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Bits - what do they really do?

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  • Bits - what do they really do?

    I'm sure there are threads on bits aplenty. Feel free to post search terms directing me to the good ones.

    I'm really interested in getting a better grip on bit mechanics. It's something I've thought a lot about, but without an endless supply of bits and transparent horse pressure sensor equipped model horse head, I can't seem to wrap my head around what bits really do.

    Let's start with the difference between a 3-ring elevator and a Tom Thumb. I know in America most people don't use a curb strap with the elevator, but I don't really get why. So hopefully, I'd like to hear about the difference with and without the curb strap, since it's used both ways. Assume mouthpieces are single-jointed but the elevator has a loose ring.
    An auto-save saved my post.

    I might be a cylon

  • #2
    Please clarify your question. What do YOU mean by a Tom Thumb?

    To me (amd many others), a Tomb Thumb is a Pelham (by definition a straight mouthpiece) with a very short shank.

    It acts in a very different way from any jointed bit.
    Janet

    chief feeder and mucker for Music, Spy, Belle and Tiara. Someone else is now feeding and mucking for Chief and Brain (both foxhunting now).

    Comment


    • #3
      You'd probably like this web site http://www.sustainabledressage.net/tack/bridle.php

      Comment


      • #4
        A three ring elevator is a gag. It has a limited amount of gag action because it doesn't slide on the cheeks the way a real gag does. The purpose is to lift the head. It puts upward pressure on the corners of the mouth, but because of the design also on the poll. A gag is helpful with horses that lug or roll down towards the chest. A Tom Thumb - depends whether you mean the western bit (a snaffle mouthpiece with shanks) or a Tom Thumb pelham. A pelham by its design is meant to be two bits in one, a double bridle without the double bridle, but it ends up being a compromise. Lots of horses go really well in a pelham though, we have two ponies in our barn in rubber mullen mouth short shank pelhams (with roundings.) I prefer it to a kimberwick, which is even muddier than a pelham. But again, some horses go nicely in a kimberwick.

        My favorite book on bits is somewhat old and outdated (as I am) - Bit by Bit by Diana Tuke. It has x-rays of horse's heads while wearing various bits to show the action of the bit. There are no three ring elevators in there, as that is a newer bit, but by looking at the bit you can generally figure out what category it belongs in.
        blogging at HN: http://www.horsenation.com/
        check out my writing: http://jeseymour.com
        Just out: http://www.barkingrainpress.org/dd-p...ead-poisoning/

        Comment


        • #5
          Basic answers, bits are some tools we use to communicate with horses.

          What kinds of bits do we have and what do they do?
          That would take books to explain and not everyone quite agrees with what bit is right for what horse and rider and situation.

          Here is one article about Tom Thumb bits:

          http://www.markrashid.com/trouble_with_tom_thumb.htm

          That kind of bit is one of the poorest balanced bits for what we want of a bit and there it tries to explain why.

          In the end, how a bit works will depend in the hands on the other end of the reins.
          A well trained western horse will work mostly off other aids than what you have in their mouth, so even there, with drapey reins on a well trained horse, that a bit may be a TT won't be a deal breaker as to how your horse may perform.

          As a training bit or one you want to ride with contact, most any other bit out there I would say is better than what you can convey to a horse thru a TT.

          TTs make very good paper weights on your desk.

          Comment


          • #6
            Spend a few bucks and buy a book entitled Bits and Biting Manual by William Langdon. He divides the world of bits into easily understandable categories and then carefully describes the actions of each. He covers subgroups, also. Well worth the money.

            G.
            Mangalarga Marchador: Uma Raça, Uma Paixão

            Comment


            • #7
              You may want to take a look at these

              http://www.pegasustv.com/archives/player_0008.html

              http://www.pegasustv.com/archives/player_0009.html

              Comment


              • #8
                I've never seen anyone use a curb strap with an elevator/gag bit, and it seems rather contradictory to use one- the elevator is intended to lift the horse's head, and curb strap to get the horse to lower and tuck the head. Plus depending on the bit's exact design, putting a curb strap on it would probably interfere with the gag action of the bit.

