Gear Riding

6 Best Horse Bits For Beginners (English and Western)

horse bit western
Written by Cathy H.

Discover the safest bits for novice hands

Not relying on the reins for balance takes practice, but you’ll get there! Until then, choose a mild bit that is gentle on your horse’s mouth during those accidental tugs, but still provides the level of control you need to stay safe in the saddle.

In general, the best horse bits for beginners have a thick bar and little to no leverage action. Discover a few specific examples below.

Bit Discipline Direct or Neck Rein Provides Extra Control
Loose Ring Snaffle English and Western Direct No
D-Ring Single Joint Snaffle With Mild Port


English and Western Direct No
French Link Snaffle With Full Cheeks English Direct Yes
Kimberwick English Direct Yes
Shanked Bit With Straight or Ported Bar Western Neck No
Wonder Bit English and Western Direct or Neck Yes

Bit Choice Considerations

Ask yourself the following questions when choosing a bit:

  • Will I be direct reining or neck reining when riding this horse? (Direct reining requires a snaffle bit, whereas neck reining requires a shanked bit.)
  • Do I need more steering power on this horse? (Consider a full-cheek snaffle.)
  • Do I need more stopping power on this horse? (Consider a bit with a little leverage.)
  • What is this horse used to? (Beginners shouldn’t change a bit without the assistance of a trusted trainer.)

Popular Bits for Beginner Riders

Loose Ring Snaffle

A loose ring snaffle bit (sometimes called an O-ring bit) can have different types of bars: smooth, single jointed, French link, twisted, etc. A smooth bar provides the mildest action on the horse’s mouth because it only applies pressure across the tongue and sides of the mouth.

Korsteel rubber mullen snaffle

Click to see this bit at Amazon

What you should know:

  • Loose rings are slightly more forgiving than fixed rings
  • Horses cannot easily lean on a loose ring bit
  • Bit guards must be used to protect the horse’s lips from being pinched when the rings rotate

Best suited for:

  • Beginner riders learning to direct rein
  • English and Western disciplines
  • Horses who like to chew on the bit
  • Responsive horses

Try this bit: Rubber Mullen Mouth Loose Ring Snaffle

D-Ring Single Joint Snaffle With Mild Port

Its name may sound complicated, but this a D-Ring Single Joint Snaffle has a simple, gentle design.

krosteel dee snaffle bit

Click to see this bit at Amazon

What you should know:

  • Primarily applies pressure to the sides of the horse’s mouth
  • Can apply pressure to horse’s lower jaw and roof of mouth if used firmly
  • Slight curve in the bit provides room for horse’s tongue to rest and relax

Best suited for:

  • Responsive horses
  • Horses that do not lean on the bit
  • Beginner riders learning to direct rein
  • Advanced riders asking for more complicated maneuvers
  • English and Western disciplines

Try this bit: Korsteel Regular Dee Snaffle Bit

French Link Snaffle With Full Cheeks

When a gentle beginner rider needs a little extra help convincing his or her steed to turn left or right, a full cheek snaffle can save the day. Although these cheek pieces can be paired with many bars, a French link is a mild option suitable for beginners.

Krosteel french link snaffle

Click to see this bit at Amazon

What you should know:

  • Long cheek bars apply outward pressure to the horse’s face when the rider tugs sideways on the opposite rein
  • The top of the cheek pieces should be secured to the bridle with “keepers” for best results
  • A French link bit has two joints
  • Pressure is applied primarily to the sides of the horse’s mouth

Best suited for:

  • Beginner riders learning to direct rein
  • English disciplines
  • Horses apt to ignore basic turning aids

Try this bit: Korsteel French Link Full Cheek Snaffle


A Kimberwick is a versatile bit with the option to use direct pressure or a mild leverage action.

