Horse Training Bit


Sign Up Today!

If your horse is buddy sour or won't speed up, slow down, or pick up its leads, you missed the latest training methods from John & Josh Lyons. Sign up here to get step-by-step lessons emailed every month free.


Note: We will not sell you out to spammers.

From John Lyons Trainer Keith Hosman


Trailer Training Horses [Downloadable PDF version]
A Downloadable Book

A sample from Day 3:

Back in the safe zone, some distance from the trailer, we'll tap until the horse moves some part of his body forward. As before, pawing, sniffing and leaning are all signs that he's thinking about it. Quit tapping when he paws, for instance, but use common sense here: If your horse is just pawing and you've found yourself in a stalemate, then increase your taps and irritate him more. Resist the urge to give him a good whack - that'll only teach him that he was right to be scared the whole time. Worse, he'll soon learn that he can survive the pain and you've got to hit him harder. It's a downward spiral from there. "Be the fly" and move your horse gradually to a point where he's standing looking in on the right side and you are behind the closed left door.

- Print out from home
- 5 Days, 5 chapters
- Learn at your own pace

Just $5.99

For more info:
this course | all courses

Available Downloads:
"Stop Bucking"
"Rein/Speed" (for Nervous Horse Owners)
"Round Pen First Steps"
"Trailer Training"
"Your Foal: Essential Training"


clinic infowhat people say about our clinicsshop online
browse article archiveperuse articles from outside writersfind training by relevant topicsee past issues of the newsletterhorse training courseslisten to training audio clipswatch free horse training video clips

The Snaffle Bit vs The Shank Bit

By Keith Hosman and by Josh Lyons

Tell A Friend (Click to send them an email)

Print This Article for Free
(This is a large file and it might take a moment to load. Note: The article might be paired with another.)

See Complete List of Horse-Training Articles

See related articles & products

Link to this Article (Click for code and instructions)

Find this article faster next time:  



The Snaffle Bit vs The Shank Bit

The snaffle bit allows me to work my horse's head from side to side and to get him to begin to utilize his neck. With a snaffle bit, if I pick up the reins and I putt ten pounds of pressure on the rein, that's exactly what the horse feels, ten pounds of pressure. It's pound for pound. If I pull a pound here he feels a pound there. With a leverage bit, if I pull 1 pound he feels 10 pounds down there. That's a big difference. When I train my horses, I predominantly use a full cheek snaffle bit. Should you ever use a shank bit? Yes, simply because shank bits are often required in the show arena.

A leverage bit gives me the feeling of having more control than I actually have. But, in fact, the leverage (or shank) bit doesn't give me any more control than any other bit. If I have to pull 5 pounds to stop my horse on that bit, I still have to put 5 pounds on this bit. Except I'm only pulling about a pound's worth because a pound from me feels like ten down there due to the leverage created. It makes me feel like I have more control. It makes me feel like the horse is softer and more responsive, But if I allow him to, the horse will soon begin pulling on the shank bit - just as he would any snaffle bit.

A leverage bit will allow me to teach him to keep his head straight and break at the poll - but that's about all I'm going to be doing. I do use a leverage bit, if I want to work on keeping horse's head in position or to keep him square between the reins. But while the bit might be keeping his head correct, it's my body, my seat that's telling him where to go. For instance, if I were riding toward you and I tell the horse to take his hips to the left and his shoulders to the right or the left, then it's my body that's telling the horse how to move, not the bit. The bit is just keeping him "in frame."

The reason then that I don't train in a curb or leverage bit is that I can't work the horse side to side; I can't work him vertically and I have no way to correct him. If I'm using a leveraged bit and the horse doesn't move off my leg, I'm not able to pull his head off to the side and correct him. All he feels when I put pressure on the reins is pressure on both sides of his face and he'd simply keep driving his head down.

Regarding types of snaffle bits: It makes no difference what specific kind of snaffle bit you use. You can use an O-ring or D-ring or full cheek. If it's an O- or D-ring, use a chin strap to keep it from pulling through the horse's mouth if you were to pull and it was to open it's mouth too wide.

Some horses will panic when they first feel that sort of pressure. So in that respect, a snaffle bit will actually get a horse to calm down faster because the bit doesn't scare them. You may want to work with a shank bit occasionally so that when (or if) you show your horse it doesn't panic from the pressure. It's a different type of pressure because it applies pressure at different points of the horse's head. It's also more severe because of the leveraged effect. With a snaffle but you can pull like crazy and the horse will just lay on it. But, if you were to get a horse light in a snaffle bit, then put a leverage bit in their mouth, the horse is much more sensitive. It gives you a little extra edge in the show ring - in your stops for instance


Read previous article: How Long You Should Ride

Read next article: Horses That Pull Back or Won't Stand Tied

See Complete List of How-To Articles


   Meet the author:  

Keith Hosman
John & Josh Lyons Certified
Clinician and Trainer

Utopia, TX (Hill Country of San Antonio)

Keith Hosman is based in San Antonio, TX and is available for clinics, lessons and training. He frequently travels to Los Angeles, CA and Kansas City, MO where he partners with fellow clinician Patrick Benson for clinics and demonstrations. You can find him on Google+ and Reddit



   Meet the author:  

Josh Lyons
Clinician and Trainer

Cross Plains, TN

Josh Lyons inherited his father's stamina, patience, and talent for getting positive results from both horses and people. As Josh says, "Knowledge and patience are the only tools that you need to bring with you into your barn."�Josh currently trains out of his ranch in Cross Plains, TN.


Related Products and Articles

To see articles and training products related to the article you just read, see the following topics:

Bits - Snaffle
Bits - the Right Bit
Curb Bit - also see Leverage or Shank Bits
Mixed Signals
Snaffle - see Bit-Snaffle
Tacking and Untacking
Yield to Pressure

See over 300 equestrian-related training topics


Related Letters

See related Questions & Answers (letters from readers like you)


back to top


Disclaimer: Equine training can be a hazardous activity which may subject the participants to possible serious injury. Keith Hosman, his associates, and other trainers listed on this site will not assume any liability for your activities. Our newsletter, books and videos provide general information, instruction and techniques that may not be suitable for everyone. No warranty is given regarding the suitability of this information, the instructions, and techniques to you or other individuals acting under your instructions.

All Rights Reserved (C) 2014,
No part of this website, including newsletter material and photos, may be reproduced without our express written permission.

Get the performance and relationship with your horse you desire. We'll automatically let you know when a clinic's coming to your area when you sign up for our free training newsletter, (upper-left sidebar, this page).




Lyons Training 101: Issue Two, Part 2
"Horse Training Bit: Snaffle Bits vs Shank or Leverage Bits"
bookmark for more info


Listen to Josh Lyons

Click Josh's picture to play
"Nervous Horses"

Nervous Horses

Note: Audio clips are large files and may take several moments to load.

Read Josh's bio
Hear all clips

Josh Lyons Teaching Series

• 5 comprehensive DVDs
• From Foal Handling to Teaching Tricks
• From Spins & Shoulder Control to Lead Changes, Sliding Stops and Rollbacks
• The 5 DVDs in this training collection are sold together or separately
see more


Buy now







Keith Hosman on Amazon
RSS feed
Share on Google+