I have been reading around on Tom Thumb bits and quite frankly im surprised by how "cruel" they are labeled in the horse world. I'm beginning to think I have the only horses in the World that do not respond poorly to these bits. I guess I have been grossly misinformed in my up-bringing with horses.
I ride Skippy!, Jasmine, Joey, and even Dreamer in a Tom Thumb bit (the "grazing" kind.. it has a longer curved shank). Not once have I had my horses balk their mouths in pain, throw their head, ride with an unnaturally high head carriage, try to escape the bit, or buck/get agitated while riding. Seriously.. not once. From my experience, I can't see this as a cruel bit. After reading the articles and seeing quotes like "Almost all horses with this bit will open their mouth and try to evade the pressure and pain." I find myself really frustrated.Even in using the qualifier "almost" I feel that this person is really exaggerating. "Many" would have been a lot more believable than "Almost all".
Anyways... a trainer recommended I ride Skippy! With a low port curb bit (because he was blowing through his snaffle. She instructed me the entire ride, and he did know how to neck rein, etc. this bit did have a roller in it.) and he was very frustrated the entire ride even with absolutely no contact on the bit. I had very very briefly rode with a low port kimberwick in a riding lesson and again, he was VERY agitated the entire ride. Those are the only two solid bar bits I had put in his mouth and the experiences were so poor that I chose to never do it again.
I really do not think that his behavior was because of having a bit in his mouth that prevented him from bulging through it. This wasn't him throwing a hissy fit, this was a horse that had some very obvious discomfort.
Skippy! LOVES the bit (believe it or not) so that he actually got really, really grumpy about having those bits in his mouth was VERY out of character for him. When we go to bit him he slurps up his Tom Thumb, and gobbles up his Snaffle. I just really think he does NOT like solid bar bits.
The reason I never changed out Bits for Joey, Jasmine, and Dreamer is... they respond great to it, are very willing and happy to be ridden... so I don't feel I need to. Joey and Jasmine both prefer a leverage bit because they have been trained in the western discipline. With Dreamer, I am thinking about going back to the Full Cheek Snaffle just because I don't feel he needs a leverage bit. Though, many Walking Horse Trainers have recommended MUCH longer shanks and a big port to get him "going right" but my morals are telling me that putting a 3 year old in a big port bit with 10 inch shanks is wrong o.o So, the Tom Thumb it'll stay. At least until I find a reputable Walking Horse trainer in my area.
I have seen the Tom Thumb used more times than I can even begin to express in my 12 years around horses. I used to work on a boarding facility that housed 113 horses... so I have seen riders-a-plenty with the Tom Thumb bit, and the only horses I saw with gaped mouths were the ones with complete (or partial :P) morons on their backs. I saw horses gaping their mouths with anything from Low/Medium/High Port Bits to Loose Ring Snaffles.. but it was 100% rider error.
ANY bit can be the cruelest bit in the world. Some just come off as being more cruel than others by appearance alone (like High Port Cathedral Bits) BUT.. I am sure that there has to be a rider out there in this cold and lonely Horse World that knows how to CORRECTLY use it. Its the other people that worry me. I've seen people that really need to be riding their horse in a Halter, because they can't seem to handle the authority of having even a snaffle bit in their horse's mouth.
My horse's know what I am asking for when I cue them (this may also have to do with me riding with more than just my hands. I cue with my seat and my legs). So the Tom Thumb in my experience doesn't cause confusion in cueing. As I said earlier, i've never had a bad experience with a Tom Thumb on any horse i've ridden. I think the reason Skippy! (and maybe the others) likes it so much is because it is jointed and he can fold it and play with it in his mouth. He is a very oral little horse. Everything in the mouth!
And I just want to clarify, I am not one of the people who think the Tom Thumb is a gentle bit because it is a snaffle mouth. I know about the "nutcracker" effect. I R smartr than that kthx I am a firm believer in the "The Bit is only as Harsh as the Rider's Hands" theory :p
Surely I am not the only one in this Country/World who has had good experiences with the Tom Thumb.
I really respect the opinions of many individuals on this Forum/Chat, and I am interested to see more of your thoughts on Tom Thumbs... I'd like to think there is someone else out there with a positive opinion on these bits.. or someone else that has had positive experiences.
I know i'm wordy, but I wanted to make sure I completed my thoughts the best that I could before I posted, to avoid confusion about my views on the bit... though i'm sure there are a ton of things I failed to properly communicate.
I look forward to seeing your posts :p