By Christie Wolhuter
The Baucher or hanging cheek snaffle is a popular bit but has classically divided opinions on its action. Correctly fitted, the cheekpiece attaches to the small rings, and the reins attach to the larger rings.
There has been a long-held belief that the hanging cheek snaffle, or Baucher bit, exerts poll pressure, and this topic has been hotly debated for years.
However, thanks to a study by bit specialists Neue Schule this debate has finally been laid to rest, with the results showing that the hanging cheek snaffle may actually relieve pressure on the poll.
Neue Schule performed the study solely on the bits in their range, but the information is useful, nonetheless.
A note on poll pressure
Poll pressure is not necessarily bad, but when selecting a bit for specific purposes, a Baucher is sometimes erroneously chosen for its reported ability to exert poll pressure. For horses that are not sensitive to poll pressure, gentle poll pressure from a bit can be an effective aid to encourage the horse to lower the head. [end box]
During the research performed by Neue Schule on the hanging cheek snaffle, two sensors were applied, one to the cheekpiece and the other to the rein. The recorded tension was transmitted to a computer, and a rating was calculated to show how much poll pressure each type of bit created. The rein tension range applied to the Baucher bit in this study was 0 – 3 kgs. These values are similar rein tension values to those seen in everyday riding and flatwork.
Poll pressure numbers were then calculated as a percentage of the total forces applied through the reins. A poll pressure index of 1 means that approximately 10% of the total rein forces applied are transferred to the poll. For example, when 3 kilograms of rein tension are used, 300 grams of pressure will be applied to the horse’s poll, while that tension is maintained. The study results showed a poll pressure index of -1 for the Baucher bit, which is less pressure than pre-tension values (the weight of the bit in the mouth)!
Understanding how the negative poll pressure results
Now to the action of the Baucher bit. For any bit to produce poll pressure, it needs to act as a lever. The mouthpiece of the bit is the fulcrum. The effort comes from the rider’s hands on the reins, and the poll provides the resistance. As a rein contact is taken, the arm extension on the Baucher rotates anti-clockwise towards the horse’s nose. This rotation causes the mouthpiece of the bit to slide further back in the horse’s mouth. As the reins on a Baucher are free to move, they move the bit ring to remain in line with the fulcrum. This action causes the cheekpieces to bow away from the horse’s face, which in turn lifts the bit towards the poll, thereby reducing pressure on the poll.
Further, when the rein contact is picked up in a Baucher bit, the bit rotates in the mouth and applies upward pressure on the lips. This may encourage the horse to lift his head. It may at the same time reduce tongue pressure. Of course, tongue pressure is also influenced by the mouthpiece chosen and the pressure exerted by the bit over the bars of the horses’ mouth.
It is wonderful to see the outcome of the study finally clarify the action of the Baucher bit, once and for all. Without this kind of research, we are forever playing a guessing game when it comes to the best equipment to help our horses. Thank you, Neue Schule for your dedication to the science surrounding our horses and