Gear Tips

Leather bits for horses — worth trying or passing fad?

horse leather bit
Written by Natalie Gasper

Are leather bits for your horse?

Got a fussy or finicky horse who refuses to take a bit? A leather bit could be the perfect solution. Soft and malleable, these bits soften quickly and conform to the natural shape of your horse’s mouth.

Leather bits, which are soft and supple, can be a wonderful way to improve communication with your horse while relieving the discomfort found with metal bits. Thanks to your horse’s saliva, these bits quickly soften and conform to the shape of your horse’s mouth. They are easy to both clean and maintain, and will last a long time—if your horse doesn’t chew them! Leather bits can be found in all shapes and sizes, from snaffles to western bits.

Feature Image of the Leather Hunter Dee Snaffle Bit from Sweet Billy Bits.

Leather Bits: The What

At first glance, a leather bit might sound odd, but they were used for thousands of years before metal bits were even invented. While no one knows for sure, these types of bits have probably existed since humans discovered they could put something in a horse’s mouth.

The earliest leather bit was likely simply a leather thong tied to a cheekpiece.

How long does a leather bit last?

Like any piece of leather tack, these bits can last as long as you take care of them (or until your horse chews through it). Rinse off with a damp cloth after use. Every few weeks, use a bit of canola oil (or something similar) to keep it conditioned.

Don’t use a leather cleaner as it will leave an unpleasant taste your horse won’t appreciate.

What kind of leather is used for a horse bit?

The type of leather doesn’t matter as much as the method of tanning. Leather horse bits are usually made using a vegetable tanning process (no chemicals, so safe for the horse).

Check out Shelby Dennis’ Review of the Sweet Billy’s Bit:

Leather Bits: The Why

If your horse has bit issues, it may be time to consider a soft leather bit.

Reasons someone may use a leather bit

  • Relieves discomfort
  • Soft in the mouth
  • Encourages relaxation
  • More palatable than metal
  • If a horse won’t close their mouth
  • When a horse has a mouth that’s difficult to fit for a bit

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Are leather bits good for horses?

Leather bits are a useful option for any number of reasons. Whether your horse doesn’t like cold metal or is reluctant to accept the bit, leather could be the right choice.

Q: Are leather bits dressage legal?

If you’re an eventer, yes (provided you have the rounded snaffle version). The jury is still out on whether leather bits should be allowed for dressage-only events.

Q: What events might you see a leather bit in?

While they can be used in any discipline for training, you’ll often find them at eventing competitions. You also may spot them at the racetrack.

Parting Thoughts

Whether the bit is fully made from leather or is leather-covered, this material may make all the difference in a horse who is sensitive to metal bits. Leather bits also are a great selection if your horse is hard to fit for a bit, offering more flexibility due to their soft nature.

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


Part 1 – The history of horse bits: Worldwide Tack

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About the author


Natalie Gasper

Nancy loves retraining off the track Thoroughbreds and working with her dogs!