Are leather curb straps on a snaffle legal for USDF/USEF shows?

I ride all my horses in snaffles with leather curb straps attached to the bit rings. I do this so the bit doesn’t slide through their mouths if I have to do a one rein stop, am doing short serpentines or working on stepping the hind end or front end. The strap doesn’t put any pressure on their mouths or anywhere else. I can’t find anywhere in the USEF rules about these and don’t know if they are legal. I’m riding my mare second level and don’t want to be eliminated for something I can easily take off for shows. Help?

I believe it would fall under the “any kind of gadget” umbrella. a curb strap on the snaffle is not its intended use

leave it off


I’m pretty sure they are only legal on a curb bit with a chain, but your best bet is to email USEF and confirm.

No harm in asking, but I assume it is illegal. If you have concerns about the bit sliding, you could just switch to a D ring snaffle with the same mouthpiece you already use.

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I have never understood the curb strap on a snaffle bit thing. it appears to be a “Western” thing. If you’re pulling hard enough to pull the ring into/through the horse’s mouth, the curb strap will not help.


It helps a little on a green broke racehorse that may not steer the best and isn’t wearing a noseband. Racing bridles are sold with the snaffle strap included with the headstall and is very commonly used.

I would expect this piece of equipment to be unnecessary on a dressage horse able to show at any level. I prefer to use a flash noseband on a green horse to help keep the bit from pulling through the mouth in an emergency steering situation.


If OP is worried about pulling the bit thru the mouth, D-ring or full cheek snaffles are a better solution than the “bit hobble” described by OP. I have used all and prefer the full-cheek bits with keepers.

And the D-ring and full-cheek bits are both legal for dressage.


I would not think that any of the riding done in the warm up ring or in a test would necessitate any action that would yank a bit through a mouth, so you don’t need it at the show anyway…


I don’t need it by the time the horse is ready to be shown but I like to keep it there as a precaution in case they spook and I need to shut them down. I don’t like flashes as they force the horses mouth closed and don’t allow me to see if the horse is avoiding the bit.

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First, the term for the ‘curb strap on the snaffle bit’ is really ‘Bit Hobble’, as Pluvinel said earlier.

“I have never understood the curb strap on a snaffle bit thing. it appears to be a “Western” thing. If you’re pulling hard enough to pull the ring into/through the horse’s mouth, the curb strap will not help.”

Three Figs, the bit hobble is absolutely helpful in keeping a snaffle bit from pulling through the horse’s mouth if you have to use one rein, and one rein only, in a way that puts a pretty hard pull on the rein.
Some argue that it wouldn’t have that effect since it’s pretty loose…and if it’s adjusted too loose, it indeed won’t prevent the bit from sliding through the mouth. It should be adjusted so that the cheekpieces can just ‘open’ with one opening rein when the bridle is on.

A Bit Hobble is only necessary in an open bridle (one without a cavesson), such as you generally find on western horses and racehorses wearing a snaffle bit. Otherwise, a properly adjusted cavesson should prevent the horse’s mouth from coming open far enough for the bit to come all the way through.

Since this is a dressage show, the OP will be required to have a bridle with a cavesson, so there’s no need for the bit hobble at the show. I would suggest simply taking the git hobble off, and putting it back on at home when there’s no cavesson on the bridle.

In my experience, a loose ring snaffle is easiest to pull through a horse’s mouth if you use one rein particularly hard. D ring and eggbutt snaffles can also be pulled through the mouth if there’s no bit hobble, though not as easily.

A full cheek won’t pull through the mouth. Some western (and english) riders use them with no bit keeper.
A Fulmer snaffle
is intended to have both a full-cheek and a loose-ring effect, and was designed to be used with no keeper.
Any of the full cheek snaffles will have the risk of hooking the cheek on something and causing a panic response in the horse.

And good luck at the show!


Try not tightening your flash down so much. While some people mistakenly use them to force the horse’s mouth closed, that’s not the correct way to use it. It just needs to be tight enough that it doesn’t flop or move around much. And then it just helps to keep the bit in place, which is it’s intent. As you gain more experience you’ll get better at feeling contact avoidance rather than having to look at their mouth being open or closed, itt’s a much finer process than what you describe. It sounds like you might could use a few lessons with a skilled instructor to help you with some of this, from equipment to your feeling like you have to use a one rein stop to regain control.


The noseband would do that since they have to wear a noseband at a show…you don’t need it at the show.

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Thank you, Fillabeana for that excellent detail. I too, have never understood the curb strap on a snaffle. Your explanation made so much sense. I will no longer rail against the use of them.

But, it makes me wonder if the OP isn’t talking about Western dressage? In which case, it would not be a “gadget,” it would be legal. If they have a western snaffle bridle with no cavesson, that bit hobble should be an accepted piece of the tack.

I personally feel that a “flash noseband” regardless of how tight it is adjusted, looks like some bastardized piece of tack where somebody tacked on a strap at the end of the noseband.

If you want something to stabilize the bit in the horse’s mouth, use a drop noseband or a grackle (figure 8).

But I also think that schooling with no noseband gives the rider a much better indication of the horse’s mind and way of going as any nervousness will come out if the jaw is not strapped shut.


I can feel the resistance if the horses mouth gaps open. I should have been clearer. The judge will see the mouth gaping open and be able to tell their is resistance there. Most flashes I see are tightened so the horse can’t open their their moth much and the visible resistance is minimized. Flashes have to be tight enough to not flop and this is enough pressure to keep the mouth from opening to it’s full extent. I school with no noseband so there is no piece of equipment that can restrict the horses mouth from opening. I know nosebands themselves can be tightened extremely as well as flashes. Majority of the time I don’t need one rein stops. That is only when the horses spook.

I never knew they were called bit hobbles. I’ve always called them curb straps as that’s all they are is straps. But they do hobble the bit, its a good visual term to use! I use a egg butt snaffle and typically don’t need to put enough pressure on one rein that would pull the bit through the mouth but major spooks happen :). Lots of deer that like crash through the woods behind the ring.
I’ve heard too many horror stories of horse and rider injuries with full cheek snaffles to even think of putting one in my horses mouth; with and without bit keepers. They also put additional pressure on the sides of the horses face while turning that I don’t always want.
I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to just remove her strap before the show just to avoid any issues.

Is this your first time showing?

Will you be showing in western dressage or just dressage classes?

I’ve competed before and I’ll be doing traditional dressage. I have gone into the ring before with a curb strap and have never been told anything but these were always smaller local shows

It was just that I found surprising you were at 2d level and not being aware of this rule, but if your local shows don’t follow the USEF rules, it’s then normal.

Just beware that you might find judges at rated shows are tougher on scores and different in what they expect for each level.

Good luck!

Apparently, you and I are two of the few people aware of keepers for full-cheek bits! Drives me crazy to see that type of bit without a keeper!