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Bit Terminology - Really?!

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  • Bit Terminology - Really?!

    I have always ridden english disciplines, and was taught that a snaffle bit is, generally, any bit without a leverage component with any mouthpiece, and a curb bit is any bit that includes a leverage component, again with any mouthpiece.

    I was speaking to an older gentleman the other day who rides western, and I suggested that his horse may go better in a snaffle as opposed to the long-shanked curb he had him in, since the horse seemed to have a very sensitive mouth and tended to get light up front. (that's a whole 'nother can of worms...) The gentleman said, "Oh but I do ride him in a snaffle! See? A snaffle." and showed me the bit, which was a long-shanked curb with a jointed mouthpiece. His understanding seemed to be that anything with a jointed mouthpiece was a "snaffle" and only bits with straight or ported mouthpieces were curbs, regardless of leverage. He also seemed to think that a straight or ported mouthpiece was more 'severe'.

    I thought this was just a singular misunderstanding, but then I saw the same terminology used in a catalog that sold western tack that I was flipping through this morning.

    Is this a thing?! Do western riders really talk about bits that way?! If so, how is a REAL snaffle differentiated from a "curb with jointed mouthpiece snaffle" ?
    Proud member of the "I'm In My 20's and Hope to Be a Good Rider Someday" clique

    PONY'TUDE

  • #2
    Originally posted by caradino View Post
    I have always ridden english disciplines, and was taught that a snaffle bit is, generally, any bit without a leverage component with any mouthpiece, and a curb bit is any bit that includes a leverage component, again with any mouthpiece.

    I was speaking to an older gentleman the other day who rides western, and I suggested that his horse may go better in a snaffle as opposed to the long-shanked curb he had him in, since the horse seemed to have a very sensitive mouth and tended to get light up front. (that's a whole 'nother can of worms...) The gentleman said, "Oh but I do ride him in a snaffle! See? A snaffle." and showed me the bit, which was a long-shanked curb with a jointed mouthpiece. His understanding seemed to be that anything with a jointed mouthpiece was a "snaffle" and only bits with straight or ported mouthpieces were curbs, regardless of leverage. He also seemed to think that a straight or ported mouthpiece was more 'severe'.

    I thought this was just a singular misunderstanding, but then I saw the same terminology used in a catalog that sold western tack that I was flipping through this morning.

    Is this a thing?! Do western riders really talk about bits that way?! If so, how is a REAL snaffle differentiated from a "curb with jointed mouthpiece snaffle" ?
    Pet peeve of mine too! You are correct, a snaffle is any non-leverage bit. A curb is any with with leverage (regardless of the mouthpiece).

    If I have a curb bit (shanks) with a single jointed mouthpiece, I call it a curb with a jointed mouthpiece.

    As an aside to that, generally in most shows that follow AQHA or APHA rules for stock horse type shows, any horse over 5 must be ridden in a curb bit (which may be why he was not showing in a snaffle). My horse is in his final year of showing in a snaffle as a 5 year old. Next year I will have to show him in a leverage bit.

    ETA: You can show a horse under 5 with a leverage bit or a snaffle, but you may not show a horse over 5 years old in anything but a curb bit.
    "If you think nobody cares about you, try missing a couple payments..."

    Comment

    • Original Poster

      #3
      THANK YOU! I wanted to make sure I wasn't going totally crazy!

      The gentleman I spoke to doesn't show at all (except for the occasional local gaming day) and just trail rides occasionally, so I thought a snaffle might do better for his horse from what I observed. (super sensitive in the face, got light up front when he felt too much pressure from the curb, etc.)
      Proud member of the "I'm In My 20's and Hope to Be a Good Rider Someday" clique

      PONY'TUDE

      Comment


      • #4
        Some people have been around horses all their lives and don't know any better.

        Then, while you are basically right, a snaffle is a direct mouth to hand bit without leverage, a curb one with leverage, bits have evolved and changed and mixed different actions that were separate before to the point that anything goes when it comes to names.

