Dressage Legal Bits

Rule Refresher: Bits, Bridles, and More, Dressage Edition

USEA/ KTB Creative photo

Looking to switch up your horse’s gear for the upcoming season? Take a moment to review the rules and familiarize yourself with the approved equipment for each phase. In this edition of Rule Refresher, we’ll focus on the acceptable tack for dressage. The information below has been extracted from the USEF Rules For Eventing, with additional emphasis by the USEA.

If you have any inquiries regarding the permissibility of a particular piece of equipment for competition, it’s advisable to consult the Technical Delegate at the event before the competition begins.

Saddlery (EV115)


The following restrictions are effective from 3:00 p.m. on the day preceding the start of the competition until the end of the event. The following items are mandatory: an English style saddle and any type of bridle, including double bridles, snaffles, gags, or hackamores. Running martingales with rein stops, Irish martingales, bit guards, boots, bandages, fly shields, nose covers, and seat covers are allowed. Side reins are only permitted for lunging horses without riders, along with running reins and chambons. Other types of martingales, gadgets (such as bearing, running, or balancing reins), and blinkers are strictly prohibited and may result in disqualification.


a. The following items are obligatory: an English style saddle and a permissible bridle.

b. A double bridle with a cavesson noseband is allowed for certain tests. The double bridle consists of a bridoon bit and a curb bit with a curb chain made of metal, leather, or a combination of both. The cover for the curb chain can be constructed using leather, rubber, or sheepskin.

  1. The cavesson noseband should never be fastened tightly enough to cause discomfort to the horse.
  2. The lipstrap and rubber or leather covers for the curb chain are optional.
  3. The bridoon and curb bits must be made of metal or rigid plastic and may be covered with rubber/latex (flexible rubber bridoon and curb bits are not permitted).
  4. The length of the lever arm of the curb bit should not exceed 10 cm below the mouthpiece.
  5. The upper cheek of the bit should not be longer than the lower cheek.
  6. If the curb bit has a sliding mouthpiece, the lever arm below the mouthpiece must not exceed 10 cm in length when the mouthpiece is in its highest position.
  7. The diameter of the bridoon and/or curb ring should not cause harm to the horse.
  8. The curb bit must have a minimum mouthpiece diameter of twelve millimeters (12mm), while the bridoon bit must have a minimum mouthpiece diameter of ten millimeters (10mm).
  9. The cheek piece of a hanging cheek snaffle should not exceed 7 cm in length, measured from the top of the small ring.
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c. A rounded snaffle bit made of metal, leather, rubber, or plastic material is permitted for all tests and can be covered with rubber/latex. The reins must be attached to the bit.

d. The bridle may have a cavesson noseband, dropped noseband, crossed noseband, or flash noseband.

  1. The noseband should be made entirely of leather or leather-like material, except for a small disc of sheepskin, which is allowed at the intersection of the two leather straps in a crossed noseband.

e. A breastplate may be used. For illustrations of approved bits and nosebands, please refer to Annex 1 on the Federation website. Permitted bits for specific tests are indicated in each test.

f. Martingales, bit guards, gadgets of any kind (such as bearing, side, running, or balancing reins), reins with loops or hand attachments, and any form of blinkers, including earmuffs, earplugs, hoods, and seat covers, are strictly prohibited and may result in elimination.

g. Boots and leg bandages are strictly prohibited in the areas surrounding the arena and inside the arena. Athletes must remove boots and/or bandages before entering the space around the competition arena, as failure to do so will result in penalties. Please refer to EV136.c for more details.

h. Shoes (with or without cuffs) attached with nails or glue, or wraps that do not extend beyond the hairline of the hoof, are permitted.

i. Ear hoods are allowed for all tests and may provide noise reduction. However, ear hoods should allow the horse’s ears to move freely and must not obstruct their vision. The use of ear plugs is not permitted, except for prize-giving ceremonies. Ear hoods should have discreet colors and designs. Additionally, they should not be attached to the noseband. Any piece of equipment that restricts the horse’s ears from moving freely is not allowed.

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j. Nose nets are permitted under the following conditions:

  1. The entry must be accompanied by a letter from the horse’s veterinarian, on official letterhead, stating that the horse has been diagnosed with head shaking syndrome and that the horse’s condition improves with the use of a nose net.
  2. The nose net must be transparent and cover only the top half of the muzzle, without interfering with the bit or the horse’s mouth.

k. A neck strap or pommel strap made primarily of leather may be used.

Remember, it’s crucial to adhere to the rules and guidelines to ensure a fair and safe competition. For more information about dressage tack regulations, please visit Garrity Traina.