Gear Riding

5 Best Horse Bits for Trail Riding Success

horse trail ride
Written by Cathy H.

Hit the trails with confidence in your tack

What do you picture when you imagine going on a trail ride? For some, trail riding involves a lazy walk with one hand on the reins. For others, trail riding means cantering through open fields and jumping logs. A bit that works just fine for the first scenario may not provide enough precision and control for the second. The horse’s level of training and the rider’s experience, however, must also be taken into consideration when choosing the best bit for trail riding.

The best bits for trail riding give the rider adequate control without inflicting unnecessary discomfort to the horse. Any bit can be used on the trail, but some are more popular than others.

Click to get the guide

Bit Choice Considerations

Choosing an effective bit requires some knowledge about the horse’s responsiveness and the rider’s ability to control their hands. In terms of trail riding, it’s especially helpful to know how the horse reacts to being away from the barn. Some horses get very excited and might need a stronger bit. Keep in mind which bits the horse is already used to, their level of training, and the rider’s experience when choosing a bit.

Popular Bits for Trail Riders

Mullen Training Bit

Although it’s called a “training” bit, the Mullen is a suitable choice for advanced horses too.

trail riding bit

Click to see this bit at State Line Tack

What you should know:

  • Straight bar is gentle on horse’s mouth
  • Slight curve in bar provides plenty of room for horse’s tongue
  • Short shanks apply minimal leverage

Best suited for:

  • Easy-going trail rides
  • Neck reining
  • Beginner riders
  • Horses of all training levels

Try this bit: Reinsman Mullen Training Bit

Full-Cheek French Link Snaffle

Try a Full-Cheek French Link Snaffle if you prefer to ride with both hands and need a little extra oomph when steering left and right.

French link snaffle bit

Click to see this bit at Amazon

What you should know:

  • Longer cheek pieces push on horse’s face when opposite rein is tugged sideways, aiding in control
  • Cheek pieces should be attached to bridle with “keepers”
  • Double-jointed bit provides more precise communication in the right hands

Best suited for:

  • Horses that don’t turn well
  • Beginner riders
  • Horses with advanced training
  • Any type of trail ride

Try this bit: Korsteel French Link Full Cheek Snaffle

Curb Bit With Copper Roller

The roller in this bit encourages horses to lick and chew, which softens their jaw and keeps them relaxed.

cavalry horse bit

Click to see this bit at Amazon

What you should know:

  • Choose a bit with short, S-shaped shanks for gentle leverage
  • Copper is preferable over other metals, as it encourages salivation
  • A high port might apply pressure to the top of the horse’s mouth

Best suited for:

  • Neck reining
  • Beginner riders
  • Horses that need just a little help staying focused and relaxed on the trail
  • A relaxing trail ride

Try this bit: Cavalry Style S Cheek Bit With Copper Roller

Click to get the guide

Pelham With Your Horse’s Preferred Mouthpiece

Add some leverage to your horse’s typical bit by switching to a Pelham style on the trail.

Jointed Pelham horse bit

Click to see this bit at Amazon

What you should know:

  • Pelhams come in a variety of mouth pieces. Start with the style your horse is already used to
  • Attach reins to bottom ring for leverage
  • Attach reins to largest ring for direct pressure
  • Use two sets of reins at once to easily switch between leverage and direct pressure
  • Pelhams must be used with a curb chain

Best suited for:

  • Direct reining
  • Advanced riders
  • Horses who get excited and strong on the trail
  • Any type of trail ride

Try this bit: Korsteel Pelham Bit

Single Jointed Snaffle

Considered by many to be an all-purpose bit, a single jointed snaffle works well for many horse and rider combinations.

snaffle bit

Click to see this bit at Amazon

What you should know:

  • Thicker mouthpieces are gentler than thinner mouthpieces
  • This bit applies pressure to the lower jaw and roof of the mouth
  • Not ideal for sensitive horses or strong-handed riders.

Best suited for:

  • Horses of all training levels
  • Riders with gentle hands
  • Direct reining
  • Any type of trail ride

Photo Credit: Olivia Garl

Try this bit: All Purpose Snaffle Ring Bit

Click to get the guide

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best horse bit for beginner riders?

There’s no hard-and-fast rule about which bit is best for beginner riders, but many start out in D-ring snaffles. The horse’s responsiveness also dictates which bit is necessary.

What is the mildest bit for a horse?

One of the mildest horse bits is called a “mullen mouth,” or a straight bar with no joints. It can be paired with O-rings or D-rings for direct reining, or short, well-curved shanks for neck reining.

What is the best saddle pad for trail riding?

If you plan to ride out in your English saddle (there are no rules against it!), be sure to use a typical English saddle pad. For other saddles, grab a thick pad made of breathable material. A design that lets air flow around the horse’s spine is even better, which is why we really love the Diamond Wool Contour Felt Pad.

diamond saddle pad

Click to see this pad at Amazon

What is the best horse cinch for trail riding?

Mohair cinches – which look like they’re made of rope – are an excellent choice for trail riding because they “breathe” and dry quickly. That means your horse is less likely to suffer from rubs or hot sweat marks. If you hit the trail in an English or Australian saddle, your typically girth will suffice.

What is the best horse saddle for trail riding?

Trail saddles often have a “Western” design because the high cantle (back part of the saddle) and swell (front part of the saddle) help the rider stay put while navigating hilly terrain. These saddles also have plenty of rings and ties for carrying saddle bags, water bottles, and other gear. Long stirrups with a wide foot bar prevent fatigue in the rider’s legs. An Australian saddle is another popular option for trail riding because it has thigh blocks that help keep the rider in the saddle.

It’s impossible to give a one-size-fits-all brand recommendation because every person is built a little differently. What feels comfortable to one person might make another person feel like they’re way too far forward. It’s important to sit in a saddle before buying it to ensure you’ll be comfy for hours. Taking the saddle home for a trial period is even better.

Parting Thoughts

Don’t hesitate to try different bits until you find one that works well for your horse. Keep in mind, however, that a stronger bit isn’t necessarily the right answer. Significant training issues should be addressed with the help of a trainer.

P.S. Enjoy this article? Trot on over to:


Love it? Share it!

About the author


Cathy H.

The only thing I love more than blogging about horses is hanging out with my Appoloosa gelding Chacos. (I also have a soft spot in my heart for OTTBs, thanks to my first childhood horse!) Chacos and I enjoy training across multiple English and Western disciplines. #varietyisthespiceoflife