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Bridle Bit - All of the 18th-century characters in the Outlander series had to know how to ride a horse because that was the primary mode of transportation over land at the time. To those who do not ride, it can seem that people on horseback are magically able to control the horse with the reins, but riders know that the reins are just a connection to a key communication tool — the bridle bit — which allows the rider to signal the horse through contact with its mouth and chin. While riders can also signal the horse using leg pressure and verbal cues, having the right bit to match the personality of the horse and the experience of the rider is important for achieving an effective connection between animal and passenger., Illustrated diagram of an 18th-century horse and curb bit, caption reads:This illustration shows a complete 18th-century curb bit on a headstall with reins. The curb chain that would have passed under the horse’s chin is hanging loose from one cheek piece.  From François Robichon de Gueriniere’s 1751 Ecole de Cavalerie, courtesy of the Robert Charles Lawrence Ferguson Collection, the Society of the Cincinnati, Washington, DC., Photo image of a bridle bit:Iron Curb Bit, Date: ca. 1700-1790, Site Name: Saunders Point, Site Number:18AN39/33 - This iron bit represents half of a curb bit with a jointed mouthpiece. The mouthpiece is the part of the bit that sits in the horse’s mouth, behind the front teeth, where it can put pressure on the horse’s lips, tongue, and palate. Some mouthpieces are made of one solid bar, but this example is made of two bars with looped ends that joined over the center of the horse’s tongue.  Bits are generally classified by the different ways they can create a communication conduit between the reins and the horse’s mouth.  Some bits, such as snaffle bits, connect to the reins right at the corners of the horse’s lips. Pulling on the reins with a snaffle bit causes the horse to bring its head up. By contrast, curb bits, such as this example, apply pressure through leverage, and they can direct a horse to bring its head down. Reins attach to curb bits on arms that hang below the cheek, where a bar, chain, or strap passes under the horse’s chin from one side of the bit to the other. Pulling up on the reins puts pressure on the curb chain in contact with the chin while the mouthpiece of the bit is pulled down in the horse’s mouth. Both curb bits and snaffle bits are commonly found on Maryland’s 18th-century archaeological sites. Two illustrations from published works showing a variety of bit mouthpieces on left and side branch forms above. Caption:There are many published works on horsemanship and horse care from the 17th and 18th centuries, and some illustrate the variety of bit mouthpieces (left) and side branch forms (above) that were designed in the ongoing quest to find the perfect communication tool for horse and rider. These plates were published in a 1696 English translation of Jacques de Solleysel’s The Parfait Marechal or Compleat Farrier, but it does not seem that many of the forms shown were used in colonial Maryland. None of the curb bits in the MAC Lab’s collections have the kind of decoration shown above, and the mouthpieces in the collections tend to be very plain, like Plate 2’s Fig. 1, “A Snaffle, or small watering Bitt,” and Fig. 2, “A plain round or Canon Mouth” (left).
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