Oh the glorious snaffle bit- while being a universal and common tool amongst horse trainers and hobbyists alike, this piece of equipment has been the topic of many debates and misconceptions. Words like "shanked snaffle bit" and "argentine snaffle bit" are thrown around left and right, without much agreement on what exactly those bits are. Is "snaffle" a mouthpiece? A group of products? Or is it just 1 specific tool? Clinician Andrea Cao is here to answer some of your most asked questions and to clear the fog surrounding the bit.
What it is
First of all, let's start by defining the snaffle bit as a tool. A snaffle bit is what's known as a direct rein bit, meaning it has no leverage. Pressure applied from the reins gets transferred to the horse in a 1:1 ratio per lb of pressure. This means that however much you pick up on the rein, the horse will feel the exact same amount of pressure in his mouth. This absence of leverage makes the snaffle bit...well... a snaffle bit!
How it's used
Being a direct rein bit, the snaffle bit is designed to be used two-handed. This allows the bit to be used for a wide variety of lateral exercises, making it the perfect tool for colts and young horses. Andrea's bit of choice is the western Andrea Equine dee ring snaffle bit with sweet iron and copper inlay. In fact, not only does she use these bits for colts, but also for horses of all ages. Unless she plans to show the horse in his career, she keeps every horse in a snaffle for their whole life. This goes to show the versatility of a snaffle bit- it's the perfect all-around bit.
While perfect for the initial, laterally focused stages of training in a horse's life, the snaffle bit can also be used for more advanced and refined training. Properly teaching a horse to vertically collect and soften requires the use of a direct rein snaffle bit, along with a great foundation of lateral maneuvers. Neck reining is first introduced when the horse is in a western snaffle bit, along with advanced maneuvers such as sliding stops, spins, rollbacks, and more.
Even with show and performance horses ridden in leverage shank style bits, Andrea still routinely goes back to the snaffle bit for additional softening and tuning. Think of the snaffle bit as a foundational tool of under-saddle training. We are always going back to the basics to work out any kinks and stiffness, something that's not possible with a shanked curb bit alone.
Types of Snaffle Bits
While we've established that the western snaffle bit is indeed 1 specific bit, there are variations in this tool that can slightly change it's function. A common difference seen is the wide variety of ring and cheek shapes offered. There's O-rings (aka loose rings), D-rings (aka Dee rings), Eggbutt, Full cheek, etc. Aside from the cosmetic differences between them, their function differs slightly. O-rings are notorious for pinching the corners of the mouth, while Full-cheeks are rarely seen used in the western world of riding. To learn more about the specifics of these bits and how to choose the right one for you, check out our Snaffle Bit 101 post (coming soon.. sign up for our newsletter to be the first to know)
The snaffle bit is characterized by its signature broken style mouthpiece, which causes some misconceptions. Just because a bit has a broken mouthpiece does not mean that it's automatically a snaffle. Remember, a snaffle bit must be free of leverage. So when you see bits with shanks marketed as snaffles, stay away and know that their function is completely different. A "shanked snaffle" does not exist, it's simply an oxymoron.
That being said, there are many variations in the mouthpiece of true snaffle bits to choose from. The most common and versatile is a smooth mouthpiece, which is categorized as a level 1 on our harshness scale. The lower the number, the gentler the bit. Another great mouthpiece is a smooth mouthpiece with an additional piece in the center, known as a dogbone or french link. This additional break in the bit allows for more motion and is great for young horses that are more mouthy. Our version of the dogbone bit features a copper roller on the dogbone as an additional "toy". The dogbone roller snaffle bit is also a level 1 on our scale. If you're retraining a horse that has a habit of leaning on the bit or is very stiff, you may need to look in to a snaffle with some more "bite". Of course, this is temporary and we don't recommend anything above a level 1 bit for daily use. Andrea recommends a couple of days in a level 2 bit at the maximum, which should be plenty for the experienced trainer to work with. Our twisted snaffle mouthpiece is a level 2 and is a great tool for this.
The Brand Matters
Contrary to popular belief, the brand matters when purchasing a bit for your horse. Think about it- this is a tool that is going in your horse's mouth! Don't make the mistake of reaching for the cheapest and first item you find online or in the store. Do your research and take the time to find out exactly what bit your horse needs, and what brand makes that bit the best. Unfortunately, many of the "name brands" on the market produced products that surprised our team. We couldn't believe the lack of quality and engineering put into their bits, especially for the price they were at. That's why we sought to change that, and bring the best quality bits at the best price on the market. Andrea Equine specializes in the best western snaffle bits on the market, and we fully guarantee it.
Why Choose Andrea Equine
Handmade by expert craftsmen for balance and precision, we offer the highest quality western snaffle bits on the market-at an affordable price! Andrea Equine snaffle bits are handmade every step of the way, and are all designed with the horse in mind. Our western bits are made of the finest materials, heavy duty and balanced for the right feel in the horse's mouth. All of our western snaffle bits are made of sweet iron and copper inlay to keep your horse's mouth soft and supple. There is simply no better snaffle bit on the market- through years of development and testing, Andrea Equine bits are the product of perfection. With german silver to stainless steel styles, theres a design for everyone! And we got your horses covered too, offering dogbone copper roller, smooth, and twisted wire western snaffle mouthpieces for every stage of training.
But there's more to creating the perfect bit than just the material. Our innovative dee ring shape eliminates the pinching caused by other snaffle bits on the market, and eliminates the need for bit guards. Our bits won't pull through the mouth, making them the perfect direct rein bit. In addition, our mouthpieces are the perfect shape and diameter- not too cushioned and not too harsh!
While other companies have tried to imitate our bits, nobody has come close to the superior quality of the Andrea Equine Western Dee Snaffle Bit. All of our horse tack is created and designed by experienced horse trainers with the horse in mind.