This photograph shows a closeup of a photo of a full cheek snaffle bit in a horse’s mouth. The sides of the bit are tucked into the leather loops of a piece of tack known as a “keeper”.
The leather keeper helps stabilize the bit in the horse’s mouth. With the cheek connected to the headstall of the bridle, the bit is less likely to jostle during typical riding (which can confuse or frustrate a horse) and less likely to slip-of-place or even into the mouth during an emergency (such as a horse bolting or another behavior that might require a one rein emergency stop)
Full cheek snaffle bit keepers are slightly more secure if they surround the entire cheekpiece.
In this photo, as you can see, only part of the headstall is holding the keeper in place. Attaching via this method, however, is much faster and handy if you need to use your bridle on more than one horse using different bits. This attachment method makes the keeper faster to put on an remove.
Why use a Full Cheek Snaffle with Keepers?
Stability – Full cheek snaffles can be used with or without keepers, but the keeper changes how the bit moves in the horse’s mouth. A keeper stabilizes the bit and prevents it from rolling forward or backward in the mouth in response to external (reins and bridle) and internal (tongue, mouth, and teeth) movement. Most horses prefer the stability that the keepers provide, and keepers may help horses that are easily distracted to focus.
Safety –Many horse trainers and Pony Club leaders believe stabilizing the keepers may prevent the extended pieces of a full cheek snaffle from catching on things.
Keepers generally come in only one size but many different colors (and, like most leather items, can be dyed to match your existing tack).
Most bits, like the curb bit above, don’t need a keeper. Keepers were developed as a way to make the full cheek snaffle- which is young rider friendly- even safer for young riders and even gentler for horses.