Talk About Tack: Which Bit To Use– The Myler MB33 Or MB36 Logo

Question: Dear Julie: I’ve been watching your show for some time now and can’t tell you how much I appreciate you! I’ve learned more from you than from a year of English riding lessons! Sad, but true. I have a question about Myler Bits and before I go on I should tell you I have consulted Dale Myler about bit selection through the Bit Assistant web site at, but am interested in hearing your opinion, too. I’ve noticed on quite a few shows you’ve switched the horse’s bit to a MB 36. Can you tell what your experience has been with working with the MB 36 and MB 33. In particular, I was wondering how you would make the determination of which bit you would use, the MB 36 or the MB 33 Myler Bit. I know more information is needed to make a decision for me and my horse. But if possible, I’d like to hear what your experience “in general” has been with both bits, MB 36 and MB33. PS… I have your ENTIRE riding series, bit basics and many DVDs of your past shows. Heck, I’m on a first name basis with Brenda in your office….LOL Thank you so very much for your dedication to your fans! Mary Jane

Answer: Hi Mary Jane, Thanks for your loyal support!! Glad you are getting so much from the show. Check out for info about all the Myler bits and links to know where to find them. In short, the number 36 mouthpiece is designed with a curved mouthpiece with upward curve and jointed barrel in center. The entire mouthpiece is tilted forward. This mouthpiece comes into play when the horse is not relaxed at the poll, at that time it restricts the tongue and puts downward pressure on the bars. Once the horse is relaxed at the poll the pressure comes off the tongue and works off the bars. This mouthpiece offers independent side movement and is a good choice for bending and lifting a horse who gets behind the bit. The MB 33 also has a curved mouthpiece with upward curve and jointed barrel in centre. This mouthpiece puts downward pressure on the bars without collapsing on them and has no tongue pressure. It may exert some palate pressure on a horse with a low palate and also has independent side movement. This is a good choice for a stiff horse with little bend. On the show, I tend to switch to the 33 if the training of both horse and rider warrant it. I default to the 36 when the horse is well trained but the rider is not getting the horse to frame up like she should. Sometimes it’s the horse that needs a little extra motivation; sometimes it’s because the rider is not insistent enough with her hands. I hope that helps! Thanks for watching! Julie Copyright ©Julie Goodnight 2000. All Rights Reserved. No part of this website may be reproduced without owner’s express consent.

Talk About Tack: What Is The Right Bit? Logo

Question: We purchased a large pony nearly 6 months ago. When we purchased him, he was being ridden in a tom thumb bit and shook his head a lot to avoid it. We changed him to a D snaffle bit and all he wanted to do is pull on the reins. Quite often resulting in my daughter being pulled out of the saddle. And he stumbled a lot since he was focused on the bit and not on where he was going. Very dangerous. We just recently changed his bit again and have been riding him in a kimberwick bit and it is working a lot better. He pulls only once in a while and not nearly as hard now. And his stumbling problem has disappeared as well. We like to ride him English and western and wondered what bit you would suggest riding him in for western disciplines? Thank you so much for your time and advice!

Much Appreciation,

Answer: Melinda,

The description you give of your horse’s reaction to the various bits you have used is extremely typical. I have talked about it in clinics and expos a lot and there are articles in my training library on the subject.

The Tom Thumb bit is quite harsh and uncomfortable for the horse and almost always leads to gaping of the mouth, head tossing, rooting and head shaking. Occasionally I see horses that do just fine with a Tom Thumb (which is also called a western snaffle but it is not a snaffle—it is a curb bit, with shanks, a curb strap and a jointed mouthpiece); but many horses struggle with that bit.

The snaffle tends to make horses want to lean on it and pull on the reins, which makes the horse very heavy on the forehand and not much fun at all to ride, as you have seen. The kimberwick bit is a hybrid between a snaffle and a curb bit and the slight leverage it provides is probably making it easier for you to lift your horse’s forehand. If you are unsure of the difference between a curb (leverage bit) or a snaffle (direct pressure bit) do some research in my training library.

Myler bits are the only bits I’ve used for the past couple decades and there are many different Myler bits I would use based on the horse’s needs. I carry 8-10 bridles with me to clinics and expos so that when I see a problem that can be helped by changing bits, I am armed with the tools I need. For a look at my favorite Myler bits, along with a description of the type of horse I would use it on, click here.

