What is a snaffle bit?

Regular viewers of televised horse racing coverage on ITV will, no doubt, that presenter Matt Chapman is very fond of saying that such-and-such horse did such-and-such ‘on the snaff’. For the uninitiated, the ‘snaff’ to which he is referring is, in fact, a snaffle bit, or a bridle incorporating such a bit, which is, unsurprisingly, known as a snaffle bridle.

Snaffle bits come in many different varieties, although the two most common types worn by racehorses are known as a ‘D-bit’ and a ‘ring bit’. Regardless of type, though, all snaffle bits share the same basic structure and the same basic action, albeit with a few subtle differences from one type to the next.

Typically, snaffle bits consist of a mouthpiece, made up of two jointed metal segments, with a large ring, to which a rein and cheek strap are attached, on each end. Snaffle bits act with direct pressure, more or less, on the bars, lips and tongue of the mouth. The bars are an area of the gums, between the front and back teeth, into which a snaffle bit should sit comfortably, if properly fitted. Generally speaking, snaffle bits are considered relatively mild, but can be made harsher, or more severe, by the addition of certain mouthpieces.