Tom Thumb Bits - The Horse Forum
LinkBack Thread Tools
post #1 of 27 Old 03-27-2009, 09:34 AM Thread Starter
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Horatio, SC
Posts: 743
• Horses: 8
Tom Thumb Bits

Alright, I finally wanted to make a thread about this...

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

-Skippy! The Wonder Horse!

Last edited by Skippy!; 03-27-2009 at 09:40 AM. Reason: Spelling x_x
Skippy! is offline  
Sponsored Links
post #2 of 27 Old 03-27-2009, 12:29 PM
Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: Colesville, NJ
Posts: 1,729
• Horses: 0
Honestly I've used them before if transitioning a horse from a snaffle to a curb english to western, however with very very very soft hands. Because of the combo nutcracker + leverage action that the broken mouth plus shanks have, it can be incredibly painful for the horse. Rather than just having either/or the horse has both the curb chain/poll pressure of a curb plus the nutcracker jaw action of the snaffle. If you have quiet hands, it's a non-issue as even a plain snaffle can be rather harsh. However a lot of people are mistaken to think that by nature it's a mild bit, when in reality, both a plain snaffle or a simple curb are less severe in that they work in only one way on the horse.

As you said - any bit can be harsh in the wrong hands, however it's also important to understand what the horse likes and dislikes. My one jumper prefers his mullen pelham to any simple snaffle b/c of how shallow his mouth is. It's a matter of preference of hose and skill of rider imo.

Life Without a Paddle...a blog about life out here, and great for a laugh!
TLC Stables & East/West Arabians
Are you getting the most out of your horse?
CJ82Sky is offline  
post #3 of 27 Old 03-27-2009, 12:47 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Horatio, SC
Posts: 743
• Horses: 8
Initially, I thought it was a nice bit because of the lack of port, not the presence of a snaffle. Even after i realized it was doing the joint nutcracker/leverage effect, I still thought it was a good bit, but i realized it wasn't as "beginner friendly" as i first thought.

And as you said, it all has to do with Horse preference... We had a shallow mouthed Thoroughbred at the barn in California and he could only be ridden in an English Hackamore. Any actual bit in his mouth would result in head tossing. BUT.. his rider knew how and when to use it and he turned out great!

Hackamores always scared me. Especially the old fashioned Mechanical Western ones.. I have often heard to those reffered to as "Jaw Breakers".

Thanks for the reply hun =)

-Skippy! The Wonder Horse!
Skippy! is offline  
post #4 of 27 Old 03-27-2009, 03:09 PM
Green Broke
Join Date: Nov 2007
Location: Arkansas
Posts: 4,138
• Horses: 3
TTs work fine for some horses, that have riders who have quiet/soft hands. If your horse works well in a certain bit, then there's no sense in changing it.

However, as a general rule, they should not be used, especially as a "transition" bit or on green horses. Most horses will gape or toss their head if you use the bit to direct rein (pully rein) or pull on it too hard to stop.

If your horse prefers a snaffle mouth, but you need some shank for stopping and knows how to neck rein, then a three-piece bit works well without the nutcracker effect, as does a Billey Allen mouth (like a myler comfort snaffle). You have flexibility in the mouth piece of both bits, but you don't get the negative effects of a single joint curb bit.
luvs2ride1979 is offline  
post #5 of 27 Old 03-27-2009, 03:37 PM
Join Date: Oct 2007
Location: Missoula, MT
Posts: 6,594
• Horses: 1
I rode my arab in a TT and she responded lovely to it. I rode her with mostly seat and leg as I ride Diesel now. Like you said, any bit can be cruel in the wrong hands. TT you just have to be especially soft with because of that broken mouthpiece/leverage.

I have never thought to use it on a green horse and wouldn't anyway though. I prefer just a plain snaffle.
Spastic_Dove is offline  
post #6 of 27 Old 03-27-2009, 03:38 PM
Join Date: Jul 2008
Posts: 22,258
• Horses: 0
I think that almost any bit that gets a bad reputation does so because of bad people. That is great that your horses are doing so well in a TT. Most people who ride horses (I won't say horse people because these people aren't) don't have that much sense and with them, a TT can be incredible cruel. I don't like spade bits because I think they are way to cruel but when they are use properly by knowledgable people, they can make some incredible horses. It is amazing how everything is always judged by looking at the people who use it the worst. Everytime that it is posted that a TT is a very cruel bit is really an incomplete sentence. It has the potential to be cruel in the wrong hands and on the wrong horse. But of course, every bit can be, even bitless too.
smrobs is offline  
post #7 of 27 Old 03-27-2009, 05:13 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Horatio, SC
Posts: 743
• Horses: 8
Originally Posted by smrobs View Post
Everytime that it is posted that a TT is a very cruel bit is really an incomplete sentence.
What an awesome quote. That is a very, very true statement. I believe that same thing applies to Stud Chains, Whips, and Spurs. As you said about the Spade Bit... you don't like it and would never use it, but there are people out there that use it -correctly- and it makes an increadible horse.

Another thing I was thinking about....

Isn't a Jointed Kimberwick just as "cruel" as a Tom Thumb?

