Wednesday, August 19, 2009


One piece of equipment that is tough to work with out is a curb strap/chain, but understanding it is just as important. So What's the deal? Seems simple enough right??

Well let's start with how to use it. On a Snaffle bit, people use them for 2 reasons. The first is to stabilize the snaffle. What it does is holds the rings stationary and securely so you get a more clear connection from the your hands to the bit, it helps because it can keep the snaffle pieces moving around distracting the horse. It also helps the snaffle to not slide through the horses mouth in case of a one rein stop.

The next is the more obvious and that is on a shanked bit, kimberwicke, pelham so forth. So the purpose of these bridles and bits is a 3 way pressure system. The bit itself is your direct pressure, when you pull back on the reins it applies pressure to the chin where the curb strap is and to the top of the poll as well. These can either be GREAT bridles and training equipment or nightmares in the wrong hands, but that's besides the point currently.

Sooooo how tight you attach the strap is a major part on how the whole set will function. Too tight and your horse is visibly uncomfortable and there is NO release of the pressure on their chin. Too loose and your not getting any pressure whats-so-ever. You really want to be able to fit 2 fingers in between the strap and their chin comfortably for proper placement and use. Remember when using to be gentle and allow he pressure to release once the horse has responded to your cues. Under the chin is a sensitive area for our 4 legged buddies so be careful and have fun!!


Golden Girl said...

You must be referring western type and in some cases pleasure riding when it come to the snaffle bit with a 'curb' chain. That type of riding that does not normally use caveson along with the headstall.

When used in conjunction with a caveson, with or with a flash, the horses jaw/mouth is kept shut thus not evading the bit by opening it's mouth and permitting the bit move around improperly.

I can understand riding without a caveson with inexperienced riders. This lets the horse open it's mouth and lessen to pain of bad hands. These horses are usually the older 'been then done that' horse that babysit their riders. Bless their hearts!

So, why use a curb chain on a snaffle... it is simply misused as a weight, instead of intelligently using a caveson.

Live to Learn

The Crossroads said...

In the case of the snaffle I've had to use the curb chain. Not as more control, but to keep the bit from going through my horses mouth as mentioned in this blog. I'm a gamer so when it comes to tight turns my bit used to slid through his mouth. I refuse to run my horse in anything harsher than a snaffle so an alternative was out of the question.

I heard people using a curb chain for that purpose, gave it a shot. Works like a charm.

GoLightly said...

Um, full-cheek snaffles were designed for that very purpose, of not letting the bit slide through his mouth.

I thought you meant the old term of strapping, used by the Brits.

A good strapping really brings out their coat.
Done right, horses lean into it, it's like an incredible massage.

Never, ever needed a snaffle "curb-strap/chain". That is what English cavessons are for.
English Drop & Figure-8 or Grackle Nosebands ReallY keep their mouth shut.

No idea:)

The Crossroads said...

GoLightly: Not sure if that was directed to me or not?

I used to use a full cheek on him, but I found out he works much better with a copper d-ring. However, when I ride English the curb strap is not on the bit as it's rather pointless. That and it's a full cheek. Kind of a mentality where he knows what bit is for play and what is for serious work :) Whether or not he truly knows the difference, I wouldn't know. The only difference between my English and Western bridles is the English has a noseband while, obviously, the western does not.

I made the mistake of not specifying the bit and merely called it a snaffle. My apologies for any confusion :)

GoLightly said...

Oh, CR, I am easily confused:)
So, you have a full-cheek D-Ring?
I am confused.

It's a non-issue, really. Whatever works best, and the horse and rider are comfortable with, it's a good thing.

But yeah, strapping is an old Brit term.
babble, babble.
It's sunny, I am not used to sunshine!

The Crossroads said...

I'm sorry I didn't mean to confuse you hehe. Plus, going back to read it I really didn't make a whole lot of sense, was too early for me to be posting and to make sense in the same breath haha.

English I use a full cheek snaffle.

Western I use a D-Ring.

Anonymous said...

Well now I AM confused...

Being new to horses, and having gotten my first horse just 6 months ago, I went out and got the bit my trainer told me to (or as close as I could manage alone in the tack store). I ride western. I could not provide the precise technical term for what I have, but it is a jointed (with the copper thing in the middle) smooth snaffle with O rings.

