Snaffles are the most widely used bits on the market, but what is the difference between a loose ring and an eggbutt and which horses do they suit best? Stephanie Bateman finds out

Eggbutt snaffle (above)

How does it work?

“The traditional eggbutt snaffle tends to have a straight-arm, single-jointed mouthpiece and is designed to give stability for the horse to stretch forwards and down,” explains Gail Johnson from Horse Bit Hire. “The mouthpiece is designed to act on the outer edges of the tongue with a squeezing action and provide control.”

What impact does it have on the horse?

With a mullen mouth eggbutt, both the mouthpiece and the cheek are designed to encourage the horse to stretch forwards into the contact. “However, there can then be issues with leaning and reduced control,” advises Gail. “An exception to this is the Myler mullen eggbutt which has the added advantage of independent side action due to the central barrel, meaning the rider can lift each side creating less of a rigid shape for the horse to fix onto.”

What sort of horse does it suit?

“An eggbutt cheek is often a good choice for a sensitive horse that needs the stability it provides to encourage him to confidently stretch into the bit,” Gail says. “Eggbutt cheeks are also a great choice for horses with lips that protrude from the face, as you can get a good snug fit without the risk of rubbing.” Grand prix dressage rider Stef Eardley adds: “The eggbutt can be easier to steer with than a loose-ring as the fixed bar action on the sides of the mouth are more precise.”

Loose-ring snaffle

Loose-ring snaffle

How does it work?

“The loose-ring is widely seen as the most popular cheek across all brands and designs,” says Gail. “It has more movement than an eggbutt as the mouthpiece isn’t fixed meaning there isn’t a fixed pressure on the tongue. The loose-ring is available in a variety of different diameters; the largest has the least chance of pulling through the mouth and is often used in racing, and the smallest have traditionally been used as the bridoon part of a double bridle.”

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What impact does it have on the horse?

Due to the ring being able to slide through the mouthpiece, the rider’s rein aid is not as direct as the eggbutt. This can also mean that there is more movement in the mouth, which can be distracting or uncomfortable for certain horses. Correct fitting of loose-rings is important to ensure the rings don’t pinch the side of the horse’s cheek.

What sort of horse does it suit best?

This bit would best suit horses who are established being ridden into the contact and aren’t fussy in the mouth. “A loose-ring can suit a stronger horse as it gives more control than a fixed eggbutt,” says Gail. “It is also more suitable for a horse that may fix or lean onto a fixed ring.”