Soft Bits vs Harsh bits? - Page 4

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Soft Bits vs Harsh bits?

This is a discussion on Soft Bits vs Harsh bits? within the Horse Training forums, part of the Training Horses category

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    11-06-2008, 03:23 PM
Oh, my favourite subject!

Before I start, I better explain what I call which.. since I'll just translate from my swedish mind, where snaffles never have shanks etc :P

Snaffle: Rein attached to the rings and directly to the mouthpiece. No shanks. The mouthpiece can be straight or jointed.

Curb; has a chain and shanks. Mouthpiece can be different as well as length and form of shanks. (the escauela to the left has no chain in the photo, but you can see that it's supposed to) The cheekpiece of the bridle is above the mouthpiece, the rein is below. (I know the pelham allows you to have a rein in the level with the mouthpiece, but I still say it gives a very slight curb effect.)

Gag: has no chain or strap and the mouthpiece can run on part of the shanks. I concider most western curb bits without a chain more of a gag than a curb, even if the mouthpiece's firmly attached to the shanks.

That's just to make sure you know what I mean, and these are the main types of bits in my world, all bits can be put in one of these three.

The snafle work directly from rein to mouth, the same preassure you feel in your hand, is in th horses mouth. That makes them gentle, in a way. The effect is that they give the horse an impulse to raise it's head (yes, you can make the horse put the head down and forward on them, but that's more with your seat han the bit, and it's not the most obvious for the horse.)

The curb works indirectly, you feel the rein much lighter than the horse feels the bit, and you have to remember that. Italso gives the horse implses to stuck his nose in, his forehead out and his neck down. You use the curb after the horse has learnt to follow the bit; the curb should be used with release; by taking the rein a bit, making the horse yield, you the release the rein more and the horse follows the rein to a low frame, opposite of what most people think, it's to lower and get the nose forward, not to pull it in. To raise the head, you use the snaffle, and both curbs and snaffles can be used together.

Gags are to me most with the curb, you feel the rein lighter than the horse does. But since there is no strap or chain to keep the bit in place and to signal for the horse to move the nose in, the mouthpiece just slides up against the horses ears when you pull the rein. I've never really understood what that's supposed to do, but please inform me if you know.. To me, this is the harshest and most confusing bit, I wouldn't use it. (Much like the ''bitless bridle'' ;)

So, what makes a bit harsh? If it doesn't fit the horses mouth and education, it's harsh. A too fat bit is harsh since it doesn't get enough place in the horses mouth, as well as a too thin if you know that you can be a bit heavy in your hands. Twisted or bumpy parts on the mouthpiece is only there to make it harsher and should be uneccessary. Copper inlays are usually there for the taste and should be o if they're smooth. Ridicculously high ports (some western bits and possibly some portugeese curbs) is very harsh. Chains or lots of joints (waterloo bit or what it's called? I've even seen a bit made of a chainsaw chain) are both harsh and confusing since it givs a weird preassure and tightens around the chin. Too many moving parts can be confusing too. A two jointed snaffle is never good with a tight noseband (tho nosebands should always be loose) since it can hit the palate and the horse can't get away from that.
Long shanks on a curb might be seen as bad, but many horses prefers tht since it gives a softer warning before the rider uses the rein. Of course it also makes the differense in feeling between hand and mouth bigger.

Other than that, there arn't much ways to saw what is good or bad, mostly it depends on what the horses like and how well it fits in that very horses mouth.
Mostly it depends on how it's used, but I guess a curb or gag in the wrong hands are worse than a snaffle in the same hands.
Don't put the curbstrap too lose, it will make the bit more like a gag than a snaffle and completely destroy the purpose of it, making it harsher and more confusing than it would if the strap was right.

On a sidenote; Bitless can be very good, but can also be put under the three main categories I''ve mentioned.
The bitless bridlr and the like (with straps that hugs the horse) is more of a gagbit.
The hackamore (mechanical) is a curb, and shouldn't be used on a green horse, even if it's well educted with bits, it should learn to seek the bitless before you use the hack.
Riding cavessons, muserolas, sidepulls and the like, are like snaffles.

I think that was all.. so basically, whatever fits your horse and your purpose is a mild bit when you use it right. :)
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    11-06-2008, 03:39 PM
Meh, didn't reach to edit it into a nicer, more easily read shape :P

Also wanted to add that it's of course better to use a harsher bit than to risk your life, but you have to start thinking about why you need a harsh bit and change your riding, or else you'll end up with a horse that has a sweich army knife in it's mouth and still can't be stopped :)
    11-06-2008, 06:20 PM
Originally Posted by RedHawk    
That's interesting about the tom thumb, b/c in Australia this is called a tom thumb

I was just thinking that... and started reading the article wondering why on earth the one bit (the one above) that I've found to be the best, is now not good for my mare!!!

As for bitting a horse, I find you have to try a few before finding one you like. I was suggested to use an eggbutt snaffle (hollow mouth) on my mares... what worked for one mare, certainly didn't work for the other! Bailey ended up in a tom thumb... she's incredibly strong in the head, and despite being soft in your hands and asking the correct aid, being an alpha mare, if she decides she's not doing something, you do need to have a little help turning the corners! I've found the tom thumb to be really useful. And its the only bit that Bailey actually respects.

