The Baucher is one snaffle bit that certainly gets a lot of discussion amongst riders, on forums, at gear checks and I feel is one very misunderstood horse bit! The questions always are- does the baucher bit apply poll pressure or not, is it a leverage bit and should it be permitted to use as a snaffle in competition?
So here are my thoughts on the Baucher.
The Baucher (boo- SHAY, BOW-sher, BOW-cher; there are a number of ways people pronounce it) bit can also be known as the “hanging cheek” snaffle. It is sometimes put on upside down in error, to look like a half spoon bit. Correctly used, the small ring is used to attach the bridle cheeks to, and the larger ring for the reins. The bit is, in its simplest form, a fixed cheek snaffle, meaning that the mouthpiece cannot move or rotate on the rings, like with an eggbutt.
The fixed cheek of the Baucher works similar to any fixed cheek style, giving the mouthpiece more stability and “stillness” than a loose ring, which some horses will find confidence in and prefer to a loose ring. The fixed cheeks also sit flat against the head and with the extension above, help prevent the bit sliding through the mouth- almost like a full cheek.
Poll pressure? The thinking is that with the small ring above, the bit rotates as the reins are pulled, and the small ring holding the cheeks moves to apply pressure to the poll. Maybe, BUT if so, it could only be very, very mild. Unfortunately, most bit manufacturers still actively promote the Baucher to work through this perceived poll pressure.
If the bit rotates in the mouth as described, the cheeks will apply some resistance to the poll area, but here is a bony structure. Before the bit can rotate further and apply any significant pressure, I would argue that the lips will stretch and the bit move higher in the mouth first. You need less force to stretch the lips than press onto the bony structure of the poll with any significant force. Often though, in action the bit hardly rotates at all.
Is it a Leverage Bit?
There is NO leverage action in a baucher. I give a detailed explanation of Leverage bits and their action in this month’s guest blog spot for horsenation.com, but essentially in order for a “lever” to come into play, there needs to be a pivot point (the mouthpiece), an extension below the pivot point where the force is applied (shanks and reins) and optionally, an extension above the pivot point (the purchase).
See the difference in the bits in the diagram below? The the Eggbutt and the Baucher have NO extension below the pivot point, and the reins have no direct purchase point on the rings and are allowed to slide. The reins will generally slide and sit on level with the mouthpiece. The Kimblewick, (similar in shape and size to a Baucher), and the Pelham DO have a clear extension below, with the reins fixed below the mouthpiece. The Kimblewick and the Pelham exerts leverage force, making the rein aids stronger for the horse.
The Baucher does not use leverage force, and simply transfers the rein aids in a direct manner, similar in action as an Eggbutt or Loose ring, or Full cheek etc.
Riders and gear checkers should see the Baucher more as a cross between an Eggbutt and a Full cheek, rather than view it as a kind of Kimblewick. There are a lot of horses and ponies that go particularly well in the Baucher bit, they are happy and comfortable in the still contact, a novice rider will benefit from the stillness as well if their hands are not 100% stable. There is no more poll pressure applied than if using a Full cheek with keepers, and there is certainly no leverage force.
Should it be allowed as a snaffle? In my view, yes. The EA and FEI classify the Baucher as a snaffle bit. By this definition, as described above it is a direct action bit, as with all other snaffles, with the same amount of pressure in the same direction as the rider’s aids. The Baucher is therefore legal to compete in as snaffle in EA Dressage and showing, as well as jumping and xc phases. Almost all state Pony Club bodies also permit the Baucher as a snaffle for all events and rallies.
However, in 2010 the NSW PC for some reason decided to rule that the Baucher is not permitted in pony club dressage competitions. The minutes of the committee meeting unfortunately do not elaborate as to the reasoning why the bit is banned, and I have been unable to find out the reasoning for the ban, apart from a comment from a rider that the committee had deemed the bit to be “harsh”.
Without wanting to rattle any cages too much and get into a debate about “harsh” bits and kind bits, I will simply conclude that in my view, and the view of equestrian Australia, British Dressage, USA Dressage and many, many other international ruling bodies, the Baucher is a snaffle bit, therefore permitted in competition as such. Why the NSW PC should go against this, is not clear.
(If you are a NSW PC member, and would like to challenge their ruling on this bit, please email me and I will be happy to offer support. As I am not a member of NSW PC, I am unable to address this issue with the committee personally.)
(NB: as of 8th October 2013 I have been informed that PC NSW has reversed this ruling, and the Baucher is now PERMITTED where a snaffle is required for PC Dressage competitions!- Anita, edited 8/10/13)
I hope that this post has helped create a better understanding of how the Baucher bit works, and how it does not work. To view some of the Bauchers in the Bit Bank range, click here. If you would like more information, or have any specific questions about the Baucher or any other bit, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or post your question on the Facebook page to share with others! Do you disagree with me? Post a comment below- I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Give your pony a kiss from me- I hope they are not all as hairy as mine!
(with apologies for my dodgy diagrams!)