits place some pressure on the tongue at some point, pushing it down into the mouth.
  3. Corners of the mouth. The lips at the corners of the mouth where the bit rests against will have pressure applied. There is always pressure on the corners of the mouth when using a bit.
  4. Chin Groove. When a chin strap/chain is used with a curb bit, the chin strap will apply pressure to the chin groove when the reins are pulled. This is the fulcrum point for leverage in a curb bit.
  5. Palate.The palate or roof of the mouth on a horse has pressure from high ported bits that are at least 2 1/2" high. Such as vaquero bits and other high ported bits for advanced hands.
  6. Poll. The poll of the horse (at the top of the head) will have pressure applied to it by the main part of the bridle. Pressure on the poll release endorphins.
  7. Nasal Bone. The nasal bone area is extremely sensitive for horses and certain types of speciality bits or training equipment that use some type of noseband will apply pressure to the nasal bone.
How to Describe a Bit
So bits are often described by stating details about the mouthpiece, the details about the material used in the mouthpiece, the details about the shanks, and the details about the checkpieces.

The bit shown above on left would be called an 8" engraved aluminum shanked bit with a cathedral spoon mouthpiece and curved back shanks. The 8" is referring to the length of the shanks.
Can you guess what the bit is called in the photo on the right? It is made by Bill Freeman. It has short shanks. It has a correctional mouthpiece. The shanks are aluminum. And the mouthpiece has 'balls and ears' attached to the port. It's called a Bill Freeman- Short Shank Aluminum Correction Mouthpiece with Balls & Ears.
Mouthpiece - An Important Part of the Bit
Since 4 pressure points can be affected by the mouthpiece of the bit, the mouthpiece is a very important part of the bit. So mouthpieces are important to talk about when it comes to the bit you want to use on your horse.
Some bits are better depending on the type of horse. Some bits are better for certain riders. You have to match the bit to the horse's skills and the rider's skills.
That's what I will talk about next article. I'll also address the pain issue and that depends largely on the rider.
Does anyone have an interesting bit that they would like to share? Or a question about a certain type of bit? The internet has a ton of different bits to look at. It's great!

Until next time...

Questions and comments are always welcome.
Please join the comment section with your stories.
©Copyright KISS Reiners


  1. Thank you for this informative series. Hope a lot of folks read it.

    How many times I've been told "he rides fine in a snaffle" and find it's a jointed mouth piece with 8" shanks.

    Or the "trainer" that came with some folks to try a horse we had for sale. She was unbuckling the curb strap on my snaffle rig. When asked what she was doing she informed me if I put the curb strap above the reins on a snaffle bit it would act like a curb bit. The only reason I put a curb strap on my snaffles is so I can run them through a metal ring and attach a lead to get a colt a little used to the bit when they're starting out.

  2. Thanks Al. I put a leather curb strap on my snaffles to keep the rings together. I, too use it to attached a longe line to. I also will put an O ring on the strap and tie the longe line to that. It works great!
    If you pulled left with a direct rein on a snaffle then the tight strap would cause the right ring of the bit to press against the right side of the face, inviting the horse to go left (as you want). I think it helps with the neck reining process.

    I find a lot of people get confused on 'shanked snaffles' or Tom Thumb snaffles.

    Someone told you that a curb strap tied above the reins on a snaffle will cause the bit to act as a curb. Wow! Never heard that before. .... hummmm...... Gives me something to think about...... That means she thinks the curb strap would act as a fulcrum..... humm.....

    I thought the strap would just move further up the snaffle rings. hummm......

    Thanks for sharing.

  3. Ok I dont know the name of the bit. I can ask. the bit the trainer is using on my green broke mare has a roller and large mouth piece. The mare plays with this bit excessively. I do know it is designed to put pressure on the chin, poll, nose, ear then mouth last.I was told this actually is a gentle bit in order to keep the horses mouth soft. Using a regular mild snaffle the mares runs right through it. I want to keep her mouth soft. This was one way to stop that as we hope she would stop at one of the other pressure points. This mare also is being used with a very gentle spur as an aid as she knows her cues per trainer but is reluctant to give to just leg pressure. Per trainer. My feeling is this mare needs to go back to ground work then try again. Please no criticism...just facts that can serve to know if this is proper for this mare so i make a proper decision.

  4. Dear Anonymous:
    Please check out my article http://www.reinersuehorsemanship.com/2009/08/am-i-using-right-bit.html for help.
    If you need more information, please write again.