Horsemen have always searched for a bit that would give more control, especially during the heat of battle. Improved casting and assembly methods led to the development of ported mouthpieces, which applied pressure to the roof of the mouth, and longer shanks for more leverage. The addition of a curb strap or chain increased the pressure on the lower jaw for even more control.
It was also learned that curving the cheeks backwards prevented the horse from “lipping” them. An “S” cheek was even more effective and rapidly became the standard for military bits.
While military horsemen of the Near East and Europe learned the advantages of leverage bits, high mouthpieces and curb straps, the nomadic tribes of northern Asia and the steppes of Mongolia continued to use snaffles.
Perhaps it was tradition, that metal casting and forging techniques were limited, or that their small, hardy horses were better trained. Even the mounted warriors led by Genghis Khan (1162-1227 AD) were snaffle bit riders. Some descendants still are and maintain a similar horse culture. This history was written by my good friend and tack historian Phil Livingston. Phil is author of War Horse and The Driftwood Legacy, among many other books.
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