Western Riding Bits

Western Horse Riding Bits

Cowboy wearing denim riding a chestnut horse.
Western style riding. Credit: LifeJourneys

There are hundreds of different western riding bits with many subtle variations and strange names. Choosing one may seem intimidating. Buy, you only need to remember that most are derivatives of a few basic bits that remain popular amongst Western horseback riders.They may have slightly different features but basically have the same effect.  Here photos and descriptions of some of the most common Western riding bits you'll see used on horses and at your local tack shop.

  • 01 of 06
    Western Grazing Bit
    Western Grazing Bit. Image: 2005 K. Blocksdorf

    This is probably one of the most common western bits. The shanks were originally angled back so the horse could graze with the bit in its mouth. There was a time when it might have been desirable for a horse to graze fully bridled and saddled--such as when you were working all day with cattle. You won't want your horse to graze in a curb bit at all anymore, since there is a danger it could step on or catch the shank and hurt itself.

    But this style of bit is very popular and suits many horses....MORE You'll often see them with more decorative shanks and with various types of tongue releases and ports.You'll also see this used on ponies ridden western. 

  • 02 of 06
    Tom Thumb Western Joined Mouth Curb Bit
    Tom Thumb Western Joined Mouth Curb Bit. PriceGrabber

    This common bit is sometimes erroneously called a snaffle bit because it has a jointed mouthpiece. But, because it has shanks, and uses leverage, it is a curb bit. Many people also disagree about its severity. Because it has short shanks, it appears to be a mild bit, but the jointed mouth adds to the severity. It is a very popular bit in the show ring and out on the trail. You'll see these bits with copper, plastic and metal mouthpieces. 

  • 03 of 06

    Western S-Shank Curb Bit Explained

    S-Shank Curb Bit.
    S-Shank Curb Bit. Image: 2005 K. Blocksdorf

    The S shape on the shanks of this bit contributes to the weight, balance, and leverage when the rider pulls back on the reins. The S actually makes this a more severe bit than a bit with the same length of straight shanks, such as the grazing bit. This bit needs to used carefully to avoid hurting the horse. Theport in the middle of the mouthpiece amplifies the rein aids and provides some relief to the horse's tongue.

  • 04 of 06
    Western Correction Bit
    Western Correction Bit. Image: 2005 K. Blocksdorf

    The name of this bit is misleading. Correction bits are used not to correct problems, but to reinforce the rein aids to an already well-trained horse. In the wrong hands, (like any curb bit) these bits can be very severe.

    If you have trouble stopping or turning your horse, the answer probably isn't a more severe bit, but a solid review of the basics. Using a more severe bit isn't the correction these were intended fo. Correction bits have their place with trainers who want to fine-tune...MORE their horse's responses to the rein aids. A bit with long shanks and a high port such as this one has can cause more problems than it corrects if not used wisely.

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06

    The Quarter Moon D-ring Snaffle Bit Explained

    Quarter Moon D-ring Snaffle
    An ornate Quarter Moon D-ring Snaffle. Image: 2005 K. Blocksdorf

    For showing in hand or in specific types of competition, this snaffle bit is an attractive choice. It is similar to many other snaffle bits, both English and western. This bit is decorative, but the decorations do not change or affect how the bit works. This is often used on young horses and in the western show ring, there can be special snaffle classes.

  • 06 of 06

    Western Pelham Bit Explained

    A Western style pelham bit with a copper mouthpiece
    A Western style pelham bit with a copper mouthpiece. Image: 2005 K. Blocksdorf

    This bit will be used for training, but won't be seen in any western competitions. Like the  English pelham this bit somewhat combines the action of curb and a snaffle and is used with two sets of reins, one on the large D-shaped rings, and one set on the bottom rings. It will also require a curb chain or strap. This is another bit that should be used to train a horse for more refined aids.