"Less is More" With bits, I believe "Less is More." Always, and without exception. I am a stickler for snaffles, "the simpler the better." Also, always and without exception. I put all my horses, no matter what the discipline, in a snaffle.
For my dressage horses, or really any of my green horses learning the basics, before they move on to their chosen profession or specialty (Hunter, Jumper, Eventing, Reining, Cow work, Trail, Pleasure, etc) my bit of choice, and the company that I most recommend and endorse, is Herm Sprenger, specifically the KK line:
Specially designed to improve your horse's comfort and
performance, the KK Ultra Loose Ring Snaffle Bit by Herm Sprenger accommodates a horse's narrower palate. 21mm Aurigan® mouth encourages a soft mouth.
I prefer a copper bit, but silver is fine as well.
I like the Full Checks for the horses that have a hard time learning to turn:
And the D rings look nice on the jumping and western horses:
I am fine with the single jointed snaffles, which the western horses seem to like better:
but my preference is a snaffle with a link in the middle:
I think the single joint is a bit harder on the horses mouth/has a stronger effect,
because of the way it presses on the tongue.
The linked snaffles, sit/rest nicer on the tongue, and in the horses mouth,
and are more comfortable and easier on their mouths.
I am not super picky about the kind of link.
I most like the Walnut used in the German Training snaffle,
but am perfectly fine with a French Link as well:
Hunter Dee Snaffle Bit $31.99
If, for some reason, I have a horse that needs a bit more strength to the bit,
I have gone to a Dr. Bristol.
The longer, flatter link definitely gives your bit more strength:
Full cheek, Eggbutt, D ring, Loose ring, all fine. I do, however, prefer the Loose Ring for suppling, once the horse is ready to learn how to connect to the bit and be supple, laterally and longitudinally.
The ring moves, making it easier to keep the horse from leaning on the bit. I do love the "Happy Mouth" bits. I always use one when I first introduce a horse to the bit.
I think the Happy Mouths are fantastic!
The horses much prefer them.
Usually, you will need to go to a metal bit, as your horse gets
further into their specific discipline education.
But, if you can stay in a Happy Mouth, your horse will certainly enjoy it!
And those of you that do not particularly like bits, but need to use
one for your horse, the Happy mouth is definitely the answer.
Happy Mouth Bits
Gentler Bits for a Happier Horse:
Happy Mouth Bits, a favorite among top trainers, is made from engineered high tech, non-toxic plastics. Extremely durable, Happy Mouth Bits are soft, gentle, and comfortable for your horse. The unique apple scent encourages acceptance and softness. The Happy mouths come in all different bit types: click here.
This is my favorite, incorporating the best of everything:
I think the Happy Mouth is less offensive to the horse for
their first impressions and understanding.
Once the horse is comfortable with the whole "carrying the bit' process,
I will usually switch over to a metal bit. I used to think that the fatter the bit, the more comfortable for the horse,
and the easier on the mouth. I would put my young or green horses into an 18 or 21 mm diameter bit. However, over my years of training, I have found that all my horses prefer a thinner bit,
I think because they prefer to have "less metal in their mouths." I now will use a 14 or 16mm diameter. That seems to make them happier. I believe strongly about riding even my upper level dressage horses,
all the way through the Grand Prix movements, in a snaffle.
(I was certainly known for that practice, during my extensive years of competition).
My horses school all the way through, in a snaffle. I only go to the Double Bridle because it is required in order to compete at the FEI Levels. I strongly believe that every FEI horse should be able to school
all to movements in a snaffle bit. On that note, if given the option in competition (3rd and 4th level in America) to ride in a Snaffle Bridle or a Double Bridle, I will almost always choose the snaffle. One reason for exception would be in order to show the Judge
that my horse is happy and willing to go in a Double Bridle.
However, even when riding in the Double, I always leave the curb rein looser than the snaffle rein, thus riding on the snaffle, rather than the curb.
One exception: if my horse is extremely exuberant
and I am doing my best just to hold them together!
(As seen here, myself competing with Hannoverian "Amantiado" at PSG)
When I do need to go to the Double Bridle, I always use a linked bradoon, and the lowest ported, shortest shanked Weymouth.
The same with western curb bits (which incidentally I refuse to ever use): the lower the port, the shorter the shank, the less aggressive the bit.
I think curb bits are mean, and horses detest them, no exception!
Back to simple snaffles:
I do not like or agree with any kind of twist, Slow or otherwise.
My western bit of choice
(or if I have a horse that absolutely has to have more bit)
is the Tom Thumb:
That is the bit I used when I advanced with my Reining horse.
The Tom Thumb is jointed, so it feels like, and has the same softer effects of a simple snaffle.
Although shanked, you can choose a very short shank, which is much less forceful.
Also, for a chin strap, you can use rubber to cover the chain,
which makes it that much less aggressive.
Speaking of chin straps, I do not use them with the snaffles, on my western horses.
I don't have any need for them.
My horses go beautifully in the bridle, without.
And that takes me back to my initial assertion: Less is more.
READ MORE ABOUT MY OPINION ON BITS UNDER
"Helpful Hints to Having a Happy and Healthy Horse"