        Add to that many that put catalogs together don't know any better either and others repeat what they see in catalogs, well, you have to call any bit today more than snaffle or curb, defining what else that bit may be.

        Any more, that seems to be part of the conversation, can't assume anything about what bit anyone is talking about or what they know about bits.

        And, having different opinions is not bad either.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Bluey View Post
          Then, while you are basically right, a snaffle is a direct mouth to hand bit without leverage, a curb one with leverage, bits have evolved and changed and mixed different actions that were separate before to the point that anything goes when it comes to names.
          That's for sure! There used to be like 10 basics to pick from...now there are 100's of all different combinations and features! A good thing, but lots of gray area to confuse people now between what is used in the mouth in conjuction with the rings or shanks.
          "If you think nobody cares about you, try missing a couple payments..."

          Comment


          • #6
            it is commonly called a snaffle, even by ppl that know better and would never show a jr horse in the "western snaffle" and use a "true" snaffle (there are lots of rules regarding the snaffle that can be shown in)

            I hate it, it drives me batty and I am totally western at heart

            I also hate the misconception that a mullen or low port curb is "cruel" its not and some horses love the stability and the small bit of tounge releif


            sorry for my spelling

            Comment


            • #7
              Bit nomenclature has certainly become technical in our age of information technology, but I'm don't get all pc about it. Waaaay before mass catalogue mailings and websites, you called a bit what horsemen before you called it. Certain bit names make them instantly identifiable, whether technically correct or not.

              Right or wrong, I'm still going to call one of my favorite go-to bits an Argentine "snaffle" - it's not...and, although I quit using it decades ago, it will always be a Tom Thumb "snaffle" to me.

              I do make a point to explain to newbies the differences in various bits, because they're the ones who will most likely be confused...and misuse.

              One of my pet peeves is the use of a running martingale with a curb bit.
              Is it me or do 99.9% of cowboys just look better with their hats on?
              <><

              Comment

              • Original Poster

                #8
                Originally posted by KSAQHA View Post

                One of my pet peeves is the use of a running martingale with a curb bit.
                PEOPLE DO THAT?!
                Proud member of the "I'm In My 20's and Hope to Be a Good Rider Someday" clique

                PONY'TUDE

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by caradino View Post
                  PEOPLE DO THAT?!
                  Yes. It drives me INSANE!
                  "If you think nobody cares about you, try missing a couple payments..."

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by caradino View Post
                    PEOPLE DO THAT?!
                    Yep. In fact, just a few months ago, a good friend who's been around horses since a kid, switched from a snaffle/martigale combo to a curb for her slightly reactive gelding. When, she showed up the first time using it with a running martingale, I had to gently explain it was way too much leverage. Wasn't sure how she would take it, but she ended up thanking me for the 411...and promptly ditched the martingale.
                    Is it me or do 99.9% of cowboys just look better with their hats on?
                    <><

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by KSAQHA View Post
                      Bit nomenclature has certainly become technical in our age of information technology, but I'm don't get all pc about it. Waaaay before mass catalogue mailings and websites, you called a bit what horsemen before you called it. Certain bit names make them instantly identifiable, whether technically correct or not.

                      Right or wrong, I'm still going to call one of my favorite go-to bits an Argentine "snaffle" - it's not...and, although I quit using it decades ago, it will always be a Tom Thumb "snaffle" to me.

                      I do make a point to explain to newbies the differences in various bits, because they're the ones who will most likely be confused...and misuse.

                      One of my pet peeves is the use of a running martingale with a curb bit.
                      Well, an argentinian snaffle is NOT a Tom Thumb, the difference very important, as the balance is completely different and they don't signal a horse the same way.

