by Michel Kaplan .

The Baucher snaffle is often considered the hardest snaffle authorized in dressage competition. Why?
I would like to clear up some misunderstanding that may exist about the Baucher snaffle.

Looking at the Baucher snaffle design (see fig. 1), we see two short solid branchs welded to the top part of the front of the snaffle rings; each branch ends with a small ring to attach the bit to the head piece. The mouth can be as varied as any other snaffle authorized in competition. Many riders consider this bit as hard believing that it causes pressure on the poll. Actually, it doesn't.

Most bits are designed to leave enough space for the tongue. Ideally, a light hand feels the mouth of the horse at the tongue and occasionally at the bars or at the corners of the lips. This is the only way to prevent any inversion of the neck and any hollowing of the horse's back.

To judge a bit, I check how it sits on the tongue. I look at its effects under its own weight and the weight of the reins. "The optimum contact is only the weight of the reins." (Michel Henriquet) Then, the Baucher snaffle acts like any ordinary snaffle using the same mouth piece (see fig. 2). When the rider maintains a light contact, the difference hardly shows (see fig. 3).

What happens when the rider or the horse increases the contact? The Baucher snaffle refines the rider's hand. When the contact becomes moderate, without causing pressure on the poll, the branchs help the bit slip above the tongue or along the bars toward the corners of the lips (see fig. 4). The Baucher snaffle spares the bars from being bruised. If the intensity of the contact becomes firm, the bit may continue to slip upward and rotates against the corners of the lips causing hardly any pressure on the poll. The extended point at the middle articulation of the mouth piece presses on the tongue (see fig. 5). This relaxes the tongue and the lower jaw. Then and only then the flexion at the poll happens without tension.

The Baucher snaffle is well designed to accomodate light hands and protect the sensitive tongue and bars of the horse's mouth. If deflects the bit against the corners of the lips and relaxes the tongue when a heavy contact occurs accidentaly. In order to delay the slippage upward along the bars toward the corners of the lips the riders must maintain their hands lower than with an ordinary snaffle.

1 - The Baucher snaffle

2 - Position under the weight of the reins

3 - Position for a light contact

4 - Position for moderate contact
A - The bit slips towards the corners of the lips

5 - Position for firm contact

B - The bit rotates and presses on the tongue

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