The headstall I bought (no noseband, just a browband) came with the curb strap. My trainer at the time said that was good and I have been using it on the snaffle. I understood the purpose to be to keep the bit from sliding too far to one side or out of his mouth altogether (perhaps during an emergency stop as mentioned).

So, is this unneccessary? Is this in any way uncomfortable for my horse? Is there something else that would be more appropriate? I admit to being somewhat bewildered by bits. There are just so many weird devices and opinions. Also, I've had a few people remark that it's unusual for an older horse to be ridden in a snaffle which really confuses me! That's kind of off-topic but can anyone explain that theory/philosophy to me?


GoLightly said...

NHM, no, if it's properly/comfortably fitted, and he's not protesting, fighting you, disliking being ridden, not turning, not stopping etc.etc., I think you are good to go.

Ask JR, too. I speaks English, not any Western;)
Western has pretty different strokes. As long as the bridle/bit/strap works, and you and horse are happy, you're fine.
Horse is happy? Turns, stops, doesn't protest? No rubs/sores/owies around his mouth, under his chin?
Things are good.

It's good that your older horse goes in a snaffle! Means his mouth hasn't been ruined.

Since you're still "new", it's better for him that he's capable of going for you in a snaffle anyway.
Curb bits are for more experienced hands.

Give him a nose rub for me:)

Best of luck, and kudos!
Keep asking questions, but try not to let too many opinions overwhelm you.

I'd highly recommend JR's blog. He's got some good stuff going.
You know that, anyway:)

sorry for the long ramble. I'm slightly sunstroked;)

Anonymous said...

Thanks! He seems happy with the set-up.

I'll give him that nose rub! On days I don't have a lesson, I just go out and groom him, feed him his extra meal, and hang out with him.

Sometimes I just stand with him in his pasture. He puts his head on my shoulder and we just hang out. Or he licks my hand. He likes to lick!

horsndogluvr said...

New Horse Mommy, you are doing the right thing. Hanging out with your horse, grooming him, all of that, helps your relationship immensely!

Crossroads, you said, "In the case of the snaffle I've had to use the curb chain... to keep the bit from going through my horses mouth. ... when it comes to tight turns my bit used to slid through his mouth."

Um, this is not a good thing. It sounds like you are trying to pull his head around with the leading rein, rather than just steering him. I see this frequently at barrel races and gymkhanas. It's not good riding.

With a snaffle, you should be using a "leading and bearing rein." The leading rein is just what it sounds like; meant to lead, not to force.

The bearing rein "bears" on the horse's neck - and keeps the snaffle from sliding through.

Not only that, but why use a chain? Why not use a plain curb strap?

I also have to grouse about cavessons being for keeping the horse from opening his mouth. Slowly, steadily, and humanely bitting and training will give you (in most cases) a horse that keeps contact with the bit. Flashes, grackles, and similar things are just another symptom of being in too much of a hurry.

Time to go get hairy and dirty - I mean, groom my horses.



Equus said...

I definitely agree with horsndoglvr, particularly on the subject of cavessons.

The horse will naturally keep its mouth shut and won't be evading the bit with soft hands, the appropriate bit, and proper riding. When people have to resort to flash nosebands and such, I think it is time to take a step back and re-evaluate their riding habits. A cavesson such as a flash is doing the job physically, but not mentally - it's a band-aid for an underlying issue.

Pulling the bit out of an experienced horse's mouth indicates a pretty stiff horse and/or poor hands. Get back to the basics to create a supple horse who is more responsive. Reins should only be used for guidance, not for force. Get those leg aids up to par as well!

The curb strap on a snaffle bit hopefully is unecessary for the most part. However if it fits him comfortably, it is not hurting him any to wear it ;)
It's unusual for an older horse to be ridden in a snaffle because most are automatically upgraded to a curb by age 5 or so, regardless of the work they are doing. This is a bit of a lenthy question you're asking, but personally all my horses are ridden in a snaffle for basic work/trail rides/just bombing around. For refinement work: collection, spins, lateral work, etc, they go into leverage bits - provided they are properly prepared for it. If your horse is happy in the bit he is in, keep him in it. If you get into more refined and complex work, by all means, experiment with some leverage bits - they offer a whole new level of communication. However there is certainly nothing wrong with your horse remaining in a snaffle. I highly recommend snaffles for basic work and for new riders (still keep your hands soft though!), and curbs for experienced riders for subtler communication only. Otherwise the curb bit tends to be misused, at the expense of the horse.