Quarter Horse Western Curb

This chrome-plated Quarter Horse western curb bit has an almost 5” wide mouthpiece. The 2” upper shanks include one ring for both headstall and curb strap attachment while the lower shanks, with rein rings, measure 4”. Total length is 6 1/2”.

The upper shanks rise straight from their mouthpiece attachment as viewed from the front. The mouthpiece is 1/2” wide one inch in from the shanks and includes an inch-high port with a free-rolling cricket. From the side, the port angle follows the line of the upper shanks.

Mouthpiece Material: The mouthpiece is chrome-plated with a copper cricket. Chrome- plated hardware does not last as long as stainless steel; the expected life is consistent with the price of chrome vs. stainless steel.

Features: The copper cricket encourages the horse to salivate by a combination of tongue action and the taste of the copper; this creates the desirable wet mouth that is more responsive and comfortable than a dry mouth. The cricket is well-placed: It is nearly even with the surface of the bit mouthpiece to encourage the horse to run his tongue up and down it.

This is a reasonably balanced bit. You can test this by placing the mouthpiece across your palm and watching how the bit hangs. It should hang at the angle (viewed from the side) that you want it to hang in the horse’s mouth when his head is carried in working position.

While the balance is acceptable, we would prefer it hang a little more toward (but not at) the vertical. This bit’s port is designed not for tongue pressure relief but to house the cricket, so we look for the port to lie flat along the horse’s tongue. It should, based on the balance and on the fact that the port and upper shanks lie on same plane. The port is probably not high enough to touch the roof of the mouth except in a horse with a low palate.

Action: This bit is designed to be used with one hand on the reins. When rein pressure is applied, the shanks move rearward and the bit rotates in the mouth. This brings the curb strap forward and upward against the horse’s chin groove while the mouthpiece presses down on the tongue, lips, and possibly the bars of the mouth. Both reins used in this way signal a slow or stop. Use of this bit presumes the horse has been trained to neck rein — to point his nose and go in the direction of travel in response to neck pressure of the opposite rein.

Warnings: When measuring a horse for bit fit, the width of the mouthpiece is the most common measurement. However, the upper molars and cheeks of the horse are wider than this. Because the upper shanks of this bit rise straight from their attachment at the mouthpiece, this bit will only fit a horse with a narrow head. This leads to the following caution where all curb bits are concerned:

After attaching the headstall and fitting the bit so it hangs just at the corners of the horse’s mouth, check from the front to see that there is clearance between the headstall at the upper bit rings and the horse’s cheeks. If this space does not exist, the cheeks will get pinched between the bit and the molars. The horse may show his discomfort by opening his mouth or by fussing with the bit.

It is sometimes possible to fix this common curb-bit-fit problem yourself (but not with a chrome-plated bit like this, however, because the chrome might flake off). Some stainless-steel bits, on the other hand, can be bent out wider at the upper shank with a vise.

Any time the headstall and curb strap share a ring, you risk pinching the lower lips near the corners of the horse’s mouth. Try it for yourself: Compare any curb bit with a separate, more rearward, ring for the curb strap and a bit like this. The pinching problem is caused by the proximity of attachment of the curb strap to the bit mouthpiece. This is a problem no matter how carefully you adjust the curb strap; in fact, a looser curb strap will tend to pinch more.

Because the cricket takes up the tongue space that the moderate port would otherwise provide, this bit would not be comfortable for a horse with a thick tongue or with a history of tongue sensitivity.

Uses: If this bit fits the width of your horse’s head, and your communication is such that you use the reins seldom and lightly, you could use it with the softest possible curb strap. Be sure to check after every ride for lip rubs or pinches.

Legality: This bit is acceptable in western classes under both AHSA and AQHA rules. (This $15.60 bit was obtained through State Line Tack #8T-731964. 800/228-9208.)

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