Especially when used on the lower leverage setting? An average Tom Thumb has a very short shank, and though i don't have a Kimberwick infront of me... isn't the Kimberwick's lower leverage setting equal to the length of a tom thumb? Regardless... Kimberwicks DO come in snaffle settings... and if someone was to use either leverage setting wouldn't it react the same way a Tom Thumb does? Nutcracker the mouth and apply leverage under the jaw?

I've never seen anyone complain about Snaffle Mouth Kimberwicks... o.o; And it seriously seems like the same principle to me. In fact, there are quite a few snaffle mouth leverage bits in the English Discipline.

Thanks again for the input guys!

-Skippy! The Wonder Horse!
Skippy! is offline  
post #8 of 27 Old 03-27-2009, 10:17 PM
Join Date: Nov 2008
Location: mill spring nc
Posts: 201
• Horses: 3
I ride two of my three horses with a tom thumb one is just a plain copper mouth TT and the other is a TT with a third piece (french link ) I have never had an issue with mine however I ride on a loose rein and I have soft hands. As stated any bit can be harsh and since mine do so well I won't change them. My young mare who has just gone to a trainer however I sent a full cheek french link for her to be started in.bc she has a very sensitive mouth and I was afraid the nut cracker action would be too much for her.Any way I too am a fan of thr TT.
hrsjmpr32 is offline  
post #9 of 27 Old 03-27-2009, 11:00 PM
Join Date: Apr 2008
Location: Gallant, Alabama
Posts: 2,470
• Horses: 8
Up until a few years ago, I didn't even "know" there were any bits besides grazing bits and tom thumbs... All of our horses either used a grazing bit or a tom thumb...

My mare, though ride her mostly in a hackamore, still works very well in a tom thumb and I put her back in it every now and then. If I put any other type of bit on her (snaffle, grazing bit, whatever) she runs right through it... she prefers a tom thumb or a hackamore.

Our old gelding (who is retired and belongs to my cousin) ride with either a grazing bit or a tom thumb for most of his life with no problems.

Our oldest mare used to ride with a tom thumb all the time... with no problems. She now rides with a hackamore, though I'm still not sure just why my uncle decided to switch her to it...

But, some horses just will not tolerate it... my three year old gelding HATES single joint bits and can't stand hackamores... so I use a thick straight bar-with-port 'snaffle' on him. It's not really a snaffle, because it's a 'made' bit and has been fixed up, but he loves it and it's the only bit he works with.

Horseshoe Loop Farm: Home of Gypsie (22 y/o TWH mare), Dakota (10 y/o TWH gelding), Codie (18 y/o Walkaloosa gelding) & Harlow (9 y/o APHA mare)
Britt is offline  
post #10 of 27 Old 03-27-2009, 11:01 PM
Join Date: Apr 2008
Location: Gallant, Alabama
Posts: 2,470
• Horses: 8
You are talking about the Tom Thumb SHANKED bits... not the Tom Thumb SNAFFLE bits... right?

Horseshoe Loop Farm: Home of Gypsie (22 y/o TWH mare), Dakota (10 y/o TWH gelding), Codie (18 y/o Walkaloosa gelding) & Harlow (9 y/o APHA mare)
Britt is offline  

Quick Reply

Register Now

In order to be able to post messages on the The Horse Forum forums, you must first register.

Already have a Horse Forum account?
Members are allowed only one account per person at the Horse Forum, so if you've made an account here in the past you'll need to continue using that account. Please do not create a new account or you may lose access to the Horse Forum. If you need help recovering your existing account, please Contact Us. We'll be glad to help!

New to the Horse Forum?
Please choose a username you will be satisfied with using for the duration of your membership at the Horse Forum. We do not change members' usernames upon request because that would make it difficult for everyone to keep track of who is who on the forum. For that reason, please do not incorporate your horse's name into your username so that you are not stuck with a username related to a horse you may no longer have some day, or use any other username you may no longer identify with or care for in the future.

User Name:
Please enter a password for your user account. Note that passwords are case-sensitive.


Confirm Password:
Email Address
Please enter a valid email address for yourself.

Email Address:


Human Verification

In order to verify that you are a human and not a spam bot, please enter the answer into the following box below based on the instructions contained in the graphic.

Old Thread Warning
This thread is more than 90 days old. When a thread is this old, it is often better to start a new thread rather than post to it. However, If you feel you have something of value to add to this particular thread, you can do so by checking the box below before submitting your post.

Thread Tools
Show Printable Version Show Printable Version
Email this Page Email this Page

Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Cleaning horses' bits - no, not those kind of 'bits' Kyani Horse Grooming 79 01-30-2013 01:07 PM
French Link Tom Thumb? CessBee Horse Tack and Equipment 13 03-23-2009 06:31 PM
Next Step up From a Tom Thumb Bit? randiekay215 Horse Tack and Equipment 17 03-11-2009 12:01 PM
(AUSSIE) Tom Thumb Snaffles WranglerBlondie93. Horse Tack and Equipment 1 11-17-2007 07:42 AM
tom thumb bit blossom856 Horse Tack and Equipment 19 11-07-2007 12:34 PM

Posting Rules  
You may post new threads
You may post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are On
Pingbacks are On
Refbacks are On

For the best viewing experience please update your browser to Google Chrome