Which bit do I use? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 33 Old 05-29-2015, 12:54 AM Thread Starter
Join Date: May 2015
Location: Ontario, Canada
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Which bit do I use?

Hello, I am brand new to the forum and getting back into horses after a very long time away. I just adopted a 16 year old standard bred mare who is broke and calm but hasn't been ridden a lot lately. I have a few very good friends who are experienced horse people helping me; but I know that there is so much more I can learn on this forum so am very excited to be here.

My first question is what bit I should be using?? She is a calm mare who takes rein direction very well. We are working on reminding her of the leg and voice commands. The bit that the bridle came with is a tom thumb but I had read that this bit can be very confusing to a horse - esp with a beginner rider. I was looking into snaffles but am unsure whether she needs the full cheek, half cheek or just d-ring type.
I have also been told that the french link split bits are preferred by most horses.

I am planning on using her only for western riding and only for pleasure riding. I just want a horse that I can take out a few times a week and I do not want to confuse her or hurt her with the wrong bit as a beginner rider.

I will appreciate any and all suggestions or info about how to go about choosing the right bit for myself and Chelsey.
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post #2 of 33 Old 05-29-2015, 02:13 AM
Green Broke
Join Date: Jan 2015
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For my TB I used to use a D ring snaffle as that is what he raced in but at the moment he is in a KK springer French link loose snaffle and he loves it as it evens out the pressure a bit more.
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post #3 of 33 Old 05-29-2015, 02:29 AM
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I , too, use a KK ultra french link, loose ring as my "go to" bit.

but, if the hrose has been ridden in a single jointed snaffle and likes that, no reason to change.
tom thumb bits can be ok, but function better in one handed riding, neck reining.

you know, a nice single jointed egg butt bit, maybe made of sweet iron, might do the trick. borrow a few bits and see what feels good to your mare, and congrats on your new horse!
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post #4 of 33 Old 05-29-2015, 07:06 AM
Green Broke
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I prefer the French link.
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post #5 of 33 Old 05-29-2015, 09:10 AM
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Use what works for you and the horse. If she likes her current bit, you don't have to change it. BTW, on the tom thumb, are the shanks bent or straight? If there's a slight bend, it's a little more gentle, and might be just fine for a beginning rider.
You said you're riding western. A mild curb might be fine if you generally ride with a loose rein anyway. Sometimes it's good for a beginner to have a little more stopping power (curb chain) because some horses learn that they can take advantage of beginners.
All that to say there's no perfect bit. Use what works best for you and the horse. I like the idea of borrowing different bits if you can to find what you both like.
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post #6 of 33 Old 05-29-2015, 09:43 AM
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If this horse responds well to the tom thumb and itís what she was trained with then I would not change. In most all cases some level of retraining is required along with changing bits, so unless you have the knowledge to re-train the horse to respond to a the signal of a different bit I keep using what you have. I am not a fan of the tom thumb but if itís the only tool I had I could make it work for me. The bit is only a tool and it does not communicate or inflict any pain without the hands of a rider. You the rider makes the decision if the bit is used humanly or if itís used as a weapon.

Best of luck
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post #7 of 33 Old 05-29-2015, 11:27 AM
Join Date: Dec 2010
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Here is a good description of various bits and how they work:


I'm fascinated by bits and buy too many of them just to see how they work and how my horses respond. But if a bit is working for you and your horse...smile and be happy.

BTW - I tried to replicate what Mark Rashid claims are the problems of Tom Thumbs and ANY shanked bit with swiveling shanks ("These shanks swivel and are attached to the bit's mouthpiece. It 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.")

Trouble with Tom Thumb

I could not do it. I stood next to my horse, moved the bit & reins and watched what happened - and I could not duplicate what he said. For example:

"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."

I can sort of do that with a floppy bit such as this...a little:

But with a Tom Thumb or with various bits where the mouthpiece is held by sleeves, such as this:

That does not happen. And a Tom Thumb bit doesn't allow the shank to pivot around.

Even with the floppier bits, I have never had a problem with my horses figuring it out. I've direct reined with the above floppy bit bit many times. It never seemed to confuse my horses.
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post #8 of 33 Old 05-29-2015, 02:02 PM
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How well any bit works depends on a combination of the bit itself, the horse, and the rider.

While even a snaffle bit may prove harsh in the wrong hands -- especially if a horse has become bit resistant -- the snaffle bit has several advantages.

The biggest advantage of the snaffle bit is that if provides the rider a better idea of the pressure he is applying to the horse. Riders using leverage bits may not take into account the increased pressure a leverage bit can apply.

A leverage bit provides an advantage in the fact that the rider's hand or hands must move further to apply the same amount of pressure as a "direct action" snaffle bit. However, for this same reason, some riders move their hands too far too quickly when employing the bit and end up applying more pressure than they realize.

For this reason, most riders -- especially new riders -- are better off maintaining a direct line of communication with the horse so any "speaking" may be done smoothly and quietly. Best use of this technique is applied when the rider has a relaxed, balanced, and following seat and his hands can follow the motion of his horse's mouth so the contact remains constant -- and, hopefully, light. Then, any change will be perceived by the horse as a cue.

The rider should understand how whatever bit he is using is designed to work and use it accordingly.
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post #9 of 33 Old 05-29-2015, 03:49 PM
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Originally Posted by TXhorseman View Post
...For this reason, most riders -- especially new riders -- are better off maintaining a direct line of communication with the horse so any "speaking" may be done smoothly and quietly. Best use of this technique is applied when the rider has a relaxed, balanced, and following seat and his hands can follow the motion of his horse's mouth so the contact remains constant -- and, hopefully, light...
Most western riding is done without constant contact. Used that way, about the only things a rider needs to remember to get good results with a curb is to never snatch on the reins, and give release the moment you get the desired outcome.

It is also easy to ride with that approach using a snaffle - much easier than trying to ride with constant contact. That is why Littauer suggested riding with contact should be reserved for intermediate riders. For trail riding, I'd say riding with constant contact is worthless - unless that is what you and your horse are used to doing. As a beginning rider, I created far more problems than I solved by trying for constant contact.
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post #10 of 33 Old 05-29-2015, 03:57 PM
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I would recommend a snaffle bit.
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