                      The argentinian snaffle has a curved shank, which balances it better and is more consistent in what signals a horse receives.
                      Many confuse the two, as here:

                      http://www.valleyvet.com/ct_detail.h...b-68aa5bdcd7db

                      Here is the actual shape of the shanks for an argentinian snaffle, as old bit books and use defined:

                      http://www.valleyvet.com/ct_detail.h...5-ea316b2b0b06

                      Tom Thums on the other hand have a straight shank and purchase:

                      http://www.valleyvet.com/ct_detail.h...e-f5c526e48314

                      That makes them balance about the worst of any bit out there.
                      They give the horses very inconsistent signals.
                      Horses have to guess at what the rider wants.
                      When guessing wrong, the rider gets more forceful with the aids and it goes downhill from that.

                      Both of those bits are not very good for much, I agree, but many, many in the western world do use them and kind of get along ok with them, somewhat.

                      As with any bit, region and use can change when they are used and what some call them, it is a bit jungle out there today.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Tom Thumbs are the debbil!
                        "If you think nobody cares about you, try missing a couple payments..."

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Bluey View Post
                          Well, an argentinian snaffle is NOT a Tom Thumb, the difference very important, as the balance is completely different and they don't signal a horse the same way.

                          The argentinian snaffle has a curved shank, which balances it better and is more consistent in what signals a horse receives.
                          Many confuse the two, as here:

                          http://www.valleyvet.com/ct_detail.h...b-68aa5bdcd7db

                          Here is the actual shape of the shanks for an argentinian snaffle, as old bit books and use defined:

                          http://www.valleyvet.com/ct_detail.h...5-ea316b2b0b06

                          Tom Thums on the other hand have a straight shank and purchase:

                          http://www.valleyvet.com/ct_detail.h...e-f5c526e48314

                          That makes them balance about the worst of any bit out there.
                          They give the horses very inconsistent signals.
                          Horses have to guess at what the rider wants.
                          When guessing wrong, the rider gets more forceful with the aids and it goes downhill from that.

                          Both of those bits are not very good for much, I agree, but many, many in the western world do use them and kind of get along ok with them, somewhat.

                          As with any bit, region and use can change when they are used and what some call them, it is a bit jungle out there today.
                          Now, now, Bluey, I KNOW Argentine and Tom Thumbs are NOT the same type of bit...I knew that 40 years ago. I was referring to the use of "snaffle" in their description. And I totally disagree with an argentine bit "not very good for much". It's THE transition bit I use when going from a snaffle to a curb. The short shanks produce less leverage, making it a relatively mild broken-mouth bit, and I have yet to train a horse that didn't pack it well. I'll even leave a mature horse in it...that's how "much" I think it is good for. C'est la vie.

                          With all due respect, Bluey, please allow others on these forums to speak of our own real-life experiences and what works for US...without often twisting our words, lecturing with tutorials, and sounding rather condescending...basically, coming across like a know-it-all. Sorry if this sounds harsh, I'm sure you don't mean to appear that way, and I respect your seemingly vast knowledge/experience from your posts I've read, but not all of the rest of us are dimwitted dudes.

                          Trust me, I'm no spring chicken and have ridden around the equine block more than a few times.
                          Is it me or do 99.9% of cowboys just look better with their hats on?
                          <><

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by KSAQHA View Post
                            Now, now, Bluey, I KNOW Argentine and Tom Thumbs are NOT the same type of bit...I knew that 40 years ago. I was referring to the use of "snaffle" in their description. And I totally disagree with an argentine bit "not very good for much". It's THE transition bit I use when going from a snaffle to a curb. The short shanks produce less leverage, making it a relatively mild broken-mouth bit, and I have yet to train a horse that didn't pack it well. I'll even leave a mature horse in it...that's how "much" I think it is good for. C'est la vie.

                            With all due respect, Bluey, please allow others on these forums to speak of our own real-life experiences and what works for US...without often twisting our words, lecturing with tutorials, and sounding rather condescending...basically, coming across like a know-it-all. Sorry if this sounds harsh, I'm sure you don't mean to appear that way, and I respect your seemingly vast knowledge/experience from your posts I've read, but not all of the rest of us are dimwitted dudes.

