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7 Materials Used in Horse Bits

Metal, Rubber and Plastic Materials Used to Make Horse Bits


When you are trying to choose a bit you will quickly notice that there are many different types to choose from. In addition to different shapes of rings, shanks and mouthpieces that are designed many different ways, horse bits can be made of one, or a combination of different metals, rubber parts or plastic. Each material has its pros and cons. Here is a look at what materials are used to make bits, and why they are used.

Stainless Steel

Image: 2005 K. Blocksdorf

Bits can be made of different metals. Most commonly, bits are made of stainless steel . Stainless steel bits Compare Prices may become dull over time, but can be cleaned and polished repeatedly without worrying about ruining the finish. Stainless steel bits are strong and will last a very long time. There's no particular flavor, so most horses won't object to the flavor. Stainless steel takes a long time to warm up, and if you've ever tried to warm up a bit with your hands in the winter before putting it in your horse's mouth, you'll find it takes a very long time.

Nickle Plated

Nickle twisted wire snaffle.
Nickel plated bits Compare Pricesare less expensive than stainless steel, but over time the nickel coating has a tendency to peel and flake off exposing the material beneath, which can then rust. If you are in the consignment section of your tack shop, and you see a bit with tiny rust spots, or bumps just beneath the finish, it will probably be nickel plated. There is also a slight possibility of a horse having an allergic reaction to nickel.


Copper mouth full cheek snaffle

Bits can also be made of copper, either the whole bit, or just the mouthpiece. Copper is felt to encourage salivation, which is thought to increase the sensitivity of the horses mouth. Because the metal is softer than stainless steel, copper bits wear more quickly although this is countered by mixing in small amounts of other metals. They can also corrode. Copper bitsCompare Prices warm up more easily than stainless steel bits. This has to do with the conductivity of the metal, which is why cooks value copper cookware . Some horses may dislike the taste of a copper mouthpiece.

Sweet Iron

Sweet iron reining pelham bit

Sweet Iron is made of a mixture of iron and copper. Sweet iron bits Compare Prices look rusty onced 'seasoned', and it is the oxidization that is thought to taste sweet to the horse, and increase salivation. Only bit mouthpieces are made of sweet iron, and cheeks and joints are made most commonly of stainless steel or nickel plate.


Rubber mouth D ring jointed Snaffle

Vulcanized rubber and hard plastics are used to encase a thin core of metal on some bits. These bits are generally thicker than many metal bits. Some horses might appreciate the softer feel of a rubber or plastic mouthpiece, while others may find them an uncomfortable mouthful. You might find older plastic or rubber mouthed bits give off a funny smell which your horse might or might not notice. Many plastic mouthed bits are made with a scent thought to encourage the horse to accept the bit more readily. This may encourage some horses to chew the bit and not carry the bit quietly. Both rubber and plastic mouthed bits Compare Prices do wear over time, sometimes quite quickly, leaving rough spots or exposing the metal core. I have heard of riders complaining that their plastic bit broke, although I have not seen this personally. I have a stainless steel pelham with a fracture it, so check any bit you use periodically for cracks, wear or rough spots that could cause problems.


Gauthier Aluminum Precision Spring System Bit

While aluminum is lightweight, easy to maintain and inexpensive, it has a drying effect on the horses mouth. Quite large, ornate bits Compare Prices can be made with aluminum that would be unwieldy made in any other material. However, most horses will dislike the taste of aluminum an aluminum mouthpiece and it can cause the horse's mouth to dry out. This is opposite to the ideal moist, sensitive mouth most riders want, and may actually cause discomfort for the horse.

Combinations of Materials

Blue steel with silver tom thumb bit
The sweet iron bit is an example of a combination of metals used for bit mouthpieces. You can also find bits made of stainless steel coated or inlaid with copper, and alloys or made of a combination of copper and steel rollers. These bits are designed to encourage the horse to have a moist mouth which is felt to increase sensitivity. The shanks of many western bits are inlaid with silver, chrome, Compare Pricesblue steel or brown steel for decoration like this silver studded show bit.


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