Choosing the Proper Headstall for a Snaffle Bit & Correct Fit
I have always noticed the small things that people tend to do when it comes to their horses and their choice of equipment, and I have to ask myself: “Do they not know or do they just not care?”
Watching people ride in the warm up at a recent show I noticed the number of riders that have the improper headstall for the bit that they are using. Headstalls were designed with a specific purpose in mind, to keep the bit hanging in the proper position in your horse’s mouth and to allow you to pull on the reins and not have the headstall slip over their ears.
The hardest to thing to overlook, from a safety standpoint is when one is riding a horse around with a snaffle bit hung on a headstall that has no throat latch. When pulling on the reins, a headstall that has no throat latch and brow band will tend to lift off of the horse’s poll and possibly slip off over their ears. The throat latch and brow band is designed to keep the headstall in the proper position by securing it behind the horse's jaw and across the forehead just in front of the ears. The throat latch should be adjusted with 2-3 fingers width between it and the horses throat latch.
If using a bit that has leverage, a one ear or split ear headstall will be fine since they are being used with a curb chain. The leverage bit, when pulled on, rocks forward in the horse’s mouth. This allows the curb chain to apply pressure under the chin and slight pressure over the horse’s poll, keeping the headstall in place.
Also for the sake of safety, I like to ride all of my snaffle bits with a slobber strap attached to each ring that runs under the horse's chin. This is so I am able to pull the bit left or right without having the rings slide around into the horse’s mouth where we lose control. I will also tend to ride all of my horses with a cavasson or nose band to keep them from gapping their mouth open and trying to get away from the bit pressure. The nose band is not used to keep the horse's mouth tied shut; it is just an aid that allows the bit to function properly without allowing any bad habits to start. It is always easier to keep a problem from starting than to have to go back and figure out how to correct it.
Proper fit for a snaffle bit depends on the horse’s mouth conformation. I will start a colt in the round pen with the bit hanging a little lower in the horse’s mouth so that the colt learns how to carry the bit with their tongue. Once I start riding I will pull the bit up so that I have 1-2 slight wrinkles on each corner of the colt’s mouths.
Remember that there is no perfect bit, the bit is only as good as the rider's hands that are using it.
As Always; Ride Hard, Be Safe, Have Fun – Steve Kutie