What is this bit made of, and how do I clean it?

Bit and bridle are used by the new horse I’m leasing, who spent the last period of his life as a highly decorative lawnmower. The tack got its first deep cleaning this week, and while the leather will come back with care and time, I’m stumped on the bit.

It’s a gold/brassy color, not the usual silver of stainless steel. But it’s not orange enough for copper, plus the whole thing is this metal, not selected links/rollers. COTH tack mavens, any idea what it is? And more importantly, how do I safely and nontoxic-ly remove the areas of discoloration? A toothbrush and paste didn’t have much effect.

Looks like brass.

I have a pair of old brass stirrups that look the same color.

Appears to be German Silver, which is supposed to encourage salivation.
You can clean it like any stainless bit.
The discoloration is wear & probably can’t be removed. As long as it’s smooth it won’t affect use.


To me, the bit looks like it’s made out of aurigan, which is an alloy made from copper and zinc. Herm Sprenger bits are often made from this.

You can put in a sink of hot soapy water and use a pot scrubber (not steel wool) and see if that helps. You could also buy some their Diamond Paste which is what Sprenger markets for cleaning its bits.

Soak in denture tablets and hot water. Then use toothbrush and toothpaste or baking soda and hot water.

Best thing is a green Scotchbrite pad. (Doesn’t leave any chemical residue)

Easy enough to find a new eggbutt snaffle. Personally, I would like to know precisely what type of metal was going in my horse’s mouth.

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If the bit is really, really old it might be made of nickel (never rust.) No matter the work, polishing, cleaning or whatever, nickel never gets the beautiful silver look of stainless steel.

Whatever it is made of I do not like the corrosion that can irritate the tender tissues of the horse’s mouth.

Never dull

If you are set on keeping this bit in use, steel wool will help smooth the rough patches caused from wear.
However, I’d probably just get a new bit since that one looks like it’s starting to rust.

Thank you, all, for your great suggestions. This is what I love about horse people — lots of perceptive advice about even the smallest ahem bits and pieces.

It sounds like there’s some bit-shopping in my future…

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Aurigan is a copper alloy made of 85% copper, 4% silicon, and 11% zinc.[1] It is patented,[2][3] and is used on high quality bits for horses to encourage increased salivation, which leads to a softer and more responsive mouth on the horse. Aurigan is similar in appearance to other copper alloys, but has different oxidation properties due to its composition. One advantage it has over other copper alloys such as German silver is that it is nickel-free; some horses have been known to have a nickel allergy which appears as pimples in the mouth.

Cleans up with green Scotchbrite pad.
When new this was an expensive piece of kit.