The theory behind the Dewsbury Revolving Shank Bit is that the freely moving independent cheeks, stronger shank ratio and curb-chain primacy combine to produce a rounder, deeper and more yielding frame while minimizing resistances in the mouth, tongue and jaw. The bit captured competitors’ interest when it was approved by the Federation Equestrian International (FEI) in April 1999. It was added to the AHSA dressage approved-bit list for 2000.
Taking the idea from ancient Banbury bits, Alixe Etherington, of John Dewsbury Co. of England, updated the design to produce the Dewsbury Revolving Cheek Ported Curb bit. (MSRP: $120 for the curb bit and $80 for one of three bridoons, sold separately.)
The shanks, or cheeks, revolve independently of each other and the mouthpiece. The slender, widely ported mouthpiece stays upright and immobile in the horse’s mouth as the curb rein is engaged. Control is effected by the lever action of the shanks on the poll and the curb chain contacting the chin groove.
The overall shank length is 5”, the dressage legal limit of 10 cm from the bottom to the edge of the cheek ring. With approximately 3” below the mouthpiece, and 2” above, the poll pressure from the 3:2 shank ratio is stronger than the typical 3:1 ratio of modern European styles (3:1 is 3” below the mouthpiece and 1” above). Because the mouthpiece doesn’t rotate, there is minimal resistance to the motion of the independent shanks. Therefore, the curb chain can be set to play a more prominent role in control and positioning. (We recommend starting out with a relatively loose curb chain, one that doesn’t contact the chin groove unless the shank is rotated 45 degrees or more.)
The bit is made of Kangaroo metal, which is 70 percent copper, 30 percent nickel alloy. The copper content encourages salivation and warms quickly in the mouth. The nickel alloy lends strength, color and longevity. It has a lifetime guarantee.
We tested the Dewsbury bit with three of Dewsbury’s double-jointed bridoons: the French link, the ported link and the Dewsbury link. We also tested the bit with a traditional single-jointed bridoon.
Results ranged from neutral to profoundly positive. Many hot, green, or overly sensitive horses became calm and happy working in this bit. Some had been working in a traditional English or German double, and our testers noted fewer evasions, such as opening the mouth, tongue-high, or tilting head, when working in the Dewsbury set. The slim profile is less of a mouthful for petite types, and several hot, cranky, tongue-high horses exhibited a complete change in attitude and contact in this bit.
We introduced the bit to lower-level horses, with results ranging from neutral to politely positive.
Dull or heavy horses offered more of a neutral response. Particularly strong or heavy horses were perhaps too complacent in the double-jointed bridoon but lightened up with a single-jointed bridoon and a tighter curb chain.
The Dewsbury bit was not a magic cure-all for chronic tongue problems, but it was an overwhelming success with hot event horses, sensitive types, and petite mouths. All three double-jointed Dewsbury bridoons can be used independently as a regular snaffle or combined with the curb for a double bridle.
The design theory ranks the Dewsbury link bridoon as the mildest. The rounded middle link is designed for comfort more than control. The flat middle of the French link offers more control against the tongue, and the ported link is designed for maximum control. In testing, we found the slight differences between these three bridoons difficult to calibrate.
For a dull-mouthed, heavy horse, we found that a single-jointed bridoon worked better than any of the double-jointed. The double-jointed snaffles “collapse” in the horse’s mouth, which can either be an invitation for contact or a license to pull, depending on the horse.
In bits, there is often a wide gap in price between stainless steel and bits made from certain alloys. We believe in economy, but we also like quality. The value in this bit lies in the Kangaroo metal, the workmanship, design and guarantee. We may be reluctant to fork over $120 for a bit, or $200 for the set, but for certain horses, the results are priceless. (AHSA rules on allowable dressage bits are reviewed as variations of snaffles constantly arrive on the market, so we can’t comment on the legality of these snaffles for showing.)
Contact Your Local Tack Store Or: F.W. Niche 800/406-4243.