THE Cheltenham is a running gag with eggbutt bit rings, which help prevent lip pinching. It is used mostly on horses that lean on the bit or take hold. The cheek pieces of the Cheltenham gag slip through slots in the bit rings to give a clearly defined aid. The bit is recommended for use with two reins, with one set attached to the end of the cheek straps and one to the bit rings. The Cheltenham gag is most commonly seen in eventing and show jumping, when increased control is required.

Who uses it?

ERNEST Dillon FBHS, international show jumping trainer and director of equitation at Kingsbarn Equestrian Centre, gave his views on this bit.

“I like plain bits really. My bit of choice starts with a snaffle, working up to a vulcanite pelham with roundings for show jumping. However, I have used and would recommend the Cheltenham gag for cross-country riding on certain horses,” explains Ernest.

“When I was eventing, which I did to two-star level, I often used the Cheltenham, as the gag itself is only effective if the horse takes hold. It worked very well for me and my horses were always happy in it. If the horse isn’t pulling, the bit works like a snaffle, so in effect, the horse decides on whether the gag action comes into play.”

What horses does it suit?

BITTING expert Lucy Nicholas of The Saddlery Shop says the Cheltenham gag works on the horse’s lips with a resulting lifting action, hence it is useful for horses that become heavy in the hand, get excitable when competing or put their heads down to pull.

“It has similar points of control in the mouth to a snaffle, so it exerts pressure on the tongue, palate and bars of the mouth, giving a nutcracker action, as well as applying poll pressure,” she explains.

Where can I buy one?

THE Saddlery Shop stocks the Cheltenham gag for £15.99 Tel: 01409 220315

This Q&A was first published in Horse & Hound (28 June, ’07)