For your horse, based on the basic info you gave me, I’d probably recommend a Myler 04 mouthpiece with a short shank (The HBT shank). It gives a little relief of pressure off of the tongue and does not collapse or pinch (which will help prevent the leaning and other evasive actions); the short shanks give you just enough leverage to help lift the horse’s shoulders. I’d start with a leather curb strap and work up to a chain curb if you need more brakes.

Good riding!

Copyright ©Julie Goodnight 2000. All Rights Reserved. No part of this website may be reproduced without owner’s express consent.

Talk About Tack: Understanding Bits– Tom Thumb Logo

Question Category: Talk about Tack

Question: Ms Goodnight:

We always come and see your seminars at Equine affair in Ohio. Last year I really enjoyed your discussion about balance and position I took good notes which I still refer to I know this is an old question but I am a novice rider I purchased a new horse I got him through a friend because the horse has been let go by an owner who was a young girl who got herself into trouble and the horse was basically left in the pasture for the last 4 years I took him over and started to take good care of him. He has had WP training and took him to a trainer who I sometimes take lessons from, he thought he would be good enough to ride in the open shows. I am a novice rider and so just starting out. The horse is very quiet and just goes with the flow and not caused me one bit of problems so far in the two weeks I have had him shots, shoeing, worming and yes even trimming his ears without a twitch, and he actually loaded in the trailer without much trouble.

Now to the point:
He is a 8 year old gelding and being rode in a Tom Thumb he does not want to keep his level and wants to back up without asking him I am starting to show in WP classes with him and I think the Tom thumb bit is at least part of our problem and also he has not been ridden regularly in 4 years and a novice rider I probably blown the last 4 classes only due to his head set, and when trying ask him to lower his head by bumping on the bit it just goes higher. I think he hates the bit. Any ideas? Maybe because I have to ride one handed with a tom thumb in the classes maybe being novice maybe it’s the bit? His Job is going to do some WP classes. Do you think the bit could be part of the problem?

If so what one handed bit would you suggest that would still give me some stop? We also want to go on some trail rides. So far I just love him. Thanks in advance for your help and hope to see you in Ohio’s Equine Affaire.


Answer: Dear Dave,

The Tom Thumb bit is undoubtedly a big problem with your horse. It is one of the most commonly misunderstood bits. People tend to think that because it is a jointed bit that it is mild. Many people confuse it with a snaffle (sometimes it is even called a Western Snaffle) because of the joint in the middle of the mouthpiece. However, it is not a snaffle at all.

There are basically two classifications of bits: direct pressure and leverage. Direct pressure bits are what we commonly refer to as snaffles and the reins are attached directly opposite the mouthpiece, causing a direct (pound for pound)pull on the horse’s mouth from the rider’s hands. Most, but not all, snaffles are jointed in the middle and they can be very mild. However, there are some very harsh snaffles on the market as well.
A leverage bit has shanks (bars running alongside the horse’s mouth) and a curb strap (or chain), like the Tom Thumb, and the reins are attached below the mouthpiece. There is not direct pressure but leveraged pressure on the horse’s mouth. A leverage bit (commonly referred to as a Curb bit) can apply pressure to the horse’s lips, tongue and bars; as well as the poll, chin and palate.

As I said, people often confuse the Tom Thumb with a mild bit when in fact it is quite harsh. Whenever you pick up on the reins, two things happen to your horse’s mouth with the Tom Thumb. The joint pokes up into the horse’s mouth and the sides of the bit collapse onto the horse’s jaw in a motion known as the “nutcracker effect.” Both of these harsh actions will cause the horse to throw his head up (to escape the palate pressure) and gape his mouth open (to avoid the nutcracker effect).

It sounds like you have a nice horse that just needs a little schooling in a different bit. I would recommend two things to you. First, get a mild snaffle and work the horse at home, for some time, in the snaffle. It is only with two-handed riding in a mild bit that you can really school the horse to drop his head and relax into the frame.

Secondly, for your curb bit, I would look at some reining bits, my favorites are made by Myler Bits. The jointed mouthpiece is nice and mild if it is designed in such a way to eliminate the two harsh actions. Many jointed curb bits are made with a little tube across the joint which both prevents it from poking the horse’s palate and also keeps the sides from collapsing on itself.