                Comment

                • Original Poster

                  #9
                  Maybe the Mongolians are onto something

                  Appreciated the link to Sustainable Dressage. It's a thoughtful site and I learned a lot. I also agreed with most of the explanations on mechanics of the bits in the examples, though not all. I have read articles and books on bits before, and the difficulty there is the lack of dialogue. For example, John Lyons has a book in which he describes the D-ring as applying poll pressure, but I disagreed with that opinion. I see Sustainable Dressage does, too, as do some others I've read or spoken to. Also, any book is just one person's opinions, unless they are describing a simple law of physics or have included source data. I'm kinda interested in the rule of the mob right now

                  Here's a point on the SD website that I question:
                  "The curb cannot be used one-sidedly, since the pressure against the chain is what makes it work at all, and if you put pressure on one side of the chain, the chain will move to that side and even it all out."

                  Obviously, you can't activate one side of the curb without influencing the other, but a pull on the inside rein will put pressure on the inside corner of the mouth more, before it does it's whole curb bit thing. Imagine, if you will , pouring molasses into the front of a row boat. The front of the boat would sink first and then the load would disperse, causing the boat to displace water evenly from bow to stern. She probably would agree with this and is focusing on a different point, but anyway, I don't agree with the way she explains that part.

                  I've actually read Mark Rashid article on the TT and like it. (I've also watched this before and it shows why I don't always trust one man's book or blog. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3rHqP00azyc Nah, I'll save you the trouble: He just keeps repeating things like "terrible" and "leverage." Not really useful or insightful :/ ) My own reservation with MR's article is I think the problems of the TT are a bit exaggerated. I've heard it said that any horse who goes well in a TT will go even better in something else. Agreed. But I can't think of any horse I've seen go in a TT who was really finished or being ridden expertly anyway, so other issues obscured my assessment of the bit's affect. The few times I've ridden someone's horse who had one in, it really direct reined normally, and wasn't truly trained to neck rein so...hard to tell. I question this though:

                  "For instance, if you are asking 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." [http://www.markrashid.com/trouble_with_tom_thumb.htm]

                  Wouldn't pretty much any single-jointed mouthpiece that wasn't on a loose ring potentially tilt into the horse's cheek as the mouthpiece collapses, then? I think the effect of that contradictory pressure on the face must be disregarded as normal static pressure by the horse - pressure that is potentially confusing or contradictory, but which the horse has learned to expect and ignore.

                  There are, at the very least, some communities in England where the 3-ring is used with a chin strap, but I agree, that would nullify the gag action. It's just when I see gag bits, especially on the inevitable 1 set of reins, that line from The Princess Bride always jump into my head, "You keep on using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." I could be totally wrong, but I have come across this bit some and haven't seen it being used yet in a way that made sense to me. For example strong show jumpers already often carry their heads really high. Presumably that's what the martingale is for. Although the gag slides up, it always slides up against the bars. I've also had people tell me they use it b/c it applies some poll pressure. I'm not seeing that w/ the loose ring. But that makes it sound to me like they really want would be a Tom Thumb. If the gag does apply poll pressure like a gag snaffle, then it's both pulling up and pushing down Not too eventually, it will jame the molars (as SD points out) and it's sending a mixed signal. How on earth is that better than a regular curb? I dunno, I just can't figure out in my head how this bit would ever be someone's best choice. I suspect the explanation for what this bit does is following the decision to use it.

                  But much smarter people and better horseman than I use this bit! I really just want to get it

                  All that said, I've experienced horses going better or best in both of these (shrug )

                  http://www.domvet.com/pharmvet/images/155.jpg

                  http://www.bigdweb.com/MYLER-KIMBERW...nfo/89-25045/#
                  An auto-save saved my post.

                  I might be a cylon

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Easy to answer your questions saying that bits are only ONE way to communicate and for many horses, not really the more important one.

                    When we are on a horse's back, or even on the ground at the end of something attached to a horse, the horse, being a horse, is listening to all of us, our body language, what we have connected to it just one more part of the puzzle humans that are interacting with them are.

                    Once you realize that, you will look at bits differently, as what their immediate action on their head is one more of many sensations/input from us our horses are trying to understand and so respond to us.

