Bits are primarily used when riding a horse, but there are times when something extra is needed when leading a horse in hand. That’s where the Chifney comes in. The bit was invented by Samuel Chifney, a jockey for the Prince of Wales, in the 18th century. He found it easier to lead high-spirited horses using the simple bit, giving him more control from the ground.
The Chifney bit is a single circle with three rings attached: one ring on each side, and a third ring at the bottom. Chifney bits are made of brass, German silver and stainless steel.
The Chifney attaches to the halter with clips that connect the halter rings to the bit’s side rings. The lead rope is attached to the bit’s bottom ring.
The two types of Chifney bits are straight mouth and port. Which type you select may depend on the horse, pony or yearling. Generally, however, bits with ports tend to be more severe. Always try the straight mouth Chifney before moving to the port-style.
The Chifney bit is used to prevent a horse, pony or yearling from rearing while being led in-hand. The rearing may be caused by inexperience, excitement or bad manners. It’s commonly used on racetracks as horses are being led from the paddock to the starting gate. It’s believed that the Chifney bit gives an excited horse something to do with its energy, rather than releasing it through rearing.
Use at Competition
Not all breed and horse or pony sports allow the use of the Chifney bit during competition. Dressage, for example, specifically prohibits the bits' use during warm-up. Check with your breed association or sporting organisation to verify the legality of using Chifney bits at competitions, around warm-up areas or in the barns or trailers.
The Chifney bit is not for inexperienced horse handlers. It is a technical bit that can be quite severe and painful in the wrong hands. Inappropriate use of the Chifney bit may result in harm to the horse or its handler, or create long-term reluctance to accept a bit or bridle.
Some less knowledgeable trainers and riders confuse the Chifney bit with a Dexter ring bit. Using the Chifney this way is dangerous and can also cause injury or death to the rider or horse.
Check with a professional horse trainer, veterinarian or equine dentist before using a Chifney bit on a horse, pony or yearling.