I would also try to find a bit made of sweet iron with copper inlays and, as most Myler’s are, maybe even some sort on roller for the horse to play with. This encourages the horse to accept the bit and play with it, which in turn causes him to salivate and insulate the bit in his mouth. A horse is only relaxed when his jaws are loose and moving, so any bit that encourages the horse to lick and play with the bit will help him stay relaxed. A regular curb bit with a mild port (the hump in the middle of the mouthpiece that gives the horse tongue relief) would be much milder on your horse than the Tom Thumb.

There are literally thousands of bits on the market and some are great bits and many are horrible torture devices that ought to be illegal. It really helps to understand how bits work on the horse’s mouth and head and what makes them mild or harsh. Diameter and texture are two important factors that can make a bit mild or harsh. The wider the diameter and the smoother the mouthpiece, the milder the bit. Conversely, a narrow mouthpiece with any kind of texture (twists, bumps, chains) is very harsh. The same concepts for mildness or harshness of diameter and texture apply to your curb strap and any nose band (e.g., a leather curb strap is much milder than a curb chain).

Two more very important concepts to consider about bits: first, no bit will fix a training problem. Only training will fix a training problem and a very common mistake that people make is to put a horse into a harsher bit when they start having problems. The reason why this doesn’t work is that chances are, at least part of the problem is that the horse is concerned about his mouth (which is pretty much all that horses think about when they are being ridden in a bit), so going to a harsher bit only makes the horse more anxious and tends to exacerbate the problem.

The second very important concept to consider about bits is that the harshest bit in the world can be mild in the right hands and the mildest bit can be harsh in the wrong hands. What this means is that we always have to consider our own riding and work to develop soft and independent hands and always use our hands VERY slowly and softly. One of my favorite horse quotes says, “If the rider’s heart is in the right place, his seat will be independent of his hands.” Piero Santini, “The Forward Impulse”.

One final thought I’ll leave you, has to do with your horse’s conditioning. If he has been un-worked for several years, he is painfully (literally) out of shape. To get an idea of what your horse is feeling, try bending your nose down toward your belly button and hold that position for as long as you can. Notice how quickly your neck will begin to ache. For a horse to learn to carry himself in the type of frame expected in Western Pleasure (or any other rail class), he needs to be conditioned into that frame slowly. When bringing the horse back into show condition, just ask him to hold his frame a few minutes at a time, then release him into a relaxed frame to rest for a few minutes, then ask some more. Be empathetic to what your horse is feeling in the muscles of his neck.

Good luck with your horse, it sounds like you have a keeper. You just need to come together on your training.

Julie Goodnight, Clinician and Trainer

Copyright ©Julie Goodnight 2000. All Rights Reserved. No part of this website may be reproduced without owner’s express consent.

Talk About Tack: Understanding Bits– Myler Logo

Question Category: Talk about Tack

Question: Dear Julie,

My question to you is what is your opinion of Myler bits? I came across a book recently that talked about the Myler comfort snaffle. I was surprised to learn that not all snaffles are exactly what they are supposed to be. The reason I’m asking is my horse Montana is in a D-ring snaffle. I have noticed at times him pulling the reins and opening his mouth. Even when I put him in the round pen with saddle and head stall on he does the same thing and I’m not even on him. It seems to me that it’s bothering him more and more. From what I read, snaffles can keep a horse from swallowing because of the pressure on the tongue. I keep checking my hands to make sure they are not harsh. I even notice it when his head is down and he’s relaxed like Western pleasure…he still opens and gaps his mouth, pulls the reins and goes sideways. I have been working on changing some of his habits from before I had him. Who ever had him before used to put lots of pressure on his mouth so he’d rout out. He’s come a long way from doing that; I just want to make sure I haven’t missed something or over looked anything. There are so many bits on the market how does one decide which is best? If you have any ideas I’d appreciate it. Thanks so much


Answer: Hi Lisa,

There is a lot of confusion about bits and many misconceptions. Many people do not really understand the difference between the two main types of bits, snaffles and curbs (or direct pressure and leverage bits) and many people think a snaffle is automatically mild and a curb is automatically harsh. In reality, nothing can be further from the truth-there are many incredibly harsh snaffles out there and there are many very mild curbs. And the joint in the middle of the bit is not what makes it a snaffle, so a bit with shanks and a jointed mouth piece is not a snaffle-if it has shanks and the reins do not attach directly opposite the mouthpiece, it is not a snaffle (see the Q&A on my website about Tom Thumb bits).

