Your Complete Guide to Gag Horse Bits

equusuperadmin  |  Dec 26, 2017

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

  1. Gag Bradoon (1″ Cheeks)
  2. Nelson
  3. Shrewsbury
  4. Salisbury
  5. Cheltenham
  6. Balding
  7. 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.

Balding Gags

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.

Balding Rubber Gag with Lozenge

Cheltenham Gags

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.

Cheltenham Corkscrew Gag Bit

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.

Gag Bit Bradoon

Nelson Gags

Also known as full cheek gags, these are best used when you need more lateral control and turning aid with head lift.

3/8 Twisted Hinge Nelson Gag

Shrewsbury (L) & Salisbury Gags (R)

These are a fixed mouthpiece loose ring gag.  Is a good alternative to the Cheltenham and react in a similar way.  The Shrewsburys tend to have a smaller ring so they are less “potent.” These two are the same except in the size of the cheek.  The Salisbury is always a little larger in ring size than the Shrewsbury.

Shrewsbury Gag Salisbury Gag







Have more questions?  Feel free to email us at

A Note about Faux Gags.  There are several bits that we sell that have “gag-like” qualities. 

Faux Gags (in order of leverage):

  1. 12/5 Inside Loops Loose Ring
  2. 12/5 Inside Loops D Ring
  3. 2 Ring
  4. 12/6 (Bevel) Inside Loops
  5. 12/5 Inside/Outside
  6. 2.5 Rings
  7. 3 Rings
  8. Gag Curbs (french gags)
  9. 4 Rings

Specialty Faux Gags:

  1. Full Cheeks with Inside loops and short bit keepers
  2. Bauchers (also knwn as Bouche Filet, Hanging Cheeks)
  3. Swivels

The following bits also have gag type properties when there curb chains or straps are loose or not used:

  1. All Pelhams
  2. All Kimberwicks
  3. All RNFs

This is due to the fact that the cheek piece attaches above the mouth piece causing the bit to pivot or move upward when pulled.

Note: Elevators always have a gag like property.


About EquuSport Blog

We're EquuSport and we help people find innovative solutions to their riding challenges to allow them to be the best competitor they can be.

We've spent countless hours hand-picking the best equestrian brands on the market that are designed to solve common tack and training issues. When something doesn't exist to solve a problem, we create it. We regularly customize, modify, and augment bits and tack for customers who are working through very specific issues with their horses.

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