Juliane Dykiel's Horsemanship Blog

The Best Bit For Your Horse – choosing the right Cheekpiece

By Hadrien Dykiel

I came across a great article that explains the differences between all the options we have for cheekpieces when choosing a bit, so I thought I would share it with you.

Horse Bit Cheek piece

Full Cheek Snaffle

Below is the article written by forum user “JustDressageIt” on You can read the original post at

Cheek Pieces

Loose Ring

This cheekpiece is a very mild, unobtrusive cheekpiece. The ring slides through the mouthpiece, so the horse cannot brace against the bit; the ring will just slide through. A disadvantage to this mouthpiece is that the horse’s lips can get caught while the ring is sliding, and pinch. Bit guards can help with this problem.


The eggbutt uses light lateral pressure to help aid in rein aids; I.e. If you pull on the right rein, the left cheekpiece will come in contact with the horse’s cheek and lips. Still a very mild cheekpiece, it can reinforce a rider’s rein aid for the horse to follow a certain rein. There is no possibility of this cheekpiece pinching. A disadvantage is some people claim this mouthpiece can sit strangely in the horse’s mouth. 

English Dee Ring

A Dee ring bit is a very mild cheekpiece which uses lateral pressure to help reinforce a rider’s rein aids; I.e. If you pull on the right rein, the left cheekpiece will come in contact with the horse’s left cheek and lips. The dee can be quite helpful in teaching young or green horses to turn and listen to rein aids. The dee can also be helpful to encourage a horse to accept and seek rein contact. There is no chance of this cheekpiece pinching the lips. 

Western Dee

Acts like the English Dee Ring with slightly less contact surface on the cheeks. Still a nice bit for schooling the English horse with, just never use it in the English showring. 

Full Cheek

The ultimate in lateral pressure, (; I.e. If you pull on the right rein, the left cheekpiece will come in contact with the horse’s left cheek and lips) this mild cheekpice is great for starting young horses in. Used with bit keepers, this bit cannot be pulled through the mouth for its long “arms” and so is ideal to start the young horse that might pull on the bit in. Bit keepers are to keep the “arms” of the bit secure, and the mouthpiece of the bit rotated in the correct position. One disadvantage of this mouthpiece is that the arms can get caught if the horse tries to rub its head on something like a fence, its boots, etc.


A very nice bit that combines the loose ring and full cheek bit together in one harmonious piece. Unfortunately, this cheekpiece is fairly rare. 


For experienced riders only. Uses curb chain action on the horse’s chin. The bridle attaches to the uppermost ring, the snaffle rein attaches to the big ring, the curb rein attaches to the little loosering. The idea with the Pelham is to ride on the snaffle rein 98% of the time, and just “tweak” the curb rein as needed for a little extra “listen to me” power communicated to the horse. A relatively mild bit when used correctly, by that I mean the rider should stay on the snaffle rein only most of the time; the curb rein should not be used in excess. Many riders misuse this bit and/or have a hard time figuring out 4 reins, which is why I labelled it “experienced riders only.”


For experienced riders only. Uses a curb chain on the horse’s chin. The bridle attaches to the small vertical-type ring at the top, then the reins attach to either of the slots. This bit is much less refined than a Pelham, when it comes to discussing English curb bits. The problem with the kimberwicke is that you have no refinement, no snaffle rein, therefore no relief from the curb action of the bit. This can be quite bothersome to horses that don’t need the curb action on a bit. I much prefer a Pelham. 


For experienced riders only, this cheekpiece can be severe. The cheekpiece can be a loose ring, eggbutt or dee, this bit has holes drilled vertically through the rings so a piece of leather or rope or string can be inserted. The idea behind a gag is when the rider pulls, the cheekpiece slides up the rope to exert more pressure on the lips of the horse and pull them backwards. It also exerts poll pressure. The one nice thing about this terminal gag is the piece of leather at the top of the image limits how far the bit can slide upwards. The bridle is attached to the top buckle, the rein attached to the ring at the end of the piece of leather at the bottom of the image. 

Draw Gag

For experienced riders only. Same function as the above gag, but has no termination ends. This bit can be pulled up to the horse’s eyeballs if need be. Usually used in conjunction with a harsh mouthpiece, as shown with a single twisted wire. The reins are attached to the loop below the cheekpiece. Mostly seen used by western riders. 


For experienced riders only. Can have as little as 3 rings (bridle ring, and two rein rings) or as many as … 5? 10? The norm is 2 or 3 rein rings. This bit should be used with two sets of reins; one on the snaffle (biggest) ring, and the second rein on the “gag” action ring (smaller ring) but this has become an uncommon practice; most people just ride on the gag action ring now. This bit reacts much in the same way as a gag in the fact that it uses poll pressure.

We also have other articles on horse bits, I hope they will help you find a good bit for your horse:

Types of Horse Bits
Choosing the right mouthpiece
Choosing the right material

Support us by visiting our store . We have a wide variety of bits available for sale. Thanks!


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