                            Trust me, I'm no spring chicken and have ridden around the equine block more than a few times.
                            Just do yourself and your horse a favor and use the standard measure we learned as apprentices:

                            Grab the bridle in your dominant hand by the cheek pieces, grab the bit below in your other, flat hand, fingers down and have someone from behind use the reins as if they were using them on a horse.

                            Then try to understand what that bit is doing and telling you to do.
                            See all ways that bit moves around loosely and if you hold it a bit more tight.

                            Do that with several bits of all kinds and then come back to explain how ANY curb with a broken mouthpiece working off leverage from the curb works.

                            The most important lesson there is that horses are learning to be good at guessing what we want, much more with some bits than others and that horses really, the more trained they are, the better they get at listening to all other aids and do what the situation demands, regardless of what we are asking with bits.

                            The best trained horses will even work without any bit, for a while, anyway, bits do have their place, but we need to understand that place well to be able to use them the best we can.

                            Sorry if what I write sounds like a lecture, comes from years of being an instructor, I guess.
                            Will try to figure some other way to write to please you.

                            Here is one more opinion of many out there, by someone that can write better:

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

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Bluey View Post
                              Just do yourself and your horse a favor and use the standard measure we learned as apprentices:

                              Grab the bridle in your dominant hand by the cheek pieces, grab the bit below in your other, flat hand, fingers down and have someone from behind use the reins as if they were using them on a horse.

                              Then try to understand what that bit is doing and telling you to do.
                              See all ways that bit moves around loosely and if you hold it a bit more tight.

                              Do that with several bits of all kinds and then come back to explain how ANY curb with a broken mouthpiece working off leverage from the curb works.

                              The most important lesson there is that horses are learning to be good at guessing what we want, much more with some bits than others and that horses really, the more trained they are, the better they get at listening to all other aids and do what the situation demands, regardless of what we are asking with bits.

                              The best trained horses will even work without any bit, for a while, anyway, bits do have their place, but we need to understand that place well to be able to use them the best we can.

                              Sorry if what I write sounds like a lecture, comes from years of being an instructor, I guess.
                              Will try to figure some other way to write to please you.

                              Here is one more opinion of many out there, by someone that can write better:

                              http://www.markrashid.com/trouble_with_tom_thumb.htm
                              Bluey, no need to "try to please me". At the risk of sounding snarky (don't want to be), I just find it slightly off-putting when you insist on preaching to the choir. Granted, there will be people that may benefit from your extensive equine encyclopedia-like knowledge...and love you for it; however, you're not the only instructor/trainer/judge/competitor/whisperer on the block. Please rest assured, I'm quite familiar with everything of which you speak. Just because many of us aren't tooting our own experience-horns on a regular basis and posting novels on how we did/do/will do something equine-related, doesn't mean we don't know diddly squat...and deserve a lecture. Especially if we may do things differently than you...different doesn't always equate bad. IMO, it makes you appear less credible when you go into "blah-blah-blah" mode when responding to an individual poster. These days, it's relatively easy to be an internet "expert"...of which, I truly hope you're not.

                              As a fan of Mark Rashid, I'm not sure why you posted his Tom Thumb link. I'm perfectly familiar with the cons of the bit. Please read my initial post for clarity, I said I hadn't used one in decades...as in 40 years. I've learned a few things since I was 12 and starting my first youngster, after several years of riding bratty ponies..not to sound tooty.

                              (My apology to the OP for the hijack.)
                              Is it me or do 99.9% of cowboys just look better with their hats on?
                              <><

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                I save my breath to cool my soup

                                I board at a multi purpose barn with big arena and great trails. I generally don't watch the western riders (the people in western tack) in the arena. It hurts me. I do ride on the trails (usually at a walk) and we talk about the weather.

                                I find it best to keep my thoughts to myself unless asked.
                                A man must love a thing very much if he not only practices it without any hope of fame or money, but even practices it without any hope of doing it well.--G. K. Chesterton

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by lizathenag View Post
                                  I board at a multi purpose barn with big arena and great trails. I generally don't watch the western riders (the people in western tack) in the arena. It hurts me. I do ride on the trails (usually at a walk) and we talk about the weather.

