The Savvy Station

Snaffle Bits: Benefits & Uses for Horse Training

bij Parelli Natural Horsemanship op Mar 06, 2024

Snaffle Bits: Benefits & Uses for Horse Training

Snaffle bits can be an excellent communication tool for riders looking for a non-leverage bit.  Most snaffle bits offer a fairly gentle feel on the horse's mouth, while still allowing a rider to offer clear communication.  

How a Snaffle Bit Works

A snaffle bit has a simple mouthpiece, which can be metal or rubber. Each side of the mouthpiece has a ring that connects the mouthpiece to the reins. The bit applies pressure across the horse's mouth when the reins are pulled.

Another type of bit is a curb bit, which is a leverage bit. Unlike the curb bit, the snaffle bit does not work by leverage. The snaffle bit has a direct, 1:1 ratio of pressure, so that the pressure applied to the horse's mouth is equal to the amount of pressure coming from a rider's hands. Although snaffles are typically mild bits, riders must still educate themselves to use a bit correctly. Even the most gentle bit in inexperienced hands or if used improperly can cause pain and damage a horse's mouth.

Types of Snaffle Bits

Loose-Ring Snaffle

The loose-ring snaffle is Pat Parelli’s snaffle bit of choice. It provides the horse with a degree of freedom in his mouth. With a loose-ring snaffle, a horse will often show a more relaxed jaw than in other types of bits.

The Parelli Loose Ring Snaffle is single jointed and designed for riding on a loose (or casual) rein.  Made from sweet iron with fine copper inlay to encourage salivation (and because horse’s enjoy the taste!), it is a great tool to use for your Porcupine Game when riding.  In addition, the loose ring construction allows the horse to adjust the bit position as desired.


The Eggbutt snaffle bit is another common snaffle bit.  The ring is egg-shaped to help hold the bit in the horse's mouth.

D-Ring (or Dee Ring)

The D-Ring snaffle bit uses a D-shaped ring. This shape helps hold the bit evenly across the horse's tongue and is designed to not pinch a horse's lips. 

Full-Cheek Snaffle

A Full-Cheek snaffle bit has additional cheek pieces to provide more leverage. It is often seen as a more harsh bit.

Curb Strap

A curb strap goes under the horse's chin. It can add additional pressure to the bit depending on how it is adjusted. However, when used in conjunction with the snaffle bit, a curb strap can be fitted quite loosely as its purpose is solely to prevent the rider from pulling the bit through the horse’s mouth. 

Bit Materials

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is a common choice for bit materials. It is affordable, durable, and very easy to clean. Overall, stainless steel is appropriate for horses. It is a metal that is soft and warm when in the mouth. It encourages a horse to salivate and keep his mouth moist. This makes the bit more comfortable for the horse. However, some horses do not like the taste of stainless steel and attempt to push it out with their tongue.


Copper is another common choice for bits. However, it is far more expensive. Like stainless steel, copper is warm and soft and encourages salivation.

Sweet Iron

Sweet iron is a favorite amongst horses because it actually carries a sweet taste. With this sweet taste, a horse could even salivate which is not a bad thing.  Sweet iron tends to rust, so be mindful of this the longer you have your bits. 


A new addition to the bit world is titanium. Like copper, titanium is quite expensive but comes with several good qualities. Titanium is strong and light. It is also hypoallergenic.

The Function of Bit Rings

The bit rings are one of the most essential pieces of the snaffle bit. After all, the rings attach the bit to the reins. The primary function of the bit rings is to transfer pressure from the reins to the bit.

When a rider applies pressure on the reins, the rings transfer that to the bit, and the bit activates inside the horse's mouth. The size and shape of bit rings vary greatly and have different uses. Rings can be made from various materials, including copper, brass, and steel.

What Happens When You Use the Reins

Reins are one of the rider's ways of communicating with the horse. They send a signal to the horse to adjust direction, shape or speed. When a rider applies pressure on the reins, it sends a message to a trained horse to respond.

A rider must properly understand reins and how they are used for communication before ever saddling up. In fact, an untrained rider can cause serious pain to a horse or at the very least cause confusion in training.

Bits are an important tool for riders and horses, but both partners must learn to communicate well for them to be safe and effective.  The rider must learn to apply pressure appropriately, and the horse needs to learn how to be confident and then respond to pressure appropriately.  

How to Use a Snaffle Bit

The snaffle bit is intended to be used for teaching, controlling, reinforcing, and refining lateral flexion by activating one rein at a time.  It is to be used mainly with a sideways action for lateral flexion. It's thin enough to discourage leaning, but it is not the type of bit you pull on with both hands at the same time.

Whenever you use a snaffle bit, use one active rein at a time (in the Parelli Program we call these Direct and Indirect Reins).  You can also use one supporting rein and one active rein to hold a conversation with your horse about stopping or yielding backward. This is a matter of holding the reins and using steady or rhythmic pressure to ask the horse to yield, not pulling on the reins to stop the horse.  

It’s important for riders to educate themselves not only on bits types, materials and uses, but also on how to utilize them effectively.  

Remember, a bit is a communication tool.  Yes, at times we use it for control, but it’s also one of many ways we build a language with our horses. 

Pat Parelli often says you can tell a horseman by the tools he uses and also by the tools he will not use.  Seek the advice of a Parelli Professional, and of course check out our available bits and bridles for a great selection of tools designed for clear communication and comfort for both rider and horse. 

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