Low-Port Kimberwick

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This mild English bit with leverage capabilities has a 4 3/4” solid mouth; low port; Ds with 2 1/2” cheeks, joined to the mouthpiece with a loose swivel attachment; mouthpiece 1/2” thick measured one inch in from cheeks. Generally classified as a pelham, this bit has both snaffle and mild curb action.

Mouthpiece Material: Stainless steel, which is acceptable to most horses. Any stainless steel bit should be examined for a smooth finish (no pitting or burrs) and smooth action (moving parts should not bind or vibrate).

Features: The mild, low port allows some tongue relief and, when the bit is rotated in the horse’s mouth, the port cannot contact the roof of the horse’s mouth even when a noseband is tightened. The thick, solid mouthpiece is heavy but mild; it rests on the bars unless the horse lifts the bit with the tongue. The action of the loose cheek is more acceptable to an inexperienced horse than a more restrictive, fixed shank. The movement of the bit’s loose cheek is another step in the chain of presignals.

The hinge at the shank-to-mouthpiece is smooth; the gaps above and below the hinge are fairly small and located such that they would not cause skin pinching.

Square eyes (where the bridle side pieces attach) create more poll pressure than round eyes when the reins are pulled. That’s because the sidepieces are free to rotate in a round eye as the bit rotates. With a square eye, the leather is “captured” and levered forward, resulting in a pull on the poll via the tightened/shortened crownpiece.

The stainless-steel double-link curb chain is 3/4” wide. Double-link chains are generally smoother and more comfortable for a horse than a single-link chain. The curb chain should always lie flat against the chin groove. Adjust the chain loosely when first introducing the bit to a horse that has only been worked in a snaffle. Gradually increase the adjustment to normal, which allows you to slip two fingers between the chain and the chin when the reins are slack. A horse’s response to curb-chain pressure is not a reflex action; it is a conditioned response the horse must eventually learn.

This curb chain has a “fly” link at the center of the chain to run a lip strap through. Generally lip straps are employed to keep a chain positioned in the chin groove and to prevent the horse from lipping the shanks of a bit. Neither of these are problems with a kimberwick, so a lip strap is usually not necessary. The standard curb chain hooks present a smooth surface against the horse’s cheek, causing no rubbing or discomfort.

A kimberwick has variable snaffle to mild-curb action. There are no rein slots in the D rings of this bit as there are in slotted kimberwick bits. Reins slots allow for fixed rein position. Therefore, if you always want to use the bit as a snaffle, you could afix to the upper rein slots. The lower rein slot would act with mild leverage.

Action: When the rider’s hands are in a normal position, and the horse’s head is up and nose out, the rein action is like a snaffle. This is appropriate for young horses and lateral work. When the rider lowers the hands, the rein slips an inch or so down the cheek of the D ring. The leverage created by this lower position transfers pressure to the poll and chin groove, which results in the horse lowering the head and flexing at the poll. In order to get the full effect, the rider must lower the hands.

Uses: This bit is appropriate for young/inexperienced horses making the transition from snaffle to curb. It introduces the idea of poll and curb pressure. The low port, medium thickness mouthpiece, loose cheek, and mild leverage potential add up to greater control than with a snaffle but less than with a curb or double bridle. It is also good for tune-up of strong horses and ponies; better for introducing the concept of neck reining (indirect rein) than a bit with long shanks; good for strong horse and experienced rider; good for tough ponies and experienced children.

This is a temporary, transition bit. If used for too long, it could cause a horse to lug on the bit. It is best to use the bit as an introduction, then move the horse to a more standard pelham, a curb, or a double bridle.

Legality: According to the American Quarter Horse Association and the American Horse Shows Association, this bit is legal as an English bit for any class where a curb bit is legal. It must be used with a curb chain at least one-half inch in width and a noseband.

This bit is well below the 8 ??” maximum shank length. The ??” diameter mouthpiece falls within the range of 5/16” to 3/4” diameter, measured 1” in from the cheek. Both associations allow bits with solid or jointed mouthpieces and loose or fixed shanks. This bit would be illegal for any Western class and dressage.

The bit featured is Libertyville Saddle Shop’s Kimberwick Low Port item #5-1700 with an MSRP of $22.95 (800/872-3353).