• Erin Long

Bits: Dutch Gag

It's TidBIT Tuesday! Today we're going to be discussing the Dutch gag. This gag is also called the Pessoa gag or a ring gag, and its sister bit the "wonder bit" functions in an essentially identical manner. This bit is commonly used for show jumping and western speed events.

First we'll discuss this but when used without a curb strap, as is most common. This bit is a true leverage gag, meaning that there is greater than 1:1 pressure with a sliding mouthpiece. Let's look at the actions:  1) The reins are engaged and  2) the mouthpiece slides up the ring into the mouth. Sounds fairly simple, right?  Unfortunately, this seemingly simple but can cause a world of hurt for horses. Many people are under the impression that gag bits give their horse "warning" before the lift, but that is simply not the case. The mouthpiece of the bit behind lifting IMMEDIATELY when the reins are engaged. With his lift, the lips and tongue are drawn back and up into the mouth. This bit reaches an extreme amount of leverage (at the top of its ring the left bit is about 5:1) and has the potential to collide with the molars. As you can see on the pony on the right, reaching the top of the ring would result in extreme lip stretch and most likely contact with the teeth.

Now we'll discuss it with an (invisible in this case) curb. Again, the bit begins to climb in the mouth as soon as the reins are engaged. Then, the curb strap is engaged (green arrows) which causes the bit to take a sharp turn down into the jaw, while still climbing slightly. This causes the curb and mouthpiece to lock down on the jaw with increasingly severe pressure until either the horse's jaw has no more give, or the bit has reached its highest point.

Finally, let's consider why this bit is structurally unsound for what people typically use it for: alternating direct aids. See the video by Tracy Stark Meisenbach here. In a jump off or a barrel run, you're going to be switching reins rapidly. With this bit (as you see in the video) that action sends the opposite shank flying forward into the muzzle and twists the bit around the side being pulled on. If you MUST use this bit (and no, no one has to use a gag bit), do NOT use it in a sport where you will be using individual lateral aids, or one significantly stronger than the other. 

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