OK. I give in. So many people emailed me about my definition of “shank snaffle”, that I will now call them a “curb bit with snaffle mouth” and move them to the curb bit category. :*) I don’t want the nomenclature to get in the way of the discussion.
I recently purchased a 14 yr old quarter horse mare, for a trail/pleasure companion. She was ridden by kids in play days, she does not seem to have any problems with the bit she has a very good verbal stop. She came in a short shank (6″) snaffle with copper roller, I call a tom thumb bit, she doesn’t seem to have any bit issues but I don’t see her needing this harsh of a bit can you suggest another bit I could try what about a low port curb? Thanks
A curb is best for stopping because it really adds pressure to your pull. The tom-thumb-type has swivel cheeks for good lateral control. If she has no problems rating back (stopping), she doesn’t need a curb bit at all. I would drop back to a simple three-piece snaffle seen on the Snaffle Bit Basics discussion. It is still there if you are insecure without a bit. It does very nicely for turning. Is much softer on the face all the way around. It’s one of my favorites. http://futurepet.com/cgi-bin/FULLPRES.exe?PARTNUM=AHE261410
Thank you. I have been waiting for a response in hopes of changing my partnership with my horse. The less she stops, the more anxious I became and the more I “ride the reins”. I have ordered the 3-piece bit to help both of us. I’ll let you know how it turns out.
This explanation of how the various bits works is the best I have found. I have been searching for an answer for my horse who is hard to stop but constantly tosses her head when I use the Tom Thumb Bit that gives me more control for “whoa”. I have thought of taking the bit away completely and going to a side-pull or hackamore, but I am afraid she will not stop. Is there another bit that might work better? How about Pelham? Other suggestions?
A Tom Thumb bit is very commonly used by people who want more stopping power. However, it can be very harsh due to the leverage of the shanks. It bites into the tongue, the palate, the bars, the poll and the chin . Most horses who wear this bit will toss their heads, open their mouths and generally object to it – especially of their owner is not very light-handed.
I have two first thoughts:
1. You are “riding the reins” and putting constant discomfort into your horse’s mouth causing him to fight all of the time. If that is the case, don’t use this bit until your riding skills are better. In fact, I don’t recommend this bit for every day riding by anyone.
2. Your training was hurried and you need to go back to basics in a round pen (then the arena) and perfect all of the voice, leg, seat, and hand cues for “whoa”. See the sections on “Verbal Whoa” and “Flex Training”.
See if relaxing some of the tongue pressure will give your horse some relief in the mouth without your giving up all of the curb action of his Tom Thumb. The 3-piece mouth of this “Cowboy Pelham” ( http://futurepet.com/cgi-bin/FULLPRES.exe?PARTNUM=AHE256890 ) may solve the problem by itself. From the beginning, the horse may have been having severe reactions to the stabbing of the 2-piece snaffle, causing bit avoidance, lack of concentration, and poor response – especially if you are anxious and “on the reins” all of the time. If you have trained him to be worried about the stabbing, he can’t concentrate on stopping while he is throwing his head up and trying to dance away from the pressure. With the 3-piece Training Bit, you have the option of leverage or no leverage. Start with the leverage bottom loop or use two reins. (See a picture of this 3-piece bit above)
Go back to the round pen. Perfect the verbal whoa on the ground. Then mount and perfect it in the new bit. Most horses prefer to stop and rest rather than work -especially in a controlled area. If he knows that rest comes after whoa, he is likely to look forward to relaxing after that cue. Remember that when he stops, release the reining pressure IMMEDIATELY. Get off the reins and out of his mouth and just relax for at least 60 seconds. Do this alone in the round pen, and then ask a friend to train in the same round pen doing different exercises than you are while you practice stopping and waiting with your horse. Then move to the arena or small pasture – first alone and then with a friend. First at slow speeds and then at faster gaits.
As you see improvement under these controlled conditions, you can move your reins off of the leverage loop and put them on the direct Dee (or add a 2nd rein) to continue to work on the stop with less leverage. When you leave the safety of the arena, try not to depend on the leverage. Give your horse the benefit of relaxing all of that pressure. If leverage is necessary again, your arena work in not yet finished.
If your horse needs occasional brush-ups, go back to your Tom thumb. But only occasionally and for one or two short training sessions.
If all goes well, you can progress to a http://futurepet.com/cgi-bin/FULLPRES.exe?PARTNUM=AHE261460 3-piece D-ring snaffle and from there to a side-pull.
If he just won’t respect the three-piece mouth, purchase a 2-piece mouth, Cowboy Pelham-type, bit ( http://futurepet.com/cgi-bin/FULLPRES.exe?PARTNUM=AHE261801) and use it with reins attached to the leverage loop for a short time. This bit is very similar to a Tom Thumb, and the horse will probably react the same way if you are using the lower rein loop only, so don’t expect it to cure all of his head-tossing etc. However, (unlike your tom Thumb) it give you the option of keeping the snaffle action without using the curb loop except to stop. Using two reins will clarify your signals and also educate your hands to separate “stopping” curb from continual restraint.
Every horse and rider is different, so this is not meant to be an exact prescription for perfect response, but I hope this will give you a place to start.
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