If you're interested in showing model horses in English performance classes, you need to learn as much as possible about the various disciplines in the real horse show world, the tack used in each, how the rider is dressed, and much more. Nothing confuses newcomers to model horses as much as bits, especially since most model horses have closed mouths with no way to put a bit into the mouth! What seems to be especially confusing for newcomers are the various types of bits used in both English and Western styles of riding.
English Horseback Riding Style Bits for Model Horses
Bits developed hundreds of years ago. Examples of bits for horses in museums show that the ancient Asian Scythians, a group of people living in the area now known as Russia, used bits. Greek and Roman riders also used iron bits. Most consisted of a single bar with rings on the ends to attach the reins and headstall. Horses naturally have a space between their teeth in the back of the mouth; this is the area where a bit is placed.
Books have been written solely on bits, the various types available for English riders, and the proper use of each bit. Beginner's interested in showing model horses in English huntseat and sidesaddle performance classes need to know about only a few bits.
The O-Ring Snaffle
A snaffle bit consists of two tapered pieces of metal, usually stainless steel, jointed in the middle and ending in a ring through which the reins and headstall are attached. This is the simplest snaffle and the easiest for model horse collectors to make.
The D-Ring Snaffle
The D-ring snaffle is nearly identical to the O-ring, except that the rings are shaped like the letter D. This is another popular snaffle style for model horse collectors who show in performance classes or make tack.
A wing-tip snaffle bit ends in a ring with a wing extending up and one extending down, with a rounded tip on each. These bits are used on real horses who tend to pull the bit through the mouth; the wings keep it firmly in place. Leather keepers are used on the top wing to hold it in place, and many are used with a special noseband called a cavesson. A cavesson keeps the bit steady in the horse's mouth.
Pelham or Double Bridle
A Pelham bridle has long side pieces with a large ring at the top and a smaller ring at the bottom. There are two reins extending from the Pelham bridle, one typically slightly thicker than the other. The thicker rein is attached to the top ring on the bit, and the thinner rein attaches through the lower ring. A chain extends under the horse's chin and fastens on the opposite side; a little bit of slack (typically, two finger's width) is left between the chin and chain. The main rein attached to the bit is held in the rider's hands with contact between the horse's mouth and the hand; the thinner rein attached to the lower ring of the bridle is left with some slack. Some riders refer to the second rein as the 'emergency brake' because it offers more control.
Choosing Bits for Model Horses
Bits are chosen for horses in the real equine world by experienced trainers who match the bit with the horse, the riding discipline, and the effect the bit produces. It's often a bit of trial and error. However, certain bits may be required in performance classes, and it's up to the model horse collector and show entrant to check the rules for various disciplines to learn the proper tack.
Model horse collectors just starting their tack making and performance showing activities may find that a standard O or D ring snaffle offers convenience and flexibility for the majority of English performance classes. It's a good, common bit to get you started.
You can buy ready-made tack for Breyer horses from the Breyer catalog or Breyer dealers. You can make your own using tack making kits or instructions. You can also purchase ready-made tack on Model Horse Sales Pages or eBay.