The Pelham: Bits in the Spotlight

Pelham Waterford

Bits in the Spotlight: The Pelham This is a bit with two points of rein attachment; an upper (Snaffle action) and lower (curb action) rein. A curb chain should be fitted and a lipstrap attached. Pelham bits are useful for horses with smaller “full” mouths e.g. Cobs, that could not accommodate the two bits of a Double Bridle.

How does it work? They encourage the head down and inwards. The action on the lower/bottom rein encourages the head down and inwards by placing pressure downwards on the poll and mouth as the lower rein is used. The curb chain will place pressure on the chin groove and to a degree the mouth via the bits mouthpiece through the leverage action as the lower rein is applied.

The action on the top rein of the Pelham acts with a simple Snaffle action on the lips, tongue and bars. A single jointed mouthpiece with have a squeezing upwards action.

Using two reins is vastly preferable to the “fudged” action of ’rounding’s’. It is also worth noting, a single jointed Pelham needs to be used with extra care, placing the curb chain through the top ring to ensure that it sits and acts in the correct position on the horse’s chin. Try a straight mouthed one first if possible and ride with two reins, particularly when using a jointed Pelham.

When is it used? To give greater control of a horse that requires his head and neck to be brought downwards so that he can then be ridden predominantly on the Snaffle rein. The lower curb rein just being used when he becomes too strong or lifts his head up adversely. Also used to provide an inwards tilting action of the head, popular in showing when the horse’s mouth can’t accommodate two bits for a Double Bridle.

Fitting: The bit should fit comfortably into the corner of the lips with just a curve upwards. If you buckle the bit too high it will continuously stretch the corners of the lips. If you put your fingers onto each cheek and pull gently down the bit should not leave a gap at the corners. The top purchase (the part of the cheek just above the mouthpiece) on a well-made Pelham should bend outwards to stop the top of the cheek sticking into the horse’s face. There should be approximately ¼” of bit sticking out of each side of the horse’s mouth.

Animalintex Web Banner - Everything Horse (Desktop) 1

The Curb Chain: It is very important to get the set of the curb chain just right. Too loose, and the bit creates too much downward mouth pressure and too much poll pressure. Too tight and the horse gets no release or reward from the pressure. Twist your chain so that it is flat on the jaw and then hook your chain up on the near side of the bit, you should gently get hold of your bottom reins and pull backwards towards the horse’s chest. The cheek of the bit should only go to 45 degrees and then the chain should touch the back of the jaw and stop the cheek rotating any more. If your horse or pony is sensitive then you could use a leather or elastic curb instead of a chain.

Curb Chains are supplied with all Abbey Pelham Bits. Chains supplied are normally stainless steel with nickel, brass or nickel plated available on request. Single chains are available in pony, cob and full size, whilst doubles are also available in extra-long. Flat Polo chains and Brass chains are available at extra cost.

There are many mouthpieces that can be used in a Pelham including:

  • Cherry Roller ( 12mm thick )   s/s copper sweet metal
  • Copper Roller (15mm thick )    s/s copper sweet metal
  • Copper Waterford
  • Copper Ball
  • Egerton Link
  • Copper Nut
  • Hartford Link
  • Copper Roller Port
  • Rollers either side of one of the above central links

These mouths then fit on a wide range of cheeks all available from Abbey England. Abbey England hosts one of the largest collections in the UK and as a bitting expert understands the importance of both performance and comfort. All their bits have been designed and manufactured to the highest standards using only the best quality materials.

For more information visit


Related posts