Kimberwick bit

Click to see this bit at Amazon

What you should know:

  • Attaching reins to the top slot in the ring makes this bit function with direct pressure
  • Attaching reins to the bottom slot makes this bit function via leverage, so pressure is applied to the poll.
  • Kimberwicks are paired with a chin strap for additional control
  • Bars come in numerous styles: straight and smooth, ported, or jointed

Best suited for:

  • English disciplines
  • Horse and rider combinations requiring a little more control

Try this bit: Coronet Kimberwick Uxeter Bit

Shanked Bit With Straight or Ported Bar

Riders learning to neck rein will often use a curb bit or shank bit.

myler bit

Click to see this bit at Amazon

What you should know:

  • Applies pressure to the top of the horse’s head
  • Encourages horse to lower head
  • Shanks should remain less than 6 inches long
  • Shanks with a significant angle are the best option for beginners

Best suited for:

  • Western disciplines
  • Beginner riders learning to neck rein

Try this bit: Myler HBT Shank with Sweet Iron Mullen Barrel Low Port

Wonder Bit

As with a Kimberwick, the reins can be attached to a Wonder bit in several different configurations. This makes it an excellent investment for riding instructors who encounter numerous horse / rider combinations.

wonder bit for horses

Click to see this bit at Amazon

What you should know:

  • A Wonder bit always applies some pressure to the top of the horse’s head
  • The greatest leverage is achieved by attaching the reins to the lowest ring, which may be too severe for beginners.
  • Attach the reins to the large O-rings for snaffle-like action
  • Most bars are single jointed or French link
  • It’s easy to switch to a “regular” snaffle after rider becomes more advanced

Best suited for:

  • Riding instructors
  • English and Western disciplines (not suitable for most shows, however)
  • Horse and rider combinations that require more control

Try this bit: Kelly Silver Star Wonder Bit Stainless Mouth

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the gentlest horse bit?

The gentlest horse bit is the one maneuvered by gentle hands. But for those still learning how to steady their hands, an example of gentle bit is a straight bar with a port in the middle and large rings or long curved shanks. The straight bar eliminates the possibility for the “nut cracker” effect on the horse’s jaw. The port prevents the horse’s tongue from being squished by too much pressure, and the substantial curve in the rings or shanks ensures minimal leverage on the horse’s poll.

Is using a bit on a horse cruel?

A bit isn’t inherently cruel, but they can cause pain if people yank on the reins too harshly. Horses must also be taught how to respond correctly to the bit: they should “yield” or “soften” toward pressure (again, with the proper rider application). Good riders strive to use the lightest touches on the reins to send painless signals through the bit.

Are hackamores better than bits?

Whether a hackamore is better than a bit depends on the horse and rider in question. Some horses have very sensitive mouths, and a hackamore or other bitless bridle is a much better option for them. But hackamores require a slightly different hand position and use of the reins, which may confuse beginner riders and lead to a lack of control.

Can I ride my horse without a bit?

It’s definitely possible to ride a horse without a bit. You can train your horse to respond to cues delivered through a bitless bridle, halter, neck rope, or your seat. Most horses require a transition period and some re-training before they understand what to do without the usual signals coming from the bit.

Are bitless bridles better?

There always seems to be more than one “right” way to do things with horses. Bitless bridles aren’t inherently better or worse than bits. Both tools must be used in a way that meets the needs of the horse and rider.

Parting Thoughts

Once you have “independent hands” that stay gentle and steady at all gaits, you can experiment with other bits to fine-tune your horse’s performance.

If you run into trouble throughout this learning process, use a saddle strap to keep your hands steady while you focus on other tasks, like posting the trot for the first time. If possible, ask your trainer to lunge you so you can practice balancing without worrying about controlling your horse. It helps a lot!

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About the author


Hey, I'm Cathy Habas, and if there's something I'm passionate about, it's horses! Meet my awesome Appaloosa gelding, Chacos. He's not just a horse; he's a four-legged soulmate. My love for horses started early, and I'm forever indebted to my first equine companion, a beautiful Off-the-Track Thoroughbred (OTTB), who sparked my passion for these majestic creatures.