What is a Curb Chain?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A curb chain is a chain used on horse bridles with certain types of bits to control the placement of the bit and refine control of the horse. It has a very distinctive design that has been borrowed, along with the name, by producers of jewelry. Several other jewelry designs and styles have their origins in tack and harness for horses. Inconsistent jewelry nomenclature can sometimes create confusion about the type of jewelry people are referring to.

Curb chains may be used on horse bridles for control purposes.
Curb chains may be used on horse bridles for control purposes.

The curb chain is made with a series of twisted links that are designed to lie flat. In a traditional curb chain, the links are oval and they are all the same size. Variations on the design may use circular links or links of different sizes. The curb chain lies smoothly and should not pinch or tear. This ensures that the chain does not cause pain or injury to the horse while it is in use, and the same trait makes this style of chain useful for necklaces and bracelets when there is a worry that the chain might damage the skin.

When used with horses, curb chains are designed to run under the chin of the horse. They secure the bit, keeping it in the right position, and they can also increase control. The chain must be adjusted so that it is loose enough to give the horse an opportunity to respond to light pressure, without being so loose that the bit can slide out of position. If a curb chain is too tight, there is a risk that it could apply pressure to the bit and damage the horse's teeth or palate in addition to causing discomfort.

For jewelry, curb chains are commonly used for necklaces and bracelets that are designed to lie flat against the skin. Ornaments can be attached or the chain can be worn plain, and it can also be used to suspend pendants and other objects. Curb chains are also sometimes used in fashion design on clothing, and can be seen attached to wallets and watches with a clip to keep these objects secured.

Lengths of loose curb chain are available in a variety of sizes and made with an assortment of materials. Gold and silver curb chains are common, as are chains made with other metals that are plated. Prices vary depending on the size, materials, and level of craftsmanship. Jewelry should be securely stored to reduce the risk of scratches and tarnish.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


I have a few curb chain necklaces that I wear occasionally. They both are silver and on the smaller side, and I love how simple and elegant they are. One was from my Mom, so that one definitely means a lot to me and I hope I never lose it.

I like to put charms on my curb chain necklaces to add a little flair to them and to my outfit. I like to put simple silver and/or diamond charms on my curb chain necklaces. Curb chain necklaces are usually simple, elegant, and go with many different ensembles.


I have two different curb chain necklaces that I wear quite often. The one I wear most of the time is a small sterling silver twisted curb chain. It seems like the sterling silver goes with most anything and I like the smaller design.

The first curb chain necklace I ever bought was a large 14k curb chain. I don't wear this one much anymore as it seems too big and a little out of style.

What I like best about wearing a curb chain necklace is that they are simple and will not clash with any color or design you are wearing.


We spend many hours trail riding in the summer and fall. When we are getting our horses ready to ride, I have one horse who absolutely hates having the bridle put in her mouth.

Once the bridle is on, she has no problems, but she will clamp her teeth shut as tight as she can when I am trying to put her bridle on.

The curb chain simply looks like a small necklace that hangs under her chin to help control where I want her to go. She is an old mare so this isn't usually a problem, and I don't have to use much pressure on the reins to get her to respond.

My husband uses a hackamore when riding his horse. His horse has an very sensitive mouth and does much better not having a bit in his mouth at all. There is no curb chain with a hackamore, but everything is controlled more by pressure points on the nose and face.

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