When I was growing up a lot of the strong ponies, including school ponies, on the yard wore Kimblewicks. They were the in thing for ponies who were a bit strong for their young riders.
Now though, the go-to bit for strong ponies is the Wilkie bit. Kimblewicks are rarely seen at all.
So what is the difference, and why have we migrated towards Wilkie bits?
A Kimblewick is a curb bit, usually with a ported mouthpiece, D-shaped cheeks and a curb chain. It is one of the mildest curb bits as the shanks are short and there is minimal leverage. When the rein is applied and the D-rings rotate, the curb chain comes into contact with the horse’s chin. Some Kimblewick designs have slotted D-rings, in which the rein is fixed in position so has a greater leverage.
The Wilkie, or bevel, bit has small loops within the larger snaffle ring. The cheek pieces attach to the upper loop whilst the reins attach to the lower loop. This means that when the reins are used there is a rotation of the mouthpiece, putting pressure on the poll. For this reason, I believe that Wilkies belong in the gag family, not the snaffle family. Due to the small loops being within the large ring, the action of the Wilkie is much milder than the continental gag. Again, it is also seen a lot of ponies, and I believe the fact that the bit cheeks are smaller and more discreet than a continental gag lends itself to being more becoming on small headed ponies with young riders. Due to the mild poll pressure, it also promotes head carriage and outline, which helps bolster it’s popularity in the show ring.
Some of the reason behind the Kimblewick’s demise is the fact it isn’t legal in the show ring; the Pelham or double bridle are much preferred. Nor is it legal in the dressage arena. Neither is the Wilkie to be honest. We as riders have also edged away from double reins, and favour gag bits in general, which means that the Wilkie is all the more appealing.
It would be interesting to know if anyone uses one bit or t’other and what influenced their choice of bit. Has anyone tried both on a pony, and if so can they feel the difference in the action of the two bits?