Mikmar Blog

Pelham Bits

A Pelham bit is one of the more complex English bits, but as you’ll see in a moment, it can be extremely useful. A Pelham bit combines the functions of both a snaffle and a curb bit, and works with two sets of reins—one commanding each function.

The snaffle rein position, which is the upper ring, provides direct pressure, aids in lateral flexion and lifts the horses frame. The curb is the lower rein position, it aids in vertical flexion and activates the curb chain, providing leverage when needed and a more collected carriage and headset.

Why Do People Want Both?
The advantage to a Pelham bit is that it gives the rider the ability to use both a snaffle rein and curb rein simultaneously with one bit instead of a double bridle set up which uses both Bradoon and Weymouth bits together at once.  When using the Pelham bit typically the snaffle rein is utilized as the main rein and the curb rein is added for more control when needed. This bit requires that you be skilled so it does take some practice to learn to use it correctly. Once educated it is a wonderful tool of communication. 

The Mikmar Pelhams
The Mikmar Pelhams combine classic cheek pieces made of high quality stainless steel, and lightweight mouthpieces made of Mikmars special alloy, giving you the perfect Pelham. There are two cheek lengths, four or five inches and four mouthpieces to choose from, solid/straight, slanted/straight, jointed and jointed/slanted.  Each Mikmar Pelham provides the rider superior communication and the ability to finesse the ride being soft or firm at any given moment. It is a favorite English horse bit that's not only stylish but effective for both the show ring and training. Popular for Equitation, both Show and Field Hunters, and Jumper riders.

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Learn More About Snaffle Bits

Horse people love to talk bits and bitting. One subject sure to come up is Snaffle bits, they are among the most commonly used type of horse bits on the market today.

In the past most folks referred to snaffle bits as having a only single-jointed mouthpiece. But today the double- jointed version is popular and with good reason. Double-jointed mouthpieces eliminate the undesirable, pinching and "nutcracker action" often associated with bit evasion and defensive behaviors. The connection between horse and rider is different with snaffle bits than other designs. They relay information from the riders hands to the horse's mouth without the use of leverage.

How Snaffle Bits Work
The snaffle bit works through direct pressure to the horses tongue, bars, lips and jaw areas. It offers a mouthpiece connected to two side cheeks. The cheeks may vary in shape, size and amount of pressure they give. The cheek designs are also often associated with different riding disciplines.

Types and Variations of Snaffles
D Ring, Loose Ring, Egg butt, with lozenge, link, twisted mouthpieces made of steel, copper, and sweet iron metals… The types of snaffle bits out there seem to go on and on! The Loose Ring, for example, allows both the bit and the reins to pivot freely, which many riders like. It encourages the horse to mouth and engage the bit which in turn enhances the horse’s willingness to listen to what the bit is telling them. The Egg butt snaffle offers a thick, softer connection at the mouthpiece making it gentler and easy for the horse to wear.  

Another type of snaffle that is common is the Full Cheek snaffle bit, which has a straight bar on either cheek. This is great for keeping the bit centered in the horses mouth and gives a clear signal of direction.

Using a Full Cheek snaffle bit adds emphasis to your direct reining. When you pull on the right rein, for example, the signal transmits to the horse by pulling on the right side of their mouth and the left cheek bar puts pressure on their left cheek. It’s a wonderful communication aid. Be sure to use keepers with a Full cheek snaffle bit to help the bit stay in the correct position in the horse’s mouth.

Short Shank Snaffle Bit
Any bit with a shank on it is, by definitions not a snaffle bit because it employs leverage in its movement. But Mikmar has designed the Flexion Combination Bit, a short shank snaffle bit that offers both a snaffle style mouthpiece and mild leverage options in one bit. This double-jointed, slanted/low port version of the original Mikmar solid style affords the rider a softer more lateral connection when using a leverage bit. It also utilizes a nose rope that disperses pressure to four areas on the horses head. The nose, mouth, chin and poll. This short shank snaffle style bit is versatile with different options for feel and function for all disciplines.

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Overview of the Different Types of Horse Bits

The bit that you choose to place in your horse’s mouth is probably the most important piece of tack you’ll own. It is the primary way you communicate your instructions to the horse and its fit and function deeply impacts how your horse responds to you. Your horse’s bit needs to fit well and transmit your wishes clearly without causing discomfort or pain.

A horse’s head is our steering wheel when we’re riding it. As long as humans have been riding horses, we’ve put bridles and bits on them. From simple rope tied around the horse’s lower jaw to ancient Roman and Chinese bits that look surprisingly like some of the bits we use today, equestrians over the centuries have spent a lot of time developing bits that work well for both horse and rider. 

What Kind of Bits Are There?
There are a huge number of detailed bit designs out there, but really only two types of mouthpieces in different types of horse bits:  

  1. bits where the mouthpiece is without joints, and
  2. bits with joints.

The cheek pieces vary from short to long, and what kind of pressure they exert. 

What Do They Do?
A bit communicates your signals to the horse by putting pressure directly on their mouth. It rests over their tongue and across the bars of their lower jaw (the space where there are no teeth), and is attached to the reins at the cheeks. Over the years, bit design has improved. Through a combination of engineering skill and common sense, what used to be a simple metal structure can now transmit your commands to your horse with much more precision.

Here’s how it works. There are four places on a horse’s head that a well-designed bit can send signals to via pressure on the reins:

  • Mouth: The mouth is, of course, the main place horse bits deliver pressure. The bit runs through the mouth and the cheek pieces connect to the reins. If you tug on your reins even gently, the horse will feel it.
  • Nose: A strap across the horse’s nose that tightens when you pull on the reins helps send your signal to the horse also.
  • Chin: Similarly, a strap or chain that runs under the horse’s chin and tightens when you pull on the reins is a source of guidance.
  • Poll: The poll is a sensitive place at the top of a horse’s neck vertebrae. It is located behind their ears, where a bridle sits naturally. Clever bit engineering allows a rider to signal a horse at the poll as well as the other areas. Click here to see a type of horse bit specifically designed to put pressure on the poll when you tighten the reins.

Mikmar horse bits put even pressure on all four of these places when you send a command through the reins. Pressure in four places gets and keeps the horse’s attention while avoiding the possibility of too much pressure in one place. 

Why Are They So Complicated?
Too much pressure on a horse’s mouth can hurt them. It can break the skin or make sores on their mouth, make them jumpy or bad-tempered, and over time it can leave a horse with a tough mouth where they pretty much just ignore their rider. Pressure on only their nose and chin (like a hackamore) isn’t a strong enough signal for many horses. And pressure at the poll should be done in moderation, since that is a sensitive spot on most horses.

Even pressure between those four points is the right balance of communication.

There are two basic types of mouthpieces in horse bits, unjointed and jointed. And a well-designed bit won’t just pull on a horse’s mouth, it will send your commands to your horse.

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