English gags come in all shapes and sizes, which can be overwhelming and confusing. It is sometimes hard to determine which one is right for your horse, so, today we’re going to break it down. (You may also find our follow up post on Faux Gags interesting as well)
General Properties of Gags
All gags aid in lifting your horses head up, however, the gag cheeks produce varied results and speed of reaction. Ideally gags help you stay in position and elevate your horse’s head rather than pull you down and out of position. The bigger the ring the larger amount of “hoist” you get to take their head off the floor. Also, bigger rings are slower to act and thus work better for horses who tend to overreact with gags.
Gags in order of Reaction Speed
- Gag Bradoon (1″ Cheeks)
- Polo Balding (4″ Cheeks)
If you wish to make your gag slower to react, you can switch out rope cheeks for leather cheeks.
Given the choice of what gag to jump with, we recommend the Nelson or the Cheltenham. The reason we recommend those two gags is because they are less disruptive if your hand moves out of position at the top of their jump, helping you keep the hind end and rails up.
Now on to the nitty gritty of the differences between the types of gag cheeks.
These are also known as Loose Ring gags. They are the most common of gags that you will see. They tend to produce more gag leverage because the mouth piece can continue to move up and react again when you pull on the reins.
Cheltenham Gags, or Eggbutt gags, are a very steady and smooth acting gag with non pinch cheeks. You want to use this gag if you are worried about your horse who is sensitive to pinching even with bit guards.
Gag Bradoons (also known as the mini gag)
These are one of the most versatile pieces of equipment you will have in your arsenal. We recommend everyone have one of these in their tack room.
They were originally developed for gated horses to be used with a full bridle. The beauty of this gag is; it is designed to be used with another bit. It is most commonly paired with, and placed behind, a separate snaffle cheeked bit.
Because of this set up, the mini gag becomes “masked” allowing it to be “incognito” so the horses don’t expect it and respond quickly when they go to pull down and the gag engages. The best part of this set up is that you hold the reins as you would normally, the horses action is what causes the gag to engage.
This gag allows you to have greater power across the mouth without disrupting the jump or stride of your horse. It is also great for inexperienced riders and horses that drag them around! It also is extremely effective for horses who take you down and accelerate in the last few steps before take off and on landing or during lead changes. Lastly, they are also really effective with horses who don’t have a huge motor or sulk from more “harsh” bits, allowing you to ride in “normal equipment” and make a training point to get them to listen.
It is the duct tape of bit world.