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Online Tack and Horse Equipment Guide: Curb Chain

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Curb chains
A curb chain on a kimberwick bit (top) and weymouth curb bit (bottom)
The curb chain is an integral part of nearly every type of leverage bit, whether it’s being used for English or western riding. When the reins are pulled back, engaging the action of the bit’s shank, the curb chain presses against the horse’s jaw. This encourages the horse to flex at the poll. When the horse complies, the rider loosens or softens the rein contact, which releases pressure from the curb chain. Proper adjustment of the curb chain is important. Too tight and the horse is locked between the bit and the curb chain with no chance of finding relief. Typically this results with the horse becoming over-flexed and behind the bit. Yet if the curb chain is too loose it’s non-functional, lessening the overall affect of the bit. 

  • Never twist a curb chain. Each link should lie flat against the horse’s jaw.
  • Most competition rule books require curb chains be at least 1/2” wide.
  • With English leverage bits (like pelhams and kimberwicks) the curb chain is permanently affixed to a “J” hook on the right side of the bit. Each time the horse is bridled the curb chain is made to lie flat, adjusted to the appropriate link, and then slipped onto the hook on the left (near) side of the bit.
  • To prevent pinching or rubbing, curb chains may be contained in a rubber guard.
  • Flat leather curb straps work well for many sensitive horses, and they may be a suitable substitute with some western leverage bits. Check competition rule books, however, to make sure leather curb straps are acceptable for your specific discipline.

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