Half Cheek Bits
Equestrian experts continue to debate on whether a regular snaffle bit such as an eggbutt or dee ring bit is preferable to a full cheek snaffle bit with a gag function. As both types of English bits have their respective merits, it is difficult to choose between them. However, with the half cheek bit, you don't have to. It offers the advantages of both types of snaffle bits with very few of the disadvantages!
The half cheek bit is one of the more common barrel racing bits. This may be attributed to two factors. First of all, like the full cheek bit, it is renowned for providing the rider with a great degree of lateral control because it exerts horizontal pressure on the horse's mouth using both the bit cheeks and the bit rings when the rider pulls on the reins. This provides more lateral control than your average snaffle bit which relies primarily on the bit rings to provide lateral guidance to the horse. Second of all, it provides nearly as much bit stability as the full cheek bit. While the full cheek bit has bit cheeks which extend both upwards and downwards, the half cheek bit has cheeks that only extend downwards. When used with bit keepers, the cheeks of the half cheek bit will be more than sufficient to prevent the bit from sliding through the horse's mouth. This acts as a deterrent to horses that may shake their head violently or push against the bit in order to rebel against the rider. Barrel racing requires swift and precise lateral movement and tremendous bit stability. Like all good barrel racing bits, the half cheek bit clearly delivers on both counts.
If the full cheek bit and the half cheek bit share so many features, why not opt for the former? Well, the half cheek bit offers something that full cheek English bits cannot comfort. As the shorter half cheek occupies less space in the horse's mouth, the horse will be more likely to accept the bit. When the rider jerks on the reins, the horse also experiences less discomfort, making it less likely to panic and rear. Experienced riders will tell you that getting your show horse comfortable and relaxed is the only way to bring out its full potential in the show ring. While a full cheek gag bit might be too invasive to achieve that objective, the half cheek bit is more than comfortable enough to put your horse at ease without sacrificing bit stability or control. Thus, if your horse is headstrong but not completely reckless, half cheek English bits are usually preferable to their full cheek cousins.