Pelham Bit Appearance:
The pelham bit can have a solid or jointed mouthpiece. There is a larger ring directly connected to the mouthpiece on to which the 'snaffle reins' attach, and shanks that extend down terminating in rings on which 'curb reins' attach. Because the pelham bit has leverage action a curb chain or strap loops under the horse's chin to prevent the bit from rotating too far and also providing another pressure point. A small 'lip strap' on this bit prevents the horse from trying to nibble at the shanks.
Pelham Bit Uses:
The pelham bit is often used for schooling and general riding, providing the rider is knowledgeable about using a curb bit and riding with double reins. An English Pelham bit somewhat mimics the action of the bridoon (small snaffle bit) and weymouth (curb) bit combination used on a 'double bridle'. A Pelham may be used when a horse can not hold the two bits comfortably, or for convenience.
How A Pelham Bit Works:
The Pelham provides a somewhat muted effect of the bridoon/Weymouth combination. With curb rein the rider is able to lower the head and this is useful when schooling and encouraging proper head carriage. Activating the curb rein puts pressure on the bars of the mouth, chin, poll and if there is a port, the roof of the mouth.
With the snaffle rein the rider is able to lift the horse's head. As will all English snaffles the pressure will be on the bars of the mouth. For general riding, the rider would be most likely to ride on the snaffle rein, using only the curb rein when necessary. This requires steady knowledgeable hands.
Sometimes, if a horse is a hard puller, the curb and snaffle rings will be connected by a leather adapter (also called converters or roundings) so that only one rein is connected to the center of the adapter. These activate both snaffle and curb actions of the pelham. When using two reins the rider can position the horse's head.
For training that requires very refined response to the bit aids, such as advanced dressage, the Pelham is not as effective.