As for Evo, he was started in a full cheek snaffle. He worked really well in it, but became too dependent on the 'wings' as I like to call them. I decided after the basics were installed to try him in an eggbutt snaffle (hollow mouth again)... he hated it... he felt like he had no weight in his mouth and hated to be worked in it. He's now in a JP Korsteel Oval Mouth bit... it gets rid of the nutcracker action, so it's kind of like a french link, but it has an oval link, rather than the flat bar.

With Honey, I started her in Bailey's tom thumb. I quite like her in that bit, although I am going to buy her a full cheek eggbutt snaffle like Evo was in. I prefer that bit, and because it's a useful training aid, and she is a bit nappy in the trot, I think it will help her.

Like I say, you're going to have to look around and try a couple or so... some horses like to feel the weight in their mouth and some like thicker bits. I would start with the snaffles... and go from there :)
    11-06-2008, 07:33 PM
I wonder especially in the tom thumb just how much the curb strap has to do with what action it gives in the mouth. I had an all out cat fight over people on this bit b/c they told me to open my horses mouth and watch how the bit hit the roof of his mouth. So I pulled back on the reins and opened his mouth and I saw the bit rotate backwards and break slightly over the tongue and well that was it. It didn't create a sharp v that hit his mouth or get even close to it. I keep my curb strap loose so this has a lot to do with where the joint is breaking at. Plus my bit is not too big, as someone pointed out in another post, snaffles that are too big will have a much more severe nutcracker effect than one that allows no more than 1/4" on each side of the mouth. Plus my shanks are 3 1/2" long and the purchase is 2 1/4" and that is a really good ratio. I asked my trainer about this bit and she said it doesn't have enough presignal with the shape of the shanks, but rotating shanks give presignal and she said that my curb strap was loose enough to do the job of presignaling the horse too. Now I definantly trust my trainer, she trains people for the AQHA circuit and has a good reputation at many barns so her input put my mind at ease on this issue b/c many people online had me really worried about it.
    11-06-2008, 07:35 PM
Ohh I refered to it as a snaffle I meant broken mouthpiece, of course I'm sure you all know snaffle doesn't mean broken mouthpiece all the time and curb bits like the TT have broken mouthpieces
    11-06-2008, 07:45 PM
Originally Posted by Zappasowner    
I wonder especially in the tom thumb just how much the curb strap has to do with what action it gives in the mouth. I had an all out cat fight over people on this bit b/c they told me to open my horses mouth and watch how the bit hit the roof of his mouth. So I pulled back on the reins and opened his mouth and I saw the bit rotate backwards and break slightly over the tongue and well that was it. It didn't create a sharp v that hit his mouth or get even close to it. I keep my curb strap loose so this has a lot to do with where the joint is breaking at.
I've seen so many bits called tom thub I'm not sure exactly which you meant.. :/
But the curb strap is there to prevent the bit from getting an elevator/gag effect, and to make your aids clear to the horse. Having it too loose makes the bit harsher, actually.
And remember that when the horses mouth is shut, there's barely any space at all between the tounge and the palate (a few horses have higher palates tho). But as long as you don't use a snug noseband it's no problem, the horse will just open the mouth if it should hit the palate.
I'm not too impressed of curbs with jointed mouthpieces, but they sghould be ok if the curb strap isn't too loose or too tight...
    11-06-2008, 08:13 PM

Here is what I'm talking about. I have the curb strap loose enough to fit 4 fingers in it so it does have a play in the action of the bit, but not a whole lot, it wouldn't act like a gag bit in this case, just enough to give alot of presignal.
    11-06-2008, 08:28 PM
If I knew more about bits when I chose a bit I would've chosen (if a tom thumb) a Billy Allen Mouthpiece to ensure abosolutely no nutcracker action and swayed back shanks. Or the bit I'm using now which I love! My horse seems to have no preference though he's really pretty quiet in the mouth.
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    11-06-2008, 08:34 PM
Ugh..I just found a site with lots of horrible bits..I'll have nightmares.. >< And by te description of them, I get the feeling the curb strap isn't used the way ''over there'' as I've learnt to use it here..
I'm not sure how much 4 fingers is, but that might be something like what I'd mean :)

It's just these kinds of bits I have a little trouble with.. especialy when they say they're good for colts or horses with a good mouth..I'm not sure if I want to know what they use on horses with bad mouths..

(not really sure how that's fit..)
I guess I just don't fancy chains or that thin, twisted mouthpieces with long shanks..

But I still think this is the worst..
    11-06-2008, 08:39 PM
The first bit looks thin enough to cut cheese I'm not even sure what the second bit is I think the chain goes in the horses mouth like a combination bit? The third ummm......yeah no idea?! I try to keep it simple with bits and just try to get my horse to respond to my shoulders and seat b/c the first horse I had as a kid I ended up making her mouth hard with just an 0 ring snaffle so I REALLY work on having light hands. My OTTB is so sensitive too and I can tell I'm doing things right with him since I can turn him with just my shoulders.

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