                    I have a horse that when you think whoa, he is already stopping before I can even start to move my hand, much less affect any bit with that movement.

                    I have known ham handed trainers that put too much emphasis on the horse responding to bits and so asking that horse to become dull to other aids and only listen to bits.
                    Many bad team penning/sorting riders tend to do that, just watch any such video on youtube.

                    Working around and with horses is about so much more and that influences directly what any bit may contribute to that communication.

                    Comment

                    • Original Poster

                      #11
                      I agree with you Bluey, and generally do.

                      But...I'm not asking "How do I communicate with my horse?" or "What bit should I use?"

                      I've purchased bits on trainers' recommendations and also been asked for my opinion on what to use. In general I don't really care about the bit so I just keep my trainer happy and tell people to keep their horses happy. But I think it's interesting! If no one could properly explain the action of a plain snaffle my whole childhood, what other myths still lurk and haunt my horsemanship!

                      Especially with the gags/elevators, they're so popular and widely recommended, I think it's a fair inquiry. Really, the more I think about it and read, the more I disagree that this bit is accomplishing what people think it is. Maybe the 3-ring is mostly just a snaffle that encourages "strong" hands by slipping around so much before it does anything. With the snaffle gag, I see a circle is formed by the bit and headstall 0 that shrinks when you pull on the reins o. If that's what you want, w/o a chin strap, ok. But it's not lifting the head. Not seeing that.
                      An auto-save saved my post.

                      I might be a cylon

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Have you seen the studies done by Dr. Hillary Clayton at MSU? There are links to the articles on this web page:

                        http://www.theoriginalbitfit.com/v4/...ts&product=427

                        (That web site doesn't have anything to do with the Clayton articles, but since it links to all the articles, it's convenient.)

                        The research is really interesting stuff. If I ever win big on the lottery, I would love to fund more of the same kind of research with a wider variety of bits.
                        "Facts are meaningless. You can use facts to prove anything
                        that's even remotely true."

                        Homer Simpson

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by HillnDale View Post
                          I agree with you Bluey, and generally do.

                          But...I'm not asking "How do I communicate with my horse?" or "What bit should I use?"

                          I've purchased bits on trainers' recommendations and also been asked for my opinion on what to use. In general I don't really care about the bit so I just keep my trainer happy and tell people to keep their horses happy. But I think it's interesting! If no one could properly explain the action of a plain snaffle my whole childhood, what other myths still lurk and haunt my horsemanship!

                          Especially with the gags/elevators, they're so popular and widely recommended, I think it's a fair inquiry. Really, the more I think about it and read, the more I disagree that this bit is accomplishing what people think it is. Maybe the 3-ring is mostly just a snaffle that encourages "strong" hands by slipping around so much before it does anything. With the snaffle gag, I see a circle is formed by the bit and headstall 0 that shrinks when you pull on the reins o. If that's what you want, w/o a chin strap, ok. But it's not lifting the head. Not seeing that.
                          This is exactly why I recommended Langdon's book. It will do precisely what you said you wanted to do, i.e. get "a better grip on bit mechanics."

                          You really should care about the bit you're using. It is your primary communication system. It is, of course, not your only communications system. The better the communication the better the performance you can get from the horse.

                          Trainers can have very different motivations when it comes to bit recommendations. Sadly, one major one is time savings for the trainer.

                          Gags and elevators are popular because of ignorance of equine biomechanics. If you want to raise the head you don't use the hand, you use the leg in conjunction with the hand. But that takes time and training (of the rider) and it's easier to just use a lever. Needlessly tough on the horse, though.

                          Get Langdon's book. You'll be glad you did.

                          G.
                          Mangalarga Marchador: Uma Raça, Uma Paixão

                          Comment

                          • Original Poster

                            #14
                            Originally posted by NoSuchPerson View Post
                            Have you seen the studies done by Dr. Hillary Clayton at MSU? There are links to the articles on this web page:

                            http://www.theoriginalbitfit.com/v4/...ts&product=427

                            (That web site doesn't have anything to do with the Clayton articles, but since it links to all the articles, it's convenient.)

