Switching Bits - From Tom Thumb to D-Ring Snaffle - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 17 Old 11-14-2011, 10:26 PM Thread Starter
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Question Switching Bits - From Tom Thumb to D-Ring Snaffle

Hello Everyone!

I am hoping to get advice on the following bit situation. I have a 6 year old Paso Fino/ Mustang cross. When I bought her, she was green broke and trained in a Tom Thumb bit. I had read several bad reviews regarding the Tom Thumb bit, so I tried switching to a D-Ring Snaffle, then a Full cheek Snaffle, but my horse was not having it. She tossed her head a lot and would constantly fight against the bit. The trainer I was working with at the time told me to go back to the Tom Thumb and I no longer had problems.

A year later and my horse has been doing great and has really made great progress in her training. She is responsive to light cues and we have started some light jumping (for fun). I am trying to transition her to a regular O-Ring snaffle or even a D-Ring Kimberwick (so she can still have the same leverage effect she is used to), because I have read bad things about using a direct rein with the Tom Thumb. So far, she is not having it. She is fighting the bit and not acting like her focused self. I know that she may just need to get used to the feel of the new bit, but how long should this take? Am I wrong to try to transition her? I am under the impression the bits I am trying to transition her to are the proper choice for training.

FYI: She has had her teeth floated in the last 6 months and I had the vet check her teeth again this month when I first started trying to make this transition. Her teeth are fine. I am not experiencing any behavior problems when I ride her with the Tom Thumb or even bitless (in the arena only). Should I just stick with what works? Am I being silly trying to change her bit?

Any advice? Thanks!
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post #2 of 17 Old 11-14-2011, 10:29 PM
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Why are you trying to change the bit in the first place?

Here are some threads I think you may find interesting:

why do so many people object to Tomb Thumbs and dislike them?
Why Shanked Bits are Utterly Evil, etc.
My Own Informative Bits and Bitting Thread
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post #3 of 17 Old 11-14-2011, 10:41 PM
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Bubba, wouldn't it be best if she changed bits for jumping , though? I have never seen anyone do jumping in a TT.

I think you need to think about what exactly is different about the TT and the snaffles to find out why the horse seems to work better under one and not the other. The tT is a broken bit, so it might also have some nutcracker affect. what is really different about those two bits? Are you changing more variables, such as mouthpiece materieal and thickness, too?

Is your horse responsive to the TT action early on, or does she require you to engage it so far that the curb chain comes into play? Meaning, is your horse running through light bit action and only responsive to the pinch of the curb chain?

I don't care for the TT bit, but if it works, there is no reason to not use it. The horse is not suffereing. ONly for jumping can I see you needing to reconsider a bit change.
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post #4 of 17 Old 11-14-2011, 10:45 PM
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It's not show legal in most places, for sure, but people jump in worse, as I found from that photo of Hickstead:

No, I don't think a Tom Thumb is an ideal jumping bit. I hate Tom Thumbs, really. And I think it's probably best (and certainly conventional) if a horse is started jumping in a snaffle (or bitless bridle). But if the horse, for whatever reason won't, or hates the bit, the lesser evil is just to practice avoiding hanging on the reins, and giving a good release, and using the bit the horse likes and works well in. A double-reined Pelham would probably be a good compromise in this case. I should have said that earlier, but wanted to get the rudimentary basics out there first.
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post #5 of 17 Old 11-14-2011, 11:45 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you Bubba. I haven't read your links yet, but will do so as soon as I type this response.

Thank you TinyLiny. To answer your question, I am not changing the mouth piece thickness or material (as far as I know). My horse is pretty responsive to light contact, however I do have constant contact with the bit. I used to ride with a loose rein, but we had a few bucking instances early in her training where I got thrown to the ground pretty hard, so I am now very aware of keeping those reins short enough to keep her from being able to put her head down too far again. I have been told that my reins are not too short though. I guess I fear that since I have constant contact with the bit, this is a problem with the TT. I also read that you should "never direct rein" with the TT. People give multiple reasons online, but I am honestly still not sure why. I just want to make sure I am doing the right thing.

Thank you both for your advice! I appreciate the help!
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post #6 of 17 Old 11-15-2011, 12:09 AM Thread Starter
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Additional Information: I should also clarify this. My horse doesn't fight the TT bit. She doesn't seem to mind it at all and still has a soft mouth. The other bits I have tried (o-ring snaffle, D-Ring Snaffle, and the Kimberwick -with a curb chain) seem to bother her. Is this just because she is used to the way the TT feels in her mouth? I won't be jumping in competition at all, but want to train her properly. My main concern is using a direct rein with the TT. I have read several articles stating that you should not direct rein with the TT. Here is a portion of an article stating this on Tack Recommendations.

"Because of its shanks, any attempt at direct reining results in pressure on several different areas around the horse's mouth. For instance, if you are asking the horse to turn to the left, you will be pulling on the left rein, with the idea that the pressure from the bit will be on the right side of the horse's mouth, thereby turning the horse left. However, because the rein is attached to the bottom of a swiveling shank, pulling on the rein results in the shank turning and tipping into the left side of the horse's face . When the shank tips, it also shifts the mouthpiece, which, in turn, puts pressure on the right side of the horse's mouth by pulling the right side of the bit into it. You now have pressure on both sides of the horse's mouth, as well as a shifting of the mouthpiece inside the mouth. Tipping the shank also results in the tightening up of the curb strap that is under the horse's chin. Suddenly, the simple act of asking the horse to turn to the left is no longer a simple act. The bit is applying so much pressure in so many places, that the horse has no clue as to what you were asking for in the first place."

It is important to note though that my horse does not seem to have any trouble when I use direct reining cues. She seems to understand exactly what I am asking for without any trouble.

I don't want to fix something that isn't broken, but I also do not want to be ignorant and end up hurting her in the long run.

Thanks for all of your help and advice!
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post #7 of 17 Old 11-15-2011, 12:12 AM
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post #8 of 17 Old 11-15-2011, 12:59 AM
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Just so you know Bubba, Hickstead wasn't ridden in that recently. He was being ridden in a pelham for most of this year's competitions.
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post #9 of 17 Old 11-15-2011, 06:34 PM
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If you are wanting to switch to a lighter bit, and she wont take some of the lightest bits (D rings are pretty easy going!) Then maybe try bit-less. Sorry, but I am a firm hater of Tom Thumb bits. I personally wouldn't be jumping in a TT but whatever. Also, hey, if it isn't a problem why make it one?
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post #10 of 17 Old 11-15-2011, 07:09 PM
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On one hand, I'm not a fan of jumping in the tom thumb. On the other hand, if your horse is responsive, has a light mouth and isn't telling you there is a problem (and this is clearly a horse that TELLS you if she doesn't like her bit) then why make one?

The bits you are trying to transition her to are the proper choices, but it could take months until she accepts them.....and you always stand the chance of creating more problems by 'picking a fight' with her over the bit - meaning that she may be uncomfortable and unhappy without her TT - and begin to associate riding with being uncomfortable and unhappy, which can lead to a whole other host of headaches.

"Riding: the art of keeping the horse between you and the ground."
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