Curb Bit Basics

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Curb Bit Basics

9 thoughts on “Curb Bit Basics

  1. I am just getting into 4H this year, and need to switch my mare into a curb. She’s pretty soft on the mouth and listens well these days, but she only has a D-Ring. What’s a gentle bit I could use on her?

    1. Does she have problems with rating back or other problems with her snaffle that makes it important that she change? Is she REQUIRED to wear a curb? Must it have a solid mouth rather than a broken mouth?

      If she MUST have a solid bar curb bit, I am partial to a grazing bit. The medium port gives the horse tongue relief. The short shanks modify your hands but not as much as a long-shank bit.
      However, it has a short signal because it’s cheeks are already bent back a little. That means that your hands will work on her mouth very quickly after you pick up on the reins. You can mitigate that by adding “slobber” straps to the bit ring. That way, when you pick up on the reins, she receives a signal that you are going to ask her to do something before you actually make contact with her mouth with pressure.

      see one here:

      You must remember that if your horse has been wearing a snaffle bit, she is a two-handed reiner. The solid mouth curb bit requires that she learn how to neck rein (one-handed reining). I suggest she learn how to neck rein wearing her snaffle and then change to the curb bit when she understands that type of reining.

  2. My daughter is just switching from a snaffle bit to a curb bit on her 5 year old mare quarter horse. She is quite “soft” on the horse…so her trainer says, so sometimes her horse takes a little bit of advantage of that and gets her head a bit strung out and goes a bit fast at the trot. What type of curb bit would be best?

    1. So, the bit is to be used to help her rate the horse back? Start with a low-medium port bit that holds the bit off the bars but gives enough tongue relief without palate pressure. If it traps her tongue too much (watch for bit stress such as constantly shaking her head up and down), use a slightly higher port. Your trainer should be able to tell if the port is too low or high.

      Use short shanks. If the horse is just taking “a little bit of advantage”, she doesn’t need to be pulled up sharp every time your daughter lifts the reins.

      You might start with a hybrid bit that has loose cheeks and solid-bar mouth. Then you could switch from the d-loop to the rein loop for chin, poll and bar pressure depending on the horse’s behavior.

      Also look at a grazing bit.

  3. […] Shank length and signal time: "The time it takes between the rein cue and the shank moving far enough to engage the curb strap is known as the “signal” time. If the shanks are adjusted at a proper angle (usually about 45 degrees), the horse will have time to realize that the shank is moving and prepare for the action before the bit is actually engaged. If properly trained, he will anticipate the request the moment the rider picks up the reins, and only leg or body aids will be needed to direct his movement. (See Signal) A bit with a looser curb and a longer shank will have a longer “signal” time because there is more distance from reins to curb strap engagement – giving the horse longer to compute the next step. Additionally, when a bit is balanced so that its rein loops hang a little forward of center when not engaged by the reins, it takes just that fraction of a second longer for the reins to take up the slack, which lengthens the signal time. A bit balanced this way is an advantage for quick release of pressure and reliable neutral position. A bit is “balanced” if, when the reins are dropped, the bit immediately swings forward to its “home” or vertical position and releases the pressure. (see From this link: Curb Bit Basics | […]

  4. I had no idea the quick stop curb bar was seen as severe. I’ve been using it as a bit less option for my pleasure horse. I’m definitely going to be paying a lot closer attention to my hands when riding!

    1. Anything that makes your hands more precise and less heavy is a good thing. Any “bit” can be severe if used with heavy hands – even one that is not in his mouth.

      All “bits” work off of sensitive pressure points on his face or mouth and are meant to cause discomfort if he doesn’t respond to other cues first. If you are using good seat and leg cues, the horse will almost never feel the bit if he responds to the other cues first.

      When a rider uses no pre-signals but goes straight to the bit (and does so with heavy or unbalanced hands) a horse receives uncomfortable or painful instructions – even from a supposedly “gentle” bit.

  5. I’m surprised that your trainer didn’t pick up on this.

    Remember that one-handed reining can confuse the horse who has always turned into the short rein. Use the turn cues simultaneously for a while (with leg cues if you have them perfected).
    1. Lay the rein on the opposite side of the neck to the turn,
    2. Use a same-side leg cue to move his front into the turn,
    3. then use the hand on the turn side to pull him around if he has not turned.

    Soon just the rein and leg will suffice. Then just the rein. (Read the training theory article “Anticipation”)

    PS: 65 is later than most people start, but certainly young enough for a great new hobby. Have fun and welcome to this crazy equine world!

  6. I started riding at age 65 – yes just a bit late. I am trying to take my horse from hunt seat to western pleasure with the help of a highly skilled trainer. I have been doing fairly well with a hinged, high port, long shanked bit reining with two hands. But when I try to go to a fixed cheek bit, things go to hell in a hurry. After reading this column I realized that it is because the fixed cheek bit was designed for one-handed reining. I’ll let you know how this knowledge helps.

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