                            The research is really interesting stuff. If I ever win big on the lottery, I would love to fund more of the same kind of research with a wider variety of bits.
                            Thanks for this! I've heard this referenced but never have looked it up and read it. Love the behavior stuff!

                            Ok, Guilherme, you win. I'll add that book to the short list I know I'll love it. Thanks for the kick in the pants
                            An auto-save saved my post.

                            I might be a cylon

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by HillnDale View Post
                              Appreciated the link to Sustainable Dressage. It's a thoughtful site and I learned a lot. I also agreed with most of the explanations on mechanics of the bits in the examples, though not all. I have read articles and books on bits before, and the difficulty there is the lack of dialogue. For example, John Lyons has a book in which he describes the D-ring as applying poll pressure, but I disagreed with that opinion. I see Sustainable Dressage does, too, as do some others I've read or spoken to. Also, any book is just one person's opinions, unless they are describing a simple law of physics or have included source data. I'm kinda interested in the rule of the mob right now

                              Here's a point on the SD website that I question:
                              "The curb cannot be used one-sidedly, since the pressure against the chain is what makes it work at all, and if you put pressure on one side of the chain, the chain will move to that side and even it all out."

                              Obviously, you can't activate one side of the curb without influencing the other, but a pull on the inside rein will put pressure on the inside corner of the mouth more, before it does it's whole curb bit thing. Imagine, if you will , pouring molasses into the front of a row boat. The front of the boat would sink first and then the load would disperse, causing the boat to displace water evenly from bow to stern. She probably would agree with this and is focusing on a different point, but anyway, I don't agree with the way she explains that part.

                              I've actually read Mark Rashid article on the TT and like it. (I've also watched this before and it shows why I don't always trust one man's book or blog. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3rHqP00azyc Nah, I'll save you the trouble: He just keeps repeating things like "terrible" and "leverage." Not really useful or insightful :/ ) My own reservation with MR's article is I think the problems of the TT are a bit exaggerated. I've heard it said that any horse who goes well in a TT will go even better in something else. Agreed. But I can't think of any horse I've seen go in a TT who was really finished or being ridden expertly anyway, so other issues obscured my assessment of the bit's affect. The few times I've ridden someone's horse who had one in, it really direct reined normally, and wasn't truly trained to neck rein so...hard to tell. I question this though:

                              "For instance, if you are asking 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." [http://www.markrashid.com/trouble_with_tom_thumb.htm]

                              Wouldn't pretty much any single-jointed mouthpiece that wasn't on a loose ring potentially tilt into the horse's cheek as the mouthpiece collapses, then? I think the effect of that contradictory pressure on the face must be disregarded as normal static pressure by the horse - pressure that is potentially confusing or contradictory, but which the horse has learned to expect and ignore.

                              There are, at the very least, some communities in England where the 3-ring is used with a chin strap, but I agree, that would nullify the gag action. It's just when I see gag bits, especially on the inevitable 1 set of reins, that line from The Princess Bride always jump into my head, "You keep on using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." I could be totally wrong, but I have come across this bit some and haven't seen it being used yet in a way that made sense to me. For example strong show jumpers already often carry their heads really high. Presumably that's what the martingale is for. Although the gag slides up, it always slides up against the bars. I've also had people tell me they use it b/c it applies some poll pressure. I'm not seeing that w/ the loose ring. But that makes it sound to me like they really want would be a Tom Thumb. If the gag does apply poll pressure like a gag snaffle, then it's both pulling up and pushing down Not too eventually, it will jame the molars (as SD points out) and it's sending a mixed signal. How on earth is that better than a regular curb? I dunno, I just can't figure out in my head how this bit would ever be someone's best choice. I suspect the explanation for what this bit does is following the decision to use it.

                              But much smarter people and better horseman than I use this bit! I really just want to get it

                              All that said, I've experienced horses going better or best in both of these (shrug )

                              http://www.domvet.com/pharmvet/images/155.jpg

                              http://www.bigdweb.com/MYLER-KIMBERW...nfo/89-25045/#
                              no one should be pulling there horse to turn

                              bits are an aid- and are only as strong as the hands that use them

                              as with any other bit of tack its all an aid

                              Comment

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