Mutliple National Finals Rodeo qualifier and futurity champion Michele McLeod introduces an innovative bit in her Greg Darnall-made line, with a sculpted mouthpiece constructed to apply specific pressure when a horse pushes against the bit, yet when the horse gives, the smooth surfaces allow the horse to run more freely. The contours enable the horse to release itself and go back to the smooth, accommodating surface.

—> Click here to read more about Michele’s theory on bits, gag vs. no gag, and how good horsemanship complements good bits.

How the Bit Works

“I’ve designed this bit to where it’s forgiving but you still get out of it what I feel, in most barrel horses, people’s complaints are. I got away from a gag, because I feel in our horsemanship in the barrel racing community, we think it’s okay if the nose drops down and they give, but in all essence we’ve lost their hind end and we’re just riding the face. I ride the whole body, and I want my horse balanced. To find that balance, they need to know where to go on the bridle and stay right there, so I’ve taken the gag out. This bit lays so nice on the bars of the mouth that if the horse wants to root forward, it teaches them to give and come back into the bridle. This bridle is not severe at all and allows them to become relaxed with the dog bone and copper to roll. With a squared mouthpiece and it laying so nice on the bars of their mouth, if they do want to root forward, all I’ve got to do is pick straight up and it helps them break at the poll and come back and be in the bridle.”

Michele McLeod short shank bit
The short-shank version. Photo by Shari Darnall

Shank: Short or Long

“The long shank would be for a little more whoa, a little longer purchase for the horses that are stronger. For a young horse, I’ll go to [the short shank version] right out of the snaffle. I would adjust my curb strap to be lighter at first. Then I’ll go to the longer shank as the horse is progressing in training and becoming more broke.”

Michele McLeod long shank bit
The long-shank version. Photo by Shari Darnall

Mouthpiece: Flat Squared Three-Piece Brass with Copper-Wrapped Dog Bone

“It’s a laser-cut flat bar, and it’s really unique how it lays on the bars. It’s a square mouthpiece, because these barrel horses tend to root forward and lean into the bridle, so we lose their lower back and when they’re hollowing their back just a little, then it makes us take a half step or so past the barrel. I did a squared mouthpiece with a dog bone in the middle wrapped in copper. I feel that a lot of these horses are very internally nervous and may not show outward signs. If they roll that copper they’ll salivate, and it’s known if they salivate it’s relaxing and calming to them.”

Curb Strap: Chain

“I go to the hardware store and make my own. I tend to go with a smaller linked chain. I do like the flatter chain that some of the English bits have. If I have a sensitive horse, I’ll switch to an all leather curb.”

This article was originally published in the May 2019 issue of Barrel Horse News.

See more of Michele McLeod’s favorite bits here.


Blanche Schaefer is an avid barrel racer and managing editor of Barrel Horse News. Email comments or questions to [email protected]

1 Comment

  1. Irene Smith Reply

    We have a 8year old that doesn’t want to stop. Have tried several bits but no luck. Any suggestions? Thanks!

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