Tom Thumb bits on English schooling horses
Just when we thought we had exhausted every argument and point of view on the tom thumb bits, here I go...
I'm working a friend's horse that is very green - barely broke. We ride English, he direct reins, has a very responsive mouth, and he was in a Tom Thumb bit when I started riding him. I explained to my friend why I didn't think the bit was beneficial to his style or level of training, and switched him to a french-link snaffle that he's very happy with.
My daughters spent last week at horse camp. It's a fantastic place, and I can't say enough about the positive instructors, horses, and program in general. However, on the last day, the kids put on a little show for the parents. My friend came along to watch. Then she stated the obvious: "Why are all the schooling horses in the bit you had me stop using?"
Good question. Which I could not answer. These were kids from age 6-10, most with very little riding experience. The horses are well-mannered. They all are riding English, and direct-reining only. All had Tom Thumbs, except one horse who was in a Pelham bit, but with only one set of reins attached to the shanked portion, not the snaffle portion.
What am I missing?
Why would you use a Tom Thumb bit with inexperienced little kids?
Why would you use a Tom Thumb bit to direct-rein?
Why would you use it to teach kids a soft contacting hand for English?
I would think it would be the wrong bit for this application, but this is a very reputable schooling barn with very experienced instructors/trainers, so I feel I'm completely missing something here.
Wish I could have been there to see for myself - when you say tom-thumb snaffle - do you mean the kind with shanks so that it acts as a curb bit? Like a western bit?
IMO, a TT bit is just wrong in general and doubly-so for direct reining. It applies the wrong pressure.
I'd say it was most likely:
- Because it's considered a harsh bit, perhaps they thought the horses would be easier to bring back under control? (I don't think it would work but I could see why one who didn't know much about bits would)
- They truly think it's a snaffle with shanks and that it would give more control for the kids
- They flat out don't know better
- They don't have the funds to replace the bits
A classic Tom Thumb. The one that's hated and occasionally loved. The American style, not the Aussie or British one. The one that in the American West is called the Tom Thumb snaffle. Straight or nearly-straight shanks with a single-jointed mouthpiece.
One explanation I've come up with is that the schooling horses are purchased locally. Horses here are predominantly ridden Western, and the Tom Thumb is very popular. I'm thinking that maybe they just leave the horses in the bits that they're used to?
Ahh- ok - I'm thinking and GUESSING (from what I've seen of similar shared horses at schooling shows around here ) is that the kids ride with them so they can have 'brakes' if they need them if the horses get a little wild or spunky in a group. I've seen it happen to even the most well-behaved and trusted horses. That must be the way they deal with it (maybe because it HAS happened and scared them)- there are better ways but to each their own. I mean, that's my guess and what I probably would have explained to her if she had asked me.
Keep doing what you are doing - you are using the better choice of bits. If it's just kids, and they are just having fun and the horses are doing their job, then they are fine, I think. If someone wanted to take one of the horses or riders through the real levels of showing, there would be some huge changes. Again, if they are as experienced as you say, I can't help but wonder if the reason they are putting tom thumbs on the schooling horses is because they had something happen at some point .... Hmmm - and that's me giving them the benefit of the doubt since I don't know them or their horses...!!:D
For what it's worth..
I rode a horse in a Tom Thumb and each time I did NOT HAVE ANY BRAKES. The horse was COMPLETELY unresponsive to everything I did that was not "Go forward as fast as you can". I absolutely refuse to ride a horse in one since then.
Why use a TT bit with young kids? To give them brakes. Really, that's all there is to it.
I don't agree with it one iota, but that's the "why" behind it.
However TTs are widely used in trail riding barns and camps where they don't really care (in most of them) what goes into the mouth.
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