There are other common misconceptions about bits. First, it is not important whether or not the bit is mild or harsh; what’s important is the way the rider uses her hands. The mildest bit in the wrong hands can be harsh and the harshest bit in the right hands can be mild. Also, changing bits will not fix a training problem with a horse. In other words, if you have a horse that is going too fast for instance, putting a stronger bit in his mouth will not fix the problem; only more training will fix it. Going to a harsher bit will often make a training problem worse because it causes more anxiety for the horse and usually exacerbates the problem, especially in the case of the fast horse since horses have a tendency to speed up when they become more anxious. As for your question on Myler bits, I love them and have a tack room full of them-both snaffle and curb. It’s pretty much all I use. I like them because they are manufactured with the highest quality materials and craftsmanship, they are ergonomically designed to fit a horse’s mouth comfortably and they are also designed for specific effectiveness. There are a huge range of bits available through Myler and each one is rated for the horse’s level of training, so that your horse can move seamlessly from one bit to another as his training level increases and his needs change. You’re right when you say that there are so many bits on the market that it is sometimes hard for people to make sense of them. Myler has worked hard to educate horse owners about what makes a bit mild or harsh and how it works in the horse’s mouth. So that even a person that knows little or nothing about bits can read the pamphlet that comes with the bit, view the video on bits and look at the rating of the bit to make an informed decision about what bit is best for their horse.

My favorite Myler bits are the comfort snaffle and the jointed curb bits. The snaffles have a curved mouthpiece, so that the bit is actually the shape of the horse’s mouth, giving him tongue and palate relief and making the bit more effective working off the corners of the mouth with the lightest possible pressure. The mouthpiece is made with sweet iron with copper inlays, giving the horse a sweet and saliva-producing taste in his mouth. I like the bit with the copper roller in the middle and this is my bit of choice for the snaffle horses. I have about every level of curb bit too, for the Western horses that need to work in a curb and they are made with the same high quality materials and an effective shape and function.

For your horse, it sounds like changing bits might be helpful. If the horse is fighting the bit without a rider, I would be highly suspicious. Have you checked his tongue for scarring? Have his teeth been checked and have his wolf teeth been removed? Have you tried riding him in a bosal, side pull or rope halter to see if that alleviates the problem? This might help determine how much of the issue is bit fit, how much has to do with the rider’s hands and how much of it is a training issue. If there is a physical problem, obviously that will have to be addressed before you decide on the best bit or bridle for your horse. It is possible that your horse has never been properly bitted out and he does not know the correct way to respond to pressure on the bit. A surprisingly high number of horses were never really trained properly, they just had a bit stuck in their mouth one day and forceful pressure made the horse respond. A horse must be systematically trained what to do when he feels pressure on the bit and how to give both laterally and longitudinally (vertically) when he feels pressure. Or, he may have had his mouth anti-trained from poor riding, learning to be defensive about his mouth and/or to ignore light pressure because he never got a release.

After ruling out a physical problem, I would spend some time with him in the round pen with an elbow- pull biting rig (see the Q&A section on my website) and see if the horse can learn to give longitudinally to the bit and be soft in the mouth and jaw. Then we would do some lateral flexes until the horse gives to the side, and then start over from the saddle teaching him to give to light pressure both vertically and laterally and find the release.

Many, if not most bitting problems originate with the rider’s hands-maybe yours or maybe the hands that came before you. No horse wants pressure on his mouth, so he will always look for an escape from the pressure. If doing the right things (dropping his head and giving to the pressure) doesn’t get the release he is looking for, he begins to try other things, like throwing his head or inverting or rooting the reins, until he finds something that does get him a release. If he inadvertently gets a release when he is doing the wrong thing, the wrong thing becomes a learned response.

Without seeing you in action, I can’t really guess whether or not your riding is causing a problem for the horse but it seems like from your description, he is not happy with the bit you are currently using. Certainly putting him in a snaffle that has a more comfortable fit would be a good place to start. Assessing whether or not there are any physical issues preventing him from accepting the bit and better training to teach him the proper response to pressure on the bit are necessary steps as well. Good luck!

JG Dale Myler’s online videos:
This FREE online video series accompanies Dale Myler’s appearances on Horse Master with Julie Goodnight. Dale describes the Myler bitting philosophy and details how bits function in the horses’ mouths.

Copyright ©Julie Goodnight 2000. All Rights Reserved. No part of this website may be reproduced without owner’s express consent.

