The Soft Bit and Bridle
It was probably during herding that the necessity arose to jump on one horse’s back to follow others. An agile man on a small horse needed no saddle, but some kind of control was essential. This may at first have been no more than a rope around the jaw, or some sort of hackamore. The earliest known “bridle” appeared in what is now Eurasian steppe north of the Black Sea. These bridles and antler or bone cheek pieces, and the mouthpieces were of hemp, sinew, or rawhide. Then as now, the other parts of the bridle served the purpose of holding the bit in the proper position in the horse’s mouth. The cheek pieces from the early bridle are all that remain today, the soft mouthpieces having decomposed long ago. The cheek pieces positioned the sinew mouthpiece properly on the “bars” of the horse’s mouth, the toothless portion of the horse’s gum. This type of bit was perhaps the most gentle on the horse.