A snaffle is a mechanically
simple bit that allows you to communicate with your horse in simple terms.
A snaffle bit transmits pressure in a direct line from your hands on the reins
to the rings and mouthpiece of the bit to the horse's mouth.
On a snaffle, there are no shanks. Shanks are the vertical sidepieces on
a curb bit to which the reins attach. Shanks create leverage action.
The snaffle bit operates via direct pressure only. The mouthpiece of a snaffle
can be jointed or solid. The misconception that any bit with a jointed (or
"broken") mouthpiece is a snaffle has given rise to the misnomers: "long-shanked
snaffle", "tom-thumb snaffle", and "cowboy snaffle".
All of these are really jointed (or broken mouth) curbs.
The most common snaffle, the jointed O-ring, has four parts: two rings and a mouthpiece
comprised of two arms.
A snaffle is
customarily used with a brow band headstall that has a throatlatch. Often
a noseband is used with a snaffle.
Action The snaffle is useful for teaching a horse
to bend his neck and throatlatch laterally so that he can be turned in both directions.
It is also useful for teaching a horse to flex vertically in the lower jaw, at
the poll, and at the neck muscles just in front of the withers. Vertical
flexion is necessary for gait and speed control as well as for stopping.
The bars are the flesh-covered portions of the lower jawbone between the incisors
and the molars. This is where the bit lies. It is the action of the
snaffle bit on the bars of the horse's mouth that produces vertical flexion.
With a regularly configured snaffle, when one rein is pulled out to the side,
let's say the right, the bit will slide slightly through the mouth to the right
and the primary pressure will be exerted by the ring on the left side of the horse's
face. This will cause him to bend laterally and turn right.
When the right line is pulled backward, pressure will be exerted on the right
side of the horse's tongue, the right lower lip, the right corner of the mouth,
the right side of the bars and on the left side of the horse's face. This
will tend to cause the horse to bend laterally and begin to flex vertically so
he shifts his weight rearward as he turns right.
When you pull backward on both lines, pressure will be applied to both corners
of the mouth and across the entire tongue and the bit may contact the bars and
the lower lips. This causes a horse to flex vertically, shift his weight
rearward, slow down, or stop.
have the capacity to turn the mildest bit into an instrument of abuse or the most
severe bit into a delicate tool of communication. Above all, good horsemanship
is the key to a horse's acceptance of the bridle.