I hope I'm not opening a can of worms, but... Tom Thumb? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 9 Old 08-17-2012, 05:20 PM Thread Starter
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I hope I'm not opening a can of worms, but... Tom Thumb?

For the record, I'm not looking for a new bit and I'm not considering a TT bit. (I use a D-ring snaffle and so far it's working just fine for us) I'm just very confused... I did try doing a search through older threads, and I did have a (cursory) look through Smrobs' sticky on bits, but I'm still feeling confused. (Maybe I didn't go back far enough?)

It seems like a widely known fact that Tom Thumb bits are not for beginners (riders or horses) and some people seem to feel that they have no place in their tack room at all. WHY? Just at a glance, they look very similar to other curbs on the market and I'm not sure what the difference is.

I'm really not trying to stir up an argument, so I'm sorry if this is a touchy subject, but I'd just really like to know the reasoning behind it.

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post #2 of 9 Old 08-17-2012, 05:52 PM
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They are generally just not nicely made bits, and with the wide selection of bits out there anymore why buy it? A bit of its bad wrap does has to do with with rumors of horses jaws being broken from it- something I do not believe in the least bit, but for those that do would make it that much more controversial.
Mostly people don't like them because of the way they are made. The straight shanks make for no warning. One minute it will be lying flat in the mouth and the moment you put pressure in the reins it activates the curb, and can cause the nutcracker effect. The shanks- being fixed how they are- makes it impossible to direct rein with, when you pull back on one shank you'll see the other shank move up also. It just causes a whole mess of mixed signals.
Mainly, as I said before, people have such a large problem with them because there are so many better bits you can buy, that are made well and cue well, so why buy/use a tom thumb?
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post #3 of 9 Old 08-17-2012, 05:56 PM Thread Starter
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wow, I had never heard the rumour that they had broken horses' jaws before... I can't see how that's even possible, unless the owner/rider was doing something REALLY crazy with them.

Thanks - I just don't like feeling ignorant about these things, and whenever I tried doing searches I just got articles/threads stating that people don't like them and they're not for beginners but not WHY.

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post #4 of 9 Old 08-17-2012, 06:02 PM
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Yes, I've also noticed that some people dislike them so much they forget to say what, exactly, their problem is with them.
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post #5 of 9 Old 08-17-2012, 06:11 PM
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Once upon a time I wrote out all the reasons why I hate TTs....but I can't seem to find that post anymore. So I guess I'll give rewriting it a go.... :)

For me, my dislike of TT's is mostly due to how people around here use them. It's not so much that I literally hate the bit (I've actually ridden a few horses in them with reasonable results - not great/the best, but reasonable), it has more to do with what "the common man" thinks a TT is for and how said person uses any TT they get their hands on.

Around here there are a few misconceptions that very widespread and "common knowledge":
1) TT's are a snaffle with extra "brakes". Just as nice as an o-ring, or any other type of snaffle, just with more stop! Yay!
Um no. The TT is not a snaffle, if you go by the real definition of a snaffle (1:1 pressure ratio).

2) Since a TT is just a snaffle, with brakes, ANYONE can ride in one! They can pull hard on it but since it's a gentle snaffle, no harm, no foul, right?

3) Since a TT is a snaffle, that means it should be direct reined in. Neck reining? What's that? Oh, that's only for people who want to use harsh bits. Psh.

4) Since a TT is a snaffle, it's ok to have one on a very green horse. If the horse bolted with you on the first ride due to fear, obviously pull out the TT and slap it on that horse. A TT is perfectly gentle, just will discourage bolting!

For me, these are the main things I hear on a regular basis when I'm around other horse people. I don't hang around other horse people.
But, I feel like as long as manufacturers manufacture TT's as snaffles, we'll be fighting an uphill battle. I think that until that time happens, TT's really should not be recommended, nor should they be used by anyone uneducated about their purpose.

And, on top of that, if your horse functions best in a curb, most of the time there is 100% a curb out there that your horse will accept better than he/she will accept a TT. Sure, you might have to look for a while and try many different bits but I guarantee you that there is something out there that your horse likes just as well, or better than a TT.

To comment on your comment about TT's looking like other curbs you've seen, sometimes they do. Usually it's a difference of a swept back shank (more pre-warning for the horse before bit action happens) or something else like that.
Personally, I do not like broken curb bits as a general rule. I much prefer a slightly ported mouth, no breaks. I don't like how broken bits can pinch and I feel like that's a lot for a horse to have going on in it's mouth - broken links, curb chain, lots of things.
Some horses do go well in a broken curb but I very much prefer a more solid mouth for my horses.

Basically, it's not that the TT is a bit made of the devil. It's the lack of education surrounding the bit and the prevalence of other, better, bit options.
For me, it's like choosing to eat jelly beans for dessert at a 5 star restaurant when you could have had the restaurant's award winning, world class,....some fancy dessert... you know?
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post #6 of 9 Old 08-17-2012, 06:11 PM
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I, like Malice, strongly suspect that the "broken jaw" story is just that...a story. A horse's jaw isn't easy to break and TT bits generally have relatively short shanks so you'd have to have the strength of the Incredible Hulk to break anything other than your bridle reins.

But, like others said, the mechanics of the bit are just bad. I am not a fan of broken mouth curb bits period just because I don't like how they feel and how they move in the horse's mouth. On the TT, the entire manufacturing is very coarse, they are just poorly made bits regardless of design. They are just cheap. But, if the design was something worthwhile, that would be less of a problem.

The problem with the design is this, with the shanks straight like they are, there is no clear pre-signal when you pick up your hand. The horse can feel when you pick up your hand, but there is no way to distinguish what you are asking until you actually put pressure on the bit...and that's when all the pressure just comes crashing down with zero buildup whatsoever. Then, if you try to direct rein in them, that's when things get really bad.

Because of the design of the swivel shanks that are straight combined with the broken mouth, whenever you pick up one side, it moves the entire bit. You pull on the rein and it pulls the bit through the mouth and puts pressure on the other side of the horse's mouth. That's the way it's supposed to work. What they weren't planning on (and what nobody tells people) is that when you pick up one rein, the broken mouth "breaks" and the entire shank you're pulling on tips. The rein ring tips away from the mouth and the bridle ring tips into the side of the horse's face. When that happens, you're essentially telling him to turn left and right at the same time.

I wish I was really good with photoshop, I would make pictures to show what I'm talking about.

Either way, instead of writing more on my own, I'll just post a link to this. He pretty much covers everything.
Trouble with Tom Thumb
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post #7 of 9 Old 08-17-2012, 09:11 PM
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Ha-ha!! Just because I was through with my work for the day and bored....

Here is how a TT sits in the mouth when it's not engaged with direct reining

Then, when you pick up one rein to ask the horse to turn...
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post #8 of 9 Old 08-18-2012, 12:16 AM Thread Starter
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Thank you, guys - even though I've been around horses forever, it's been a very limited group (my parents horses and now my own) and so sometimes I still feel really ignorant, and I'd like to change that!

Thank you so much for the visuals, smrobs - I love a good diagram/visual aid!

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post #9 of 9 Old 08-18-2012, 12:21 AM Thread Starter
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That article by Mark Rashid was well written, but just the way I learn things I'm so glad you added that picture! You can describe something to me until you're blue in the face and I still might not get it, but show me a diagram and I'm all over it!

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