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Shank Bit Advice?
I have a gelding who has always been rather hard mouthed. He would fight the bit, no matter what kind it was. So I went back to a snaffle and did lateral flexion. My 4H leader (horse project) said that since he's older than 3 years old, it is against the rules to ride him in a snaffle, and he has to have some kind of a shank, size doesn't matter, just has to be shanked. My trainer recommended an Argentina bit....How does it differ from a Tom Thumb? And I know the shorter the shanks the better, but are curved shanks softer or more aggressive? And should he have a broken snaffle type mouthpiece, or a solid curb mouthpiece? Anyone with advice or knowledge on this topic would be greatly appreciated. Thanks. EthanQ
There are a few indicators of a mild vs. severe curb bit. Any and all of this essentially refers to the potential severity -- any bit, even if it's made of braided silk, can hurt a horse's mouth with the wrong hands on the reins. A vaquero-style spade bit, while scary looking, can be a phenomenal and gentle communication aid with the right hands on the reins. Harsh bits don't ruin mouths, harsh hands do.
Shank vs. purchase ratio: Long shanks with a short purchase (length of the upper part of the shank, between the mouthpiece and cheekpiece of the headstall) typically indicates a harsher bit. A more equal ratio indicates a milder bit.
Curved or swept shanks are generally milder than straight, at least in that there's a slight "delay" in the activation of the leverage action that isn't there in a straight shank. Straight shank = quick response, but it's easy for bad hands to overdo it and intimidate/frustrate the horse.
Mouthpieces: Thinner is generally harsher, but don't jump on the thickest one out there in the name of mildness. Consider your horse's mouth conformation -- if he's got a low palate or is otherwise lacking space in there, a thinner mouth will probably be more comfortable.
Jointed mouthpieces tend to get confusing when mixed with leverage action -- I'd avoid a jointed mouth unless it's of the Billy Allen variety (a limited-range swivel joint -- almost no potential for pinching).
Ridged or otherwise textured mouths are more severe than smooth. Twisted wires fall into this category. If you've done your homework and prep work properly, there's generally no need for these kind of mouths.
Higher, narrower ports are generally harsher than lower, wider ports.
American Tom Thumb vs. Argentine: The main difference here is in construction and balance. Every TT I've ever laid hands on has been a poorly made, poorly balanced hunk of junk, and almost every rider I see with one is hauling on it two handed like it was a loose ring snaffle. Argentines, with the slight sweep in the shank, have a little delay to the action. A solid mouth with a low port eliminates the "noise" of the jointed mouth and the mixed-signals that leverage on a jointed bit can send by accident.
Given these very general "rules," a good bit to look long and hard at to transition your gelding out of his snaffle (assuming that he is soft, supple, and neck-reining well in the snaffle) would be an Argentine with a low port, or perhaps a Billy Allen style joint. However, every horse is different, and your fella may make his preferences quite clear to you once you start experimenting.
Incidentally, that's interesting how your 4H rules are shaking out on the subject... I was a member for years, both English and Western projects, and I've been a club leader for a few years now. In my state, Western horses don't have to make the switch to a shanked bit until their 5 year old year. Even then, I do believe that gaming horses (barrels, etc.) are still allowed to run in snaffles (although most are outfitted in comparatively harsh curb half-breed rigs...) 3 just seems awfully young... most horses in my area are barely started under saddle at that point, and would be nowhere near prepared to "graduate" from their snaffles.
Anyway, hope that's helpful to you! :D
What? Not allowed to ride in snaffle? You HAVE to ride in a curb bit?! That is just bull. I would leave your 4h club and find somewhere where they don't require curb bits... Do the best for your horse. Also, a lot of horses are started at 3- or even older- so what about those horses? They have to be ridden in a curb? Sorry, makes no sense.
Thankyou for the advice! And yes.,...I have always been taught to just ride the horse in what he'll work in...and this horse is perfect in a bosal/rope halter but 4H tries to be all professional like and follow the AQHA rules...but whatever I'm not too serious about the winning, just the experience and having fun with my horses. Thanks!
Weaver Sweet Iron Polished Medium Port Mouth Bit with Copper so would this be the kind of bit I need to be looking for? Short curved shanks, solid mouthpice and smaller port?
Thats a good horse person, horse over showing (or anything). After a little bit of online searching, all the sites I have found for 4h the rule is either 5 or 6 years they NEED a curb bit. Anyone know WHY this is? Is it a misconception that horses need bits with shanks to be controlled or what?
I wish that 4H would have a Green Horse/Green Rider division, let the horses and riders who are not ready for a curb or to canter to W/T or ride a snaffle until they are legitimately ready to move up, regardless of age, rather than hand down a requirement that forces horses and riders to be rushed rather than be properly "made." That's just my 2 cents on the subject, anyway. :lol: It's supposed to be about learning and growing as horsemen and leaders, not about getting that horse cantering in a curb as fast as possible.
A lot of 4H's rules don't make a great deal of sense... in my state, the kids have to pick a saddle and stick with it all season -- they can't show their horse in both English and Western classes at a 4H show. Even more recently, gamers aren't allowed to compete in rail classes, or vice versa. JMHO, but, if you and your horse are versatile enough to try your hand at both disciplines, why not? What is the harm? The other leaders of my club and I have asked repeatedly what the rationale is for those particular rule changes, and never got a straight answer... it just got handed down as law from the Capital.
Anyway, I'll stop hijacking the thread with my ranting now... :oops:
Yeppers, something like that would definitely fit the bill as a starter curb, and is 4H legal.
Yeah...here in Kansas we are allowed to show any discipline we want and whatever classes we like...Like last year my bridle broke and the judge let me run barrels in a halter...If they will let us run fullout in a barrel pattern with only a hackamore/halter, why not let us do a reining pattern with one?
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