In thoroughbred racing, most horses are ridden with snaffle bits. Bits are generally made of aluminum, stainless steel or rubber, sometimes with copper mouthpieces. Although there are various types of snaffles used for racing, sport and pleasure horses, for racehorses the D-bit or dee bit is the most common. The snaffle consists of two pieces that attach in the center by means of a swivel. Snaffles are relatively mild bits. The "dees" are shanks about the snaffled mouthpiece, which have D-shaped rings to which the reins are attached. The advantage of dee bits for racing over other types of snaffles is that it is less bulky, and also offers significant lateral control for the jockey or exercise rider.
Because of the size of the "dees," it is more difficult for a racehorse to pull the bit through his mouth. Although still fairly mild, the dee bit is somewhat harsher than other types of snaffles, such as the eggbutt.
The Chifney Bit
The Chifney bit isn't designed for riding, but it's often used when leading unruly racehorses. It can prevent a horse from rearing, but also protects the handler. Also known as the ring bit because of its shape, the Chifney is clipped onto the sides of the halter, while the top of the bit goes into the horse's mouth. The handler then attaches the lead shank to the bottom of the bit underneath the chin.
Harness Racing Bits
In Standardbred harness racing, two different types of bits are used: the driving bit and the overcheck bit. The former allows the driver to control the horse, while the latter permits the horse's head to remain at a certain level. Many harness trainers use various types of snaffle driving bits, but other bits are used for horses with specific issues. Driving bits include:
- The Frisco June bit, a leather-covered bit used for training youngsters
- The controller bit, a device with a double mouthpiece, used for horses that pull
- The crescendo, used for horses that pull very hard.
Overcheck bits include:
- The Hutton, a straight, mild bit
- The standard, used on the majority of horses
- Jointed mouth bits, used for horses that tend to get their tongue over the bit
- Lugging bits, which correct horses who avoid steering pressure.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.