Our Privacy/Cookie Policy contains detailed information about the types of cookies & related technology on our site, and some ways to opt out. By using the site, you agree to the uses of cookies and other technology as outlined in our Policy, and to our Terms of Use.


Differences Between Curb and Snaffle Bits

By Jen Davis | Updated September 26, 2017

Curb and snaffles are two styles of horse bits that each have their own uses. Snaffle bits are mild, simple round-cheeked bits, while curb bits are harsher and normally have metal shanks coming down from the cheekpieces. Choosing the right bit can make a big difference in how your horse performs for you when you ride.

Snaffle Bit Basics

The snaffle is generally considered one of the gentlest types of bits. Snaffles are often used on young horses and those in training. A snaffle is a direct pressure bit; it can have a broken or jointed mouthpiece, or a straight mouthpiece. The cheekpieces of snaffle bits are rings. The rings, which come in various shapes and sizes, attach to reins.

Curb Bit Basics

Curb bits are also known as shank bits. Curb bits work by using indirect pressure to direct a horse. The shank on a curb bit delivers leverage that increases the force of your commands. The shank is the piece of the bit that protrudes down from the cheekpiece of the bit. The length of the shank will affect the amount of leverage the bit delivers. Curb bits are often used in conjunction with curb chains, which are twisted metal chains or flat leather straps that attach to the cheekpieces of the curb bit and go under the chin of the horse. Curb chains further increase the leverage of the bit.

When you use a curb bit, it applies pressure to the mouth as well as underneath the horse's chin and on the poll, which is the area at the top of the head, between the ears. The length of the shank will affect the amount of leverage the bit delivers. Curb bits are normally used on horses who are already trained.


Jen Davis has been writing since 2004. She has served as a newspaper reporter and her freelance articles have appeared in magazines such as "Horses Incorporated," "The Paisley Pony" and "Alabama Living." Davis earned her Bachelor of Arts in communication with a concentration in journalism from Berry College in Rome, Ga.