A Bit Shank is the bar that has a ring that attaches to the bridle headstall at the top (headstall loop), the bit in the middle and and the rein ring on the other end. The length of the shank is important, as the longer the shank below the bit (lever), the more pressure is applied to the horse’s mouth with less rein pressure from the rider’s hands. In other words, shanks add power to the rider’s cues and deliver more intense pressure than the rider exerts directly.
Properly adjusted bits with shanks rotate before applying pressure, and in doing so give a horse “warning” of the needed action BEFORE pressure is applied (signal). Thus, just picking up on the reins is discernible to the horse, and a horse can be sensitized to light cues as his training progresses.
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Rider’s with heavier hands should use shorter (or no) shanks. Rider’s with small, soft, or light hands and hard-to-manage horses can use longer shanks. But bits with shanks are not for beginners
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