How snaffle bits work

There is an overwhelming selection of horse bits available, and the snaffle is arguably the most commonly used. A snaffle bit is a single ring bit that is mild and gentle on the horse, in this blog from Horse Search we go through some of the snaffle bit types.

Horse pictured is in a loose ring snaffle

Although the basic action of most snaffle bits is the same, the mouthpieces and metal they are made from have many varieties, so it sometimes can take trying a few different bits and taking time to find one your horse is comfortable with. Whether it be the different mouthpieces like a single joint, a lozenge, french link, or the type of metal that we use to make our horses as accepting of the bit we choose as possible. Or the type of snaffle which we have gone in to more details about below.

There are now biting specialists like HORSE BIT FIT, that bring a selection of bits to assess your horse, its mouth conformation and watch it under saddle for signs of not accepting the bit. This can be a cheaper option as unless you get it right first time, to hire or buy a selection of different bits (even just snaffles) can become very costly.

For the purpose of this blog we will just be looking at the shapes of the ring on our snaffle bits and the effects they have on our horses, which will allow you to make a more informed choice when trying to find suitable bit.

What’s the difference between the different snaffle bits?

Eggbutt snaffle

eggbutt snaffle bit
eggbutt snaffle bit
  • An Eggbutt snaffle simply means it is fixed to the mouthpiece all in one piece of metal
  • The Eggbutt prevents pinching of the lips and give a slightly more solid feel against the side of the face.
  •  As the rings are fixed to the mouthpiece they keep the bit steady in the mouth.
  • They also prevent the bit from being pulled through the mouth
  • Very mild and gentle bit and you would often just try with different mouthpieces (lozenge, single joint etc) for a different feel in the rein and horses comfort if required.

A Loose ring snaffle

loose ring snaffle bit
loose ring snaffle bit
  • The loose ring snaffle the mouthpiece attaches to sliding rings, which rotate.
  • Because the rings are loose, the horse’s lips can easily get caught and pinched. Using Acavallo gel bit guards can help prevent this and keep the horse comfortable. Be aware that these are not permitted for use in dressage (including eventing dressage)
  • Acavallo Gel Bit Guards Buy now at
  • Can provide slightly more control than an eggbutt snaffle would due to the mobile nature of the ring (not fixed like an eggbutt snaffle is )

A D-ring snaffle

d ring snaffle bit
d ring snaffle bit
  • The D-ring is still a fixed piece mouthpiece but instead of being curved like the eggbutt it has a straight bar at the corner of the horse’s mouth then curves (Like a letter ‘D’)
  • A D-Ring bit is excellent for directional control and good for tight turns especially during faster work as the mouthpiece should not slide across the mouth.
  • It is also safer for young horses as it should not pull through the mouth in a panic situation.
  • D-Ring may be more beneficial for children or novice riders who may not be sufficiently experienced in supporting their inside rein.
  • Used correctly it gives the rider greater shoulder control on a circle and helps set up the bend when changing the rein or with lateral work.
  • The stability that the D-Ring bit offers is often useful for horses that are overactive in the mouth in a loose ring design.

Sleeved Cheek Bit

sleeved cheek snaffle bit
sleeved cheek snaffle bit
  • Offers a loose ring and an eggbutt in one bit.
  • This bit is a great option for those wanting to compete in a loose ring but that are not able to use bit guards (which aren’t allowed in BE (dressage) or BD) without the risk of pinching.
  • Prevents pinching of the lips and gives a slightly more solid feel against the side of the face.
  • It also prevents the bit being pulled through the mouth.
  • The sleeved cheek bit provides the quick release of a Loose Ring and the comfort of the eggbutt.

Hanging Cheek Bit

hanging cheek snaffle bit
Hanging cheek snaffle bit
  • Is slightly stronger than the snaffles featured here.
  • The hanging cheek offers more stability than a loose ring and due to the action within the mouth, it generally offers more braking control than an eggbutt.
  • They may not suit a horse that has a tendency to over bend, and the hanging cheek bit doesn’t produce the poll pressure it is typically marketed to, and wouldn’t suit all horses

Fulmer Snaffle

fulmer eggbutt snaffle bit
Fulmer eggbutt snaffle bit
  • A similar concept to the D-ring bit however it has arms/shanks that extend out from the ring these can get caught if the horse rubs its head when tacked up, so great care is needed to avoid this.
  • The cheeks are most helpful with turning aids, especially with young horses. The gentle pressure against the face on the outside of the turn supports the rider‘s aid making turns much easier for the horse to understand and for the rider to carry out.
  • It Will not pull through the horse’s mouth, and helps with straightness and direction. Comes in both eggbutt and loose ring types.

There is nothing worse than being pulled up in a collecting ring or possibly eliminated from a competition due to not knowing the rules on what bits are allowed. It is always best to be safe and check the rules to safe yourself an expensive trip to a tack shop or a wasted day out if eliminated from competition.

Its always best when competing, especially British dressage that the bit you want to use is allowed within the rules

British Dressage Rules: digital_tack-and-equipment-booklet-dec2019_updated23jan2020.pdf (

British Evenitng Rules: British Eventing Rulebook (

Check out more of the Horse Search blogs covering many great equestrian topics not to be missed!!