What Shanked Bit? (Convert from snaffle)

       The Horse Forum > Horse Tack > Horse Tack and Equipment

What Shanked Bit? (Convert from snaffle)

This is a discussion on What Shanked Bit? (Convert from snaffle) within the Horse Tack and Equipment forums, part of the Horse Tack category
  • Direct rein in a shank bit
  • What is a shanked bit

LinkBack Thread Tools
    02-17-2008, 09:19 PM
What Shanked Bit? (Convert from snaffle)

So..I ride english...we use a French Link snaffle with direct reining and very light contact. My horse listens well to leg aids.

I am considering showing some (very beginner) Western classes next season. My horse is over 6, and I'm told he must be shown in a shanked bit using only one hand on the reins.

What would be a good bit to transition him into the wonderful world of western? Should I teach him to neck rein in his snaffle, or in a shanked bit? (I'll obviously need to use some direct rein while training.)

I've always heard bad things about Tom Thumb bits so I would like to avoid them. Many "training bits" that I see look awfully similar to Tom Thumbs. What's the difference?
Sponsored Links
    02-17-2008, 09:34 PM
Tom Thumbs are broken, short-shanked, thin bits - I don't like them at all.
Definitely start neck-reining while still in your snaffle.
I would suggest looking at a short shanked straight bar to start off with.. but that's just me :)
    02-17-2008, 10:40 PM
When I start all my horses in neck reining, if they are light mouthed, I use an argentine snaffle. They come in all sorts of mouthpieces and stuff, and It is much less severe than a tom thumb due to the bend in the shank. There are a few tricks to nack reining, if you take lessons they will help you. Basically use a combo of neck and direct reining until your horse realizes having the reins on his neck means turn. Some horses pick this up easily, others you have to use some different stuff on. One thing my old trainer used to do is cross the reins, long story, but it did work.

Anyways, here is a bit you might be interested in

Or if you want something nicer (I really like these bits)
    02-19-2008, 05:59 PM
Green Broke
Where I work and help with training we use an Argentine just like quixotesoxs said... it works good for us..... by the way thanks for the great site for it! I've been meaning to buy one and lately Weaver discontinued theirs and all the suppliers around here only sell Weaver..... thanks soo much!!
    02-19-2008, 06:24 PM
I like a shank with a port.

I show with this:
    02-20-2008, 06:50 PM
Ports are good too... just make sure you have soft hands!
    02-20-2008, 06:51 PM
Originally Posted by JustDressageIt
... just make sure you have soft hands!
Heh.... yeaaaaaaa.
    02-21-2008, 01:03 AM
So...it sounds like I should look for something with shorter shanks that are not straight.

I'm kind of bit-clueless, could someone explain how a shanked bit with a broken mouth works vs. a shanked bit with a solid or ported mouth?

In my snaffle for English, I understand that when I give direct contact with the left rein, it applies pressure on the right side and thus encourages my horse to move away from that pressure (to the left).

Or, in Western, is the rein on the neck the only communication for left-right action and bit use is more for collection, etc?
    02-21-2008, 01:15 AM
Shanked bit + Broken Piece = BAD BAD COMMUNICATION.

People think tom thumbs are nice because they are like a snaffle. On a true snaffle bit, the reins are attached to a relatively small, swiveling ring which could be considered a working part of the mouthpiece itself. When the rein is pulled, as you would do when asking the horse to turn, the ring that the rein is attached to moves completely away from the horse's mouth. The mouthpiece itself slides in the same direction, which causes the ring on the opposite side of the horse's mouth to apply pressure on that side. Because the horse is taught to go away from pressure, it then makes sense that if you are pulling to the left, and the pressure from the bit is on the right side of his mouth, he will naturally turn his head to the left. This is the simple principle that is commonly referred to as direct reining, or "plow reining". It is also a principle that is almost impossible to perform properly with the Tom Thumb, due to its design. Unlike a true snaffle bit, the Tom Thumb has shanks similar to the ones found on a solid curb bit. It is to the bottom of these shanks that the reins are attached. The headstall is attached to the top of the shank, as is some type of curb strap which fits around the bottom of the horse's jaw, in the chin area. These shanks swivel and are attached to the bit's mouthpiece.t is that one flaw in the bit's design that renders it almost totally useless when it comes to any kind of training which involves direct reining. Again, using direct reining in a snaffle bit, the horse is taught to move away from pressure. To turn to the right, the pressure is on the left side of the horse's mouth. To turn to the left, the pressure is on the right. There should be no other pressure being applied by the bit that could cause the horse to become confused.

Unfortunately, confusion is precisely what happens to a horse when the Tom Thumb is used. 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 aking 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.

If this wasn't bad enough, 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.

He then tries to tell you that he doesn't understand what you want by twisting his neck and shaking his head. Of course, we look at this as him being belligerent and not wanting to do what he was told. So, we simply apply more pressure to the rein which re****s in an even bigger fight on his part.

Eventually, the horse does finally turn to the left - but only as a last resort. Before he does, he will first try several different options. Among these will be: 1) turning to the right, because the left shank tipping into the side of his face is forcing him that way; 2) lifting his head as high as he can get it; 3) dropping his head as low as he can get it; 4) backing up. Rearing is also an option which sometimes happens as well.

Asking the horse to stop or back up, using a Tom Thumb, often results in much the same behavior. The reson for this is, again, the bit's design. Pulling back on the reins causes the hinged mouthpiece of the bit to collapse and jut foreward and then downward inside the horse's mouth, putting pressure on the horse's tongue. At the same time, the bottoms of the shanks (where the reins are attached) tip backward, causing the top of the shanks to tip forward. This, in turn, causes the curb strap to tighten under the horse's chin. Again, pressure is being applied in several different areas and this results in total confusion for the horse. Neck reining with the Tom Thumb can also result in confusion on the horse's part. This is because the idea behind neck reining is to be able to turn the horse by applying light pressure on his neck from the rein. To turn to the right, the rein is laid on the left side of the horse's neck. To turn to the left, the rein is on the right side of his neck. When done properly, there should be no movement or involvement whatsoever on the part of the bit. The solid curb bit, because of its design, lends itself very well to the act of neck reining. When laying the rein on the horse's neck to turn him, even if slightly heavy pressure is being applied, the curb bit usually will not move in the horse's mouth. This helps to eliminate the possibility of mixed signals which could confuse the horse.

However, because the Tom Thumb has so many moving parts, even the lightest pressure during neck reining with it often results in the shifting of the bit. Again, the shanks tip and turn causing the curb strap to tighten, the mouthpiece to collapse and the horse to become confused. The horse usually responds by raising his head and tipping it to the outside, or in the opposite direction that you want him to turn. Our response is usually to grab the reins with both hands and direct rein the horse back in the direction we want him to go. Of course this begins the series of problems that I mentioned earlier, head shaking, head tossing, and almost total unresponsiveness to anything we ask the horse to do.

I could go on and pull out further use full tidbits but that should be enough.
    02-21-2008, 01:33 AM
Thanks for that info Abby! Further reinforces my desire to NOT use a Tom Thumb. Is that description true for all shanked bits that have a broken mouth? Including those Argentine Snaffles that quixotesoxs linked to?

Should I be looking for something with no moving parts, like the photo Tim posted? I want something really mild, but not something to confuse my boy!

My new shiny Western headstall is coming in the mail tomorrow! *EXCITED!*

Quick Reply
Please help keep the Horse Forum enjoyable by reporting rude posts.

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

All times are GMT -4. The time now is 01:58 PM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.5
Copyright ©2000 - 2015, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
Search Engine Friendly URLs by vBSEO 3.6.0