                                  I find it best to keep my thoughts to myself unless asked.
                                  Good idea, that is what I have done for decades, working with cowboys regularly.

                                  Some do things in all we do with horses, not just some western riders, that are painful to watch.
                                  We may also have been one of those at some time, when we started especially, unless we had very close and good instruction helping us and were good listeners.

                                  As long as people are happy with what they are doing and no direct harm done, well, it is better to live and let live.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Well, I'm one of 'those' people who think a jointed mouth is snaffle is a snaffle is a snaffle. Texas Tech University Ranching Heritage Center may still have an old book from the 1800's which says a snaffle is a broken mouthpiece, no matter the shank or lack thereof. A curb is a solid mouth and shanks. Also, I once came across an old bit makers book from England (from a master bitmaker) and it said the same. I don't remember the name or author. It was in the barn my daughter was taking english lessons and the instructor showed A shows, I even saw her name in the Coth magazine in the winners section.

                                    I say RING snaffle to say it's a broken mouth with a RING. Tom Thumb snaffle to say it's a broken mouth with SHANKS.

                                    So, when you say "It's a Santa Barbara or Halfbreed" you know you're talking about a curb, has shanks.

                                    This is one of those arguments, no one will win. I never heard of calling a TT (example) a curb till about 25-ish years ago. Then it seemed to spring up from everywhere. People who were new to horses started telling me how wrong I was. HA!!

                                    The mouthpiece is the part you're talking about. It describes the bit. A low port, med port or high port bit is....a curb. A spade is....a curb. Works on leverage. A bit, whether broken or straight bar or even slightly curved is a snaffle (direct pull) because you said RING.

                                    Bluey, have at it... :-)
                                    Last edited by goneriding24; Aug. 5, 2012, 12:39 PM. Reason: .
                                    GR24's Musing #19 - Save the tatas!!

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by KSAQHA View Post
                                      Bluey, no need to "try to please me". At the risk of sounding snarky (don't want to be), I just find it slightly off-putting when you insist on preaching to the choir. Granted, there will be people that may benefit from your extensive equine encyclopedia-like knowledge...and love you for it; however, you're not the only instructor/trainer/judge/competitor/whisperer on the block. Please rest assured, I'm quite familiar with everything of which you speak. Just because many of us aren't tooting our own experience-horns on a regular basis and posting novels on how we did/do/will do something equine-related, doesn't mean we don't know diddly squat...and deserve a lecture. Especially if we may do things differently than you...different doesn't always equate bad. IMO, it makes you appear less credible when you go into "blah-blah-blah" mode when responding to an individual poster. These days, it's relatively easy to be an internet "expert"...of which, I truly hope you're not.

                                      As a fan of Mark Rashid, I'm not sure why you posted his Tom Thumb link. I'm perfectly familiar with the cons of the bit. Please read my initial post for clarity, I said I hadn't used one in decades...as in 40 years. I've learned a few things since I was 12 and starting my first youngster, after several years of riding bratty ponies..not to sound tooty.

                                      (My apology to the OP for the hijack.)
                                      I agree.

                                      Originally posted by lizathenag View Post
                                      I board at a multi purpose barn with big arena and great trails. I generally don't watch the western riders (the people in western tack) in the arena. It hurts me. I do ride on the trails (usually at a walk) and we talk about the weather.

                                      I find it best to keep my thoughts to myself unless asked.
                                      Please don't duck and hide. Us horse people are all opinionated. Why does it hurt you?? This board is for all thoughts, I think.
                                      GR24's Musing #19 - Save the tatas!!

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by goneriding24 View Post
                                        I agree.



                                        Please don't duck and hide. Us horse people are all opinionated. Why does it hurt you?? This board is for all thoughts, I think.
                                        For me, when a horse is resisting painfully, it hurts for the horse, that has to bear the uneducated or less than polite hands behind whatever bit, no matter what you call it.

                                        Comment

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