Choosing the right bit: would a hanging cheek snaffle suit my horse?

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  • If you’re considering a hanging cheek snaffle bit for your horse, then read a bitting expert’s view on how it works and what types of horse it best suits

    How does a hanging cheek snaffle work?

    “There is a lot of misinformation about the action of the hanging cheek,” says Horse Bit Hire’s Gail Johnson. “I do a lot of bit testing and fitting, and I’ve found that this type of bit doesn’t produce the poll pressure it is typically marketed to.

    “The cheek pieces fasten onto the top loop and the reins onto the lower. When rein pressure is applied, the top part of the cheek tilts and the cheek pieces often become baggy and bulge away from the face, which raises the question — is any poll pressure being applied?”

    Ema Odlin from The Horse Bit Shop agrees: “When you put pressure on a hanging cheek piece, the cheek pieces go loose so it’s impossible for it to put pressure down the bridle track over the poll because the cheek pieces are loose.”

    Gail adds, “People often say that their horse won’t accept a hanging cheek due to the poll pressure — my thoughts are that not all horses are happy with a hanging cheek because of the increased central tongue pressure caused by the mouthpiece tilting when rein pressure is applied, or that the mouthpiece choice isn’t right.

    “This type of bit 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.”

    Bitting expert, BETA field officer and lorinery consultant Tricia Nassau-Williams says: “Being a snaffle, it will act upon the horse’s lips, tongue and bars, generally encouraging an upwards action.”

    What sort of horse does a hanging cheek bit suit?

    “Horses can sometimes over-bend in this type of cheek, so I wouldn’t generally use this bit on a horse with a tendency to tuck behind the vertical,” says Gail.

    Dressage rider and BHSII Stef Eardley says: “I would use this type of bit for a horse that is unstable in the contact as I find it to be a fairly fixed bit and so a fussy horse may settle well onto it.”

    Ema adds: “When you put pressure on the rein, it lifts the bit in the mouth, which is why I find that the hanging cheek is better for sensitive horses who don’t like a lot of tongue pressure.”

    Tricia says: “This bit is useful for horses that prefer mouthpieces supported off the tongue, and also for horses with a lower palate and those who benefit from the stability of the mouthpiece and side support from the cheeks.”

    Hanging cheek bits

    Shires Hanging Cheek Snaffle

    Shires Hanging Cheek Snaffles

    Sizes: 4½–6in | RRP: From £20.99 |

    The links in bold below will take you to the standard, single-jointed hanging cheek snaffle, but Shires also make…

    In the UK? View now at amazon.co.uk, viovet.co.uk, equus.co.uk, rideawaystore.com or naylors.com

    Sprenger KK Ultra Baucher Bit

    Sprenger KK Ultra Baucher Bit

    Sizes: 4½–5¾in | RRP: £200 |

    In the UK? View now at viovet.co.uk or equus.co.uk

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