horse with Kimberwick bit

Kimberwick Bits — The Ultimate Rider’s Guide

Choosing a horse bit is a balance between the rider’s desired level of control, the horse’s comfort, and the temperament of the horse. A Kimberwick bit is useful for a pony that is more difficult to control, but it must be used with care and expertise since it’s easy to accidentally cause harm to the horse. Let’s look at Kimberwicks in-depth — and we’ll share some great options to consider.

What Is a Kimberwick Bit?

A Kimberwick is a type of horse bit, sometimes called a Kimblewick, it was named after the English town where it was first made. Designed by a showjumper, Kimberwicks are commonly used in English riding. A Kimberwick is a type of curb bit with bit shanks, D-shaped rings, and a curb chain. The curb action in a Kimberwick bit is usually minimal to mild, though some do offer greater curb action. Kimberwicks are designed to provide additional control to a rider by encouraging the horse to lower his head. 

Some consider Kimberwick bits a type of Pelham bit since the mouthpiece combines a snaffle bit and curb bit in one device. However, a Kimberwick uses only one rein, whereas a Pelham uses two. Also, the mouthpiece attaches to the top of a D-shaped cheek and not to the shank, offering a slightly different mechanism of action from that of a Pelham. The shank is shorter as well, so Kimberwicks are usually considered a bit milder than Pelham bits. As with any bit — but especially curb bits — it’s important that the rider knows how to use a Kimberwick properly, so the rider achieves the desired control without creating discomfort for the horse. Given the poll pressure it creates, any curb bit can be severe if not used properly.

When To Use a Kimberwick Bit

It would be great if every horse could be ridden with a snaffle bit. However, this isn’t always the case — it really depends on a rider’s skill, a horse’s behavior and training, and even personal preference. If you feel you need a little more than a snaffle bit, a Kimberwick bit may be a great one to try before going to a Pelham bit or other curb bit with more poll pressure. 

Kimberwick bits and Pelham bits are sometimes used by eventers, jumpers, and hunters. They are not allowed in dressage, and judges may penalize or even eliminate a rider for using one. They are also not allowed in certain events, even within other English riding disciplines. If you’re considering using one on your horse, read the rule book for the events you plan to participate in to make sure it’s allowed. 

Need more help? Check out our guide on how to choose an English horse bit.

Types of Kimberwick Bits

Kimberwicks, like other types of bits, can have a variety of mouthpieces. The original design had a ported mouthpiece, which featured an inverted “U” in the middle of the mouthpiece. Now you’ll find Kimberwicks with mullen mouths, single-jointed mouthpieces, and ported mouthpieces. 

  • Mullen mouth — Considered the most gentle mouthpiece, as there is no pinching when a rider pulls the reins. A mullen mouth is a plain mouthpiece with a slight curve over the tongue.
  • Single-jointed mouthpiece — Allows more pressure to be placed on one side of the mouth, exerting control over the horse’s lateral flexion.
  • Ported mouthpiece — Offers a range in the port height, with a low rise being the most comfortable for the horse, allowing more room for the tongue.

Besides these traditional versions, the Uxeter version of the Kimberwick has rein slots built into the shank of the mouthpiece, allowing the rider to vary the amount of poll pressure depending on the horse’s needs.

When placed in the upper slots, there is very little if any poll pressure. On the lower one, the action is slightly stronger. The bit is milder than a Pelham and at times milder than a snaffle as it has no nutcracker action as there are no joints in the classically styled Kimberwick.

Bits can be made of different metals, copper, and synthetic materials. Kimberwicks should always be used with a curb strap to ensure the bit doesn’t rotate too far back in the horse’s mouth. 

How To Use a Kimberwick Bit

A Kimberwick bit has a D-ring cheekpiece, a curb chain, a mouthpiece, and a single set of reins. The mouthpiece attaches to the top of the D-ring (unlike Pelham bits, where it attaches to the top of the shank). There are usually several rein slots that offer the rider flexibility for how much poll pressure can be applied. When the rider pulls the reins, the bit applies pressure to the horse’s mouth, chin, and poll. Bits with a port also apply pressure to the roof of the mouth. If a rider holds her hands high, there is no poll pressure effect, and vice versa.

5 of the Best Kimberwick Bits

There are a lot of great Kimberwick bits here at the Farm House! You’ll find several brands with varying options to choose from. Here are some of our staff and customer favorites:

  1. Toklat Pony Stainless Steel Low Port Uxeter Kimberwick - 3 1/2" Cheek ($67.95) — A budget-friendly, low port stainless steel Kimberwick bit.
  2. Myler Kimberwick w/ Stainless Steel Ported Barrel MB 33 ($193.95) — One of the mildest Kimberwick bits available, this Myler bit has a wide port that applies little to no tongue pressure, instead working the lips and bars. 
  3. Centaur Stainless Steel Jointed Uxeter Kimberwick Bit ($49.95) — A perfectly balanced, high-quality stainless steel bit that offers comfort with response.
  4. Korsteel Double Hinged Uxeter Kimberwicke Bit ($67.99) — This double-hinge design is great for horses with a low pallet to protect the roof of the horse’s mouth. Dual slots allow for a range of poll pressure, and the double-jointed mouthpiece enables use as a snaffle as well.
  5. Happy Mouth Shaped Mullen Mouth Kimberwick ($78.95) — This bit has a unique apple scent to encourage horses to accept it and a plastic-shaped mullen mouth great for sensitive mouths.

Is a Kimberwick Bit a Good Option?

If you think you may need something a little stronger than a snaffle bit to communicate with your horse, a Kimberwick may be a good option to try. You can adjust the poll pressure based on the type of bit you use and where you hold the reins. Just be sure you learn how to use it properly for the safety of your horse and to ensure its effectiveness.

Browse our selection of bits, and if you have questions about any of the horse bits we carry, give us a call at 864-457-3557. We’re always glad to help!

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