How To Attach A Bit To A Bridle

How To Attach A Bit To A Bridle

As an equestrian enthusiast, it is time to take your bridling skills to a new level. Fitting the bit incorrectly can make the horse uncomfortable and could be potentially hazardous to the rider. Thus, it is imperative to understand how to properly attach the bit to a bridle. Let’s start at the top to see how it all fits together.

How Does The Bit Work?

The bit is the piece that goes into the horse’s mouth. It is usually made from metal or rubber. Bits will have either rings or shanks with rings that sit on the horse’s cheeks. The cheekpieces are attached to these rings.

When the rider pulls the reins, it applies pressure to the bit, and the horse reacts to this pressure. This is how you steer the horse in the right direction. The bit is a crucial part of the tack because it can hurt the horse if it is incorrectly fitted.

Different Bits For Different Bridles

It is important to note that there are different bits for different bridles. They are constructed differently, so this could play a part in how to attach the bit to the bridle.

The bridles

Bridles can be categorised into Western and English bridles. Here are some of their differentiating factors:

The Western bridle

Western horse riding equipment is more about control than direct communication. If present, the noseband and browband are simpler and bigger. The reins are often split into two separate pieces, and they prefer curb bits that have shanks to provide more leverage.

On curb bridles, the cheekpieces are attached to the bit rings or shanks. They are held in place with buckles or ties.

Western bridles with a curb chain

A curb chain (also known as a curb strap) is a strap that goes under the horse’s chin. It is an integral part of a curb bridle as it adds to the leverage system on which it is based. As the shanks move backwards, the curb chain is engaged, which puts extra pressure on the chin. The bit is raised in the mouth, which helps the effectiveness of communication between the horse and the rider.

To properly place the curb chain, ensure that it is in the chin groove. To position the curb chain, look for the chain hooks on the shanks. Pull the end of the curb chain through the chain hooks and secure them with a keeper.

As you attach the curb chain, check to see that it is not too tight. Measure at least two fingers between the curb chain and the chin. If the curb chain is too tight, there will be unnecessary pressure on the lower jaw and palate. It is important to understand how much pressure is required from the shanks, bit and curb chain.

The English bridle

English horse riding equipment caters more to dressage and showjumping. Cavesson and Flash nosebands are more popular, while browbands are narrow. Closed reins and snaffle bits are commonly used. This is due to the direct communication that snaffle bits and bridles provide.

On a snaffle bridle, the cheekpieces are pulled through the rings on the side of the horse’s mouth. They are then held in place, usually with buckles.

The bits

Choosing the correct bit for the bridle may have a lot to do with personal preferences. Taking into consideration activities that the horse will participate in as well as the comfort of the horse’s mouth will affect this decision.

The main types of bits are snaffle bits, double bridle bits and curb bits.

  • Snaffle bits: A snaffle bit consists of two metal or rubber pieces that are joined together. It works with direct pressure from the rider to the bit.
  • Double bridle bits: These are more commonly used with competitive riders in dressage. Double bridle bits are designed for accurate communication between the horse and the rider.
  • Curb bits: These work on leverage. Curb bits will have a shank that creates leverage, which applies pressure to the horse’s mouth. A curb bit is considered a Western bit. They are commonly used for horseback riding at ranches.

There are other types of bits as well; a particularly interesting one is a Pelham bit. Pelham bits combine both snaffle and curb bit action, and they are very popular in English horseback riding.

What Direction Should The Bit Face?

If you are using a curb bit, the long parts of the shank should point away from the horse and towards the horse’s nose. The curb chain goes over the horse’s chin to hold the curb bit.

With a snaffle bit, if the snaffle bit has a slight curve, then the curve should face upwards. This helps make the horse more comfortable. If the bit has a smooth side and a bumpy side, the smooth side should be against the horse’s tongue.

