Bits for Icelandic Horses can be a simple or a complex subject. If you understand
the anatomy of the horse's mouth, particularly the low palate of the Icelandic Horse / Pony, it may
be less complex. If you understand the mechanics of bits, it will be much simpler.
We are here to educate Icelandic Horse owners about tack used on their Icelandic Ponies, so
that riders, owners, and horses are happier.
By Brandon Carpenter
Just a bit about bits...
Often there is much confusion about what a snaffle or curb bit is.
A snaffle bit and a curb bit are not defined by the mouthpiece they
have. They are defined by how the pressure on the mouthpiece is
A snaffle bit is one that operates off of direct pressure. It does not
have leverage of any kind. This bit can have a variety of mouthpieces
(ports) ie. broken, twisted, solid or a mixed variety thereof.
When you put any of the mouthpieces together with leverage it then
becomes a curb bit. The shanks and or purchase on the bit will define
the mouthpiece as curb. Also most curb bits are used with a curb
strap for additional leverage.
Look at the design; will it create poll pressure or leverage pressure
in the mouth or both?
A Tom Thumb is a curb bit because of the shanks. Take the shanks off
and put a D ring on and it becomes a snaffle.
Some bits such as the Wonder bit can do either. When reins are hooked
into the ring, it is a snaffle bit (direct pressure). When reins are
hooked into the small shanks it then becomes a gag bit that works on
I do not care for a simple broken ring snaffle for most folks because
of the reasons Elva gave. Elva you are exactly right with the action
of the port. Nutcrackering and breaking to apply pressure to the bars
and palate can cause behavioral problems let alone physical damage in
the wrong hands. The horses mouth should be the first consideration in
choosing what to hang on its head.
With that said, in the right hands any bit including a spade bit can
be used effectively without the horse reacting to the bit. At this
point it is a tool of horsemanship on the part of the handler. It is
not a device for communication. It simply shows how soft hands the
rider has. It defines the skill level and is not about the horse in
The majority of people do not have the skill to use such bits.
I just thought some definitions should be brought up for any new folks
on the list.
Editorial comment: Icelandic Bits are quite severe; the dicotomy being that they should only
be used by knowledgeable horsemen.... but knowledgeable horsemen have no need for an