Talk About Tack: Full-Cheek Snaffles Logo

Question: Dear Julie:

I have seen quite a few western horses lately wearing full cheek snaffle bits without cavessons/nose bands or bit keepers. When I ask the rider about their bit, they reply, “To avoid the bit being pulled through the horse’s mouth.” Without a full cheek snaffle bit tucked in so to speak, isn’t it more dangerous, as well as putting the bit at the wrong angle in the horse’s mouth? Please correct me if I’m wrong here.

Thank you for your time,
Alice in Oregon

Answer: Alice,

Over the past decade, I have noticed an interesting trend in both English and western riders toward snaffles that are not really the right tool for the job. The western riders have become smitten with the full-cheek snaffle, while many English riders have embraced the loose ring snaffle. It’s interesting because neither bit is the best tool for the job.

The full-cheek snaffle is similar in style to the egg-butt and dee-ring snaffles—each with a fixed ring and a bar for the horse to balance on when ridden with direct contact. In a way, they are all variations of the same thing—if you think about the full-cheek with the long bars on each side of the mouthpiece, then you could think of the dee-ring and egg-butt as a half-cheek and a third-cheek.

The purpose of the full cheek is to give the horse something steady to balance against when ridden on direct contact (as most English horses are). That’s why it is a traditional bit for hunters. If the rider holds two pounds of pressure in her hands, the horse balances two pounds of pressure on the bit. In essence, the full-cheeks give him something to lean against. For the horse ridden on direct contact, that may help steady the bit in his mouth and give him something to balance on.

On the other hand, the loose ring snaffle, which allows the mouthpiece to spin around the ring, is a useful bit for horses that are ridden on a loose rein. He can suck the mouthpiece up into his mouth and twirl the ring, keeping his jaw soft and encouraging him to play with the bit. It’s really more appropriate for the western horse, which is most often ridden off-contact.

While the full-cheek snaffle could be useful for a colt, to keep the bit from sliding through his mouth when you take a hard pull on one rein (as you might do in a very green horse), in my opinion that does not out-weight the negative effects of the bit. Besides, a chin strap (or bit hobble) will do the same thing. Once the horse is reasonably well-trained, you should not need to be pulling on the rein so hard that it pulls the bit through his mouth.

In my experience, the full-cheek snaffle encourages horses to lean on the bit; something we definitely do not want western horses to do; and really, we don’t want any horses to lean on the bit. I’ve found that trained horses that are switched to the full-cheek will often resent the extra pressure on the sides of their face and often will lean into it—leaning in the opposite direction that you are trying to turn. Besides that, the single-jointed snaffle (which most full-cheeks are) put excessive pressure on the horse’s tongue as well as poking into his palate, making him very uncomfortable.

Most snaffles put an excessive of pressure on the tongue—which is what horses hate the most. In fact, all of the evasion tactics that horses employ are in an effort to release pressure off of the tongue. Both the single-jointed bits and the three-piece snaffles put excessive pressure on the tongue. While you may occasionally need that on a very green horse—for who control is an issue—for most trained horses, you can make them more comfortable by relieving pressure from the tongue. This is one of the main reasons I only use Myler bits—they are designed with the horse’s comfort in mind; after all, the horse can only relax and do his job when he is comfortable. Myler does not make any single-jointed mouthpieces and all of their bits have an ergonomic shape that relieves pressure from the tongue.

If the full-cheek is used, it should definitely have full-cheek keepers—a little figure-8 looking thing that attaches to the cheek piece of the head stall and loops around the top of the bar to keep the bit balanced in the horse’s mouth. If the keepers are not used, that single joint presses down relentlessly on the tongue and the keepers help keep the bars in control. I have seen a horse, through the rider’s carelessness, step on a rein and poke the bar of the full-cheek right through his cheek. Although this would be a rare occurrence, the keepers will help prevent this.
Just last weekend at a clinic I had two well-trained western horses in full-cheeks. Both horses were leaning heavily on the bit and rooting the reins; defensive rather that responsive to bit pressure. I switched them to Myler eggbutts with a mouthpiece that had extra tongue relief (33 mouthpiece) and they were instantly improved. While a bit will never fix a training issue with a horse, making the horse more comfortable in his mouth will definitely help him do his job better. For more information on Myler bits, visit

So, in short Alice, you are right—at least in my opinion. There are so many misconceptions out there about bits and most people really don’t know why they use the bit they do, other than someone told them it was the right thing to do. Good for you for questioning!


Copyright ©Julie Goodnight 2000. All Rights Reserved. No part of this website may be reproduced without owner’s express consent.