Another way to check that the bit is facing the right direction is to fold the bit and align the rings. When you hold the two pieces in your hand, fold them together with the ends of the snaffle bit pointing away from you. The snaffle should fold neatly. If the rings lie flat on top of each other, the snaffle is on the right side.

Attaching A Bit: Step-By-Step Guide

Step 1: Preparation

Ensure the bit and bridle are clean before attaching them. Use a soft cloth to wipe off any dust, dirt or debris that may be on the equipment. This helps with both hygiene and the prevention of unnecessary irritation to the horse.

Unfasten the cheekpieces. This may require removing them from their keepers to untie or unbuckle them. When using Western bridles, you may find that they have a Chicago screw to hold the strap in place. Many Western bridles tend to favour Chicago screws. If they have screws, you will need to use a screwdriver to unscrew these to release the cheekpieces.

Step 2: Position the noseband and crownpiece

Position the bridle on the horse’s head. Gently set the noseband in place and pull the crownpiece over the horse’s ears to position it on the head. Make sure the browband is in place on the horse’s forehead and that the cheekpieces are not tangled.

Step 3: Attaching the bit

Check the direction of the bit. If you put the bit in backwards, it could hurt the horse or cause it discomfort. Either way, it will not fit correctly. Hold the bit by the rings and gently slide the bit into the horse’s mouth. Make sure that you do not scrape the horse’s teeth while doing so. Position the bit while making sure that the horse is comfortable.

Step 4: Attach the cheekpieces

Take one cheekpiece and attach it to the bit ring. Look for the wear marks, as these are an indicator of where the straps were tied before. You need to slide the cheekpiece through the ring snaffle and secure it. Here, you may need to secure it with buckles or ties. Check that the cheekpieces are secure in their keepers. Repeat this on the other side.

Step 5: Adjust the noseband and the throat latch

If you have a crank noseband, adjust the buckle, but allow enough room for easy breathing. If the bridle has a normal noseband with a flash attachment, then secure this as well. The flash attachment is usually tied under the horse’s chin.

If there is a throat latch, ensure that it is properly positioned and that there is enough space for comfort. The throat latch goes over the horse’s jaw. You should be able to fit a fist through the throat latch strap to ensure that it is not too tight.

Step 6: Adding the reins to the bridle

Check that the bridle is adjusted correctly and that the horse is not experiencing any discomfort. All pieces must be adjusted properly before adding the reins.

Attach the reins to the bit rings or shanks and check that they are securely tied. The reins may have ties, buckles or rein snaps that are used to attach the reins to the bridle. When the reins are tied with rein snaps, it is easier to engage or disengage the reins. Then, pull the reins over the horse’s neck. Check that the reins do not have tangles, as this could cause discomfort as they rub against the horse’s neck.

Signs Your Horse Has Not Taken To The Bit

Not everybody is a horse whisperer, and not everybody understands horses. However, if your horse resists taking the bit, it will not hesitate to display its displeasure. Your horse’s disposition will tell you without a whisper of a doubt.

The most obvious signs that your horse has not taken to the bit are when he tosses his head, or worse, rears in an attempt to evade the bit. He may try to evade the bit with his tongue by pushing (or trying to) his tongue over the bit. If your horse is chewing and chomping at the bit, then you know he is not a happy horse.


How do I know if the bit is the right size?

The bit should lie flat against the horse’s lips. The bit should not extend much past the lips. If it does, then you know the bit is too big and should be remeasured. There should be no pinching or discomfort, because if there is pinching on the horse’s lips, the bit may be too small.

What factors determine which bit I should use?

The main deciding factors include the riding discipline, the horse’s mouth size and shape, and the horse’s reaction to the bit. Other considerations would be if the horse is well-trained and experienced or if it is a new horse that’s never been ridden.

Can I use a snaffle bit with a curb bridle?

Yes, it is possible to use a snaffle bit with a curb bridle. The curb bit will still have some leverage, even though it won’t be as prominent as if you were using a curb bit.

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