Bit Guide 101: Everything You Need to Know About Leverage Bits

Horse Tack

Hey there horse people! We’ve all heard the phrase “communication is key” right? Well, it doesn’t just apply to humans. It also applies to our horses! Like people, horses also have their own unique language for communication. I think it’s safe to say we all know ‘that look’ they have when they want a peppermint!

And when we are riding, having a clear way to communicate is even more important. Hearing the horse’s thoughts through the bit is an amazing feeling, but it can only happen with the right bitting setup.


In today’s post, we want to deep dive into the world of leverage bits.  From a basic kimberwick to a more intense hackamore gag combination, we know there is a happy medium for every horse and rider. At Equine Outfitters LLC, we have a large variety of leverage bits in stock for all levels. Today we will be showcasing some of our most popular leverage bits, how they work, and help determine which bit is right for you.

What is the purpose of a leverage bit?


The purpose of leverage bits is to allow for more sophisticated ques with varying degrees of pressure. Commonly called curb bits, leverage bits operate with a higher amount of torque than the standard snaffle bit.


How do leverage bits work?


Leverage bits have a different anatomy that allows for precise communication between the rider’s hands to the horse’s mouth. First, leverage bits generally have two connection points for the reins. One rein is attached at the standard snaffle ring, and a second rein lower on the shank. Second, leverage bits generally have a strap or curb-chain underneath the horse’s chin. When the curb rein is activated, the shank rotates, putting pressure on the chin strap. If the bit also has a ring above the snaffle rein that the bridle connects to, pressure can also be applied on the horse’s poll. This design is useful for encouraging the horse to shift weight to the hindquarters and lift the front end.


What is the difference between a snaffle and leverage bit?


Snaffle bits are designed to have direct contact with the horse’s mouth. Meaning, however much pressure you apply will be the same in your horse’s mouth. With the design of the leverage bit, the shank rotates when pressure is applied, which increases the pressure ratio.


Snaffle bits have 1:1 pressure ratio, which means all pressure applied is directly and evenly felt on the horse’s mouth. For leverage bits, that ratio is increased by two factors; how long the shank is, and how much pressure is applied.

When should leverage bits be used?


Because of the design, these bits are not for beginners or green horses that are still learning contact. Leverage bits are designed for precise communication between educated riders and horses. In the wrong hands, they can inflict pain on horses and damage the mouth. This is why we strongly recommend only using these bits if you have experience with them or are under the watchful eye of a professional.


The beauty of leverage bits is that most have two reins. Used together, you can mainly focus on the snaffle rein, and reinforce the cues with the curb rein when needed. This combination is great for reinforcing the half halt, bringing the haunches underneath, and supporting tight turns. These bits are also great for horses that tend to get stronger in the bridle amidst the show excitement, and benefit from having a stronger connection.

Types of leverage bits


Leverage bits come in many different levels of intensity, sizes, and purposes. It can be confusing trying to find the best option for your horse, so today we want to walk you through the most common types of leverage bits. We will primarily focus on pelham bits, gags, and elevator bits.

Pelham Bits


Commonly seen in the Hunter ring, pelham bits are a basic type of leverage bit. These bits have two spaces for a snaffle and curb rein, along with a curb chain cradling the chin. Unlike other leverage bits, pelhams don’t apply much pressure to the poll. This makes them a great option for horses that are sensitive to poll pressure but respond well to pressure from the curb rein. The beauty of the pelham bit is you may ride with both reins, or use converters that attach to both rings for a milder mix of pressure.


For a gentle pelham option, we have the Trust Inno Sense Medium Port Pelham. This bit has a mild curve to the poly mouthpiece, along with a shorter shank (sometimes called Tom Thumb), making this a very comfortable and friendly pelham bit.


For horses with a lower palate that benefit from a gentle bit, we have the Equikind Peanut Link Pelham. The three-piece mouthpiece is great for avoiding the nut-cracker effect of single joints, while providing leverage with a medium length shank.


For horses that benefit from a more secure contact, the Blue Alloy Pelham is a great choice. This bit is also a three-piece mouthpiece, but it has a longer shank. The longer shank is great for more refinement of the aids and encourages the horse to respond softer to the bit. The blue alloy creates a rusting effect and encourages bit acceptance while the brass peanut encourages relaxation.


Don’t forget the accessories! For pelhams, you’ll either need a pelham rein or bit converters. While most pelham bits come with a curb chain and hooks, if you find you are still in need of one, we offers those separately too.


Gag and Elevator Bits


Gags and elevator bits are the other popular category of leverage bits. Despite their name, these bits are an excellent tool for precise communication. The design of these bits is different than the pelham and they are constructed to apply not only leverage, but poll pressure as well. For gags and elevator bits, you will see two main variations: bits with leverage rings, or bits with cords running through the bits. In this section, we will be reviewing the two main variations of the gag and elevator bits.


First, we have the elevator bits with leverage rings. Both of these bits allow for the riders to have two reins (similar to the pelham) but the design applies more pressure on the poll. These bits are generally seen with either two or three rings so the rider can choose which amount of leverage they’re seeking. The design of the poll pressure is to provide lateral stability, while encouraging the horse to soften to the bit and engage the hindquarters. For riders seeking the bit on the left with two rings, often called the Universal, that bit can be found here. For riders seeking better control while keeping a soft feeling, the bit on the right, called a 3-ring or Continental Gag can be found here.


The second type of gag bit has a cord that runs through spaces in the top and bottom of the snaffle ring, and to the chin strap. This allows for focused pressure on the poll and chin without using too much leverage. With the multiple points of contact, these bits are great for strong, hotter horses that need help focusing on the rider’s aids.

The first curbgag bit is the Trust Curbgag Inno Sense Flexi Soft. This bit has all the benefits of the gag, but with a very comfortable mouthpiece. The trust Inno Sense polymer is a flexible mouthpiece offering a softer feel in the mouth. This bit is perfect for the horses that respond well to multiple points of contact but appreciate a “giving” mouthpiece.


The second curbgag bit is the Trust Curbgag Blue SI Waterford. This bit has the same design and action as the first gag bit, but with a different mouthpiece. The waterford mouthpiece consists of several flexible rounded links. The purpose of this mouthpiece is to keep the horse from taking hold of the bit. This is great for riders that have difficulty keeping control of the horse during competition.

Leverage bits are an extremely versatile category of bits with a wide variety of benefits. Used correctly, these bits can help your connection, encourage the horse to use their body better, while allowing the rider to remain soft and tactful. We enjoyed deep diving into some of the different leverage bit types along with their individual purposes.  If you are considering a leverage bit, please reach out to our experts at Equine Outfitters LLC and let us help answer your questions. We have over 1,000 new bits in stock and look forward to helping you.