Currently Riding in a Tom Thumb

Help!! I am a beginner, taught by friends! I wanted to purchase a bit for my TWH mare and looked at tom thumbs since that is what she is riding in currenlty. :frowning: UGH!! I cannot purchase another. Not to mention, from what I have read, this bit acts as a leverage bit, not a snaffle and all the while I have been direct reining with her. I am sick to my stomach. I honestly had no idea. As far as her, she seems okay but shakes her head a lot when turning her around. Rightfully so. I feel like a horrible person but I only know what I have been taught. We could benefit from lessons and I am working on finding a good trainer as we speak.

in the meantime, I need guidance. She doesn’t neck rein. Direct reining is all we know. I have been researching bits and it seems we need a snaffle for direct reining. I want to start fresh with her and maybe eventually we will both learn to neck rein and we can switch to a mild leverage bit for trail riding. Before any of that we need to get back to basics. Would an eggbutt snaffle be a good place to start? a Korsteel copper oval link snaffle?

The severity of the tom thumb has just been brought to my attention by simply googling and looking at forums. I am sick that I have even used it on my girl. Here is to starting new. Please send advice!

I ride for pleasure ONLY.

Oh, I direct-reined in an argentine “snaffle” (as you know, a leverage bit with shanks and a broken mouthpiece, NOT a snaffle) for years on my old horse. I wouldn’t have done it if I’d known better, but my horse forgives me. I’m sure your girl will too.

I use a D-ring french link like this. I like the french link because sometimes, on horses with low palates, the regular snaffle will poke them in the roof of the mouth. But I think just a plain old eggbutt snaffle is a fine bit, too.

I think finding a trainer is a great idea. No substitute for a real live person. :yes: But in addition I also like to review Buck Brannaman’s 7 Clinics DVD set to help me as I work at home.

thanks for that info… I will check that bit out! she listens really well… I just worry about “the breaks”. However I understand it may be best for us to start over so i’m okay with no trail rides for a while! I just want her comfortable.

oh and I have seen some of buck’s stuff… he is awesome!

Try not to use a bit for breaks. I’d recommend playing around with the bit for a while in an arena at a walk. Get her to stop from your seat nicely before asking for the next gait up.

Since you are a beginning being taught by friends, either ask them for help, or take a handful of lessons. Lessons are still helpful to us trail-riding folks. :slight_smile:

[QUOTE=BeckyS;8641709]Try not to use a bit for breaks. I’d recommend playing around with the bit for a while in an arena at a walk. Get her to stop from your seat nicely before asking for the next gait up.

Since you are a beginning being taught by friends, either ask them for help, or take a handful of lessons. Lessons are still helpful to us trail-riding folks. :)[/QUOTE]

We are moving to a new barn with a trainer so I hope to learn so much more! and they have an arena for us to ride in so we can work on cues and body language and not depending on the bit for breaking! I am very excited about this new environment. I bought her with the tack she currently has so they like the tom thumb.

If she is used to the tom thumb then it can be dangerous to put her in a milder bit.

As you are beginning you need help and you need help with EVERYTHING. from feeding to grooming to riding.

Every single time you interact with your horse you are training her. Every single time you interact with her she is either a little bit better or a little bit worse.

If she is better 7 times in a row. GREAT.

If she is worse 7 times in a row. Get help sooner rather than later.

that’s part of the problem. She may be used to it because that is all we know together. It still doesn’t change that I have been direct reining with the tom thumb. if i’m going to use a leverage bit, we need to neck rein, correct? and if we are going to direct rein, I need to use a snaffle bit???

We are going to a new barn and I know the trainer there will be able to give us some insight. I will be bitless when she goes there since the bit isn’t mine… so I need to purchase SOMETHING.

and I can’t stomach the idea of a tom thumb after what I have read and considering we have been direct reining with it.

First of all OP, good for you for taking some education into your own hands. Friends are good and all for support and advice … but I agree that you should be working with a trainer. That is good to hear your new barn has one available.

Any bit that has SHANKS will be a leverage bit. Now, there are many websites and catalogs that will incorrectly call bits a “snaffle” bit, so be prepared to run across mis-information out there. Some people (and places) classify a snaffle bit based on the mouthpiece but that is not the correct way; it is a snaffle if there is NO leverage.

With that said, there are plenty of leverage bits that are okay to direct rein with. This bit is one example:

http://www.billybobstack.com/media/catalog/product/cache/1/image/5e06319eda06f020e43594a9c230972d/f/i/file_15.jpg

It is a leverage bit because it has shanks (however, if you would attach the reins directly to the mouthpiece, you’d take away that leverage and it could act as a snaffle!!). The shanks will rotate independently of each other, and the mouthpiece will also act independently on each side, due to the dogbone center. A bit like this one is a nice “transition bit” if you are graduating a horse out of a snaffle, because you can still pick up on the direct rein if you need to help them out.

Now a leverage bit such as this one you would NEVER direct rein in, because you’d confuse the heck out of your horse.
http://www.chicksaddlery.com/Merchant2/graphics/00000001/255803.jpg
It is all one solid piece so if you pick up on a direct rein, you are going to move the entire bit and cause conflicting cues on the opposite side.

What makes the Tom Thumb a “bad bit” is just it’s poor design. It isn’t balanced very well and there are certainly better options out there. Don’t worry; your horse can be fixed! :slight_smile: It will just take some time and some re-training.

Personally, I much prefer bits that are double jointed in the mouthpiece, rather than single joints. It’s always worked better for me and my horses. My favorite snaffle bit is this one:
http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/61LNd5YACzL.SX522.jpg

I do use bit guards with any O-ring snaffle because the mouthpiece is allowed to slide along the ring. Anytime the mouthpiece can slide, you have the potential to pinch skin around the mouth. So I always use bit guards as a precaution on bits like that.

Yes, I would put her into a snaffle bit and work on re-training her. Your trainer can help you with this, but when I “re-train” a horse, I like to act like they are a first time colt who has never been touched. Of course, you’ll progress much quicker than an actual unstarted young horse, but it gives you a place to start with your horse.

So that means start on the ground to teach her how the snaffle bit works. Re-teach her to give to pressure and be soft. When she’s accomplished that on the ground, then you can climb on her in an enclosed area (round pen or small arena) and re-treach her to give to pressure with you in the saddle. You can also begin to work on your leg and seat cues.

It’s just a gradual build. Work on a little bit every day.

Neck reining is actually pretty easy to teach a horse, so long as you are doing things in the right order. In a sense, you teach them how to neck rein from day one, until the day comes when you are ready to ONLY ask with the neck rein.

Erase the past from your mind; your horse will forgive you. And just focus on the future and moving forward with the help of your new trainer.

thank you so much for taking the time to explain this all to me. I want to be a great rider and be easy on my horse. I too think the new barn is going to make the biggest difference in the world for us. Thanks so much for this!!!

Brakes, like in a car, or like in taking a break?

It’s the hands that make a bit harsh. I’m not a big fan of tom thumbs, but Stacy Westfall is so go figure.
http://westfallhorsemanship.com/2014/03/17/what-bit-should-i-use-with-my-horse-why-dont-you-always-use-a-snaffle-bit-doesnt-a-bit-hurt-a-horse/

If your horse does not know how to neck rein, you should not be in a western shank bit. I’d also recommend staying in the arena until you have much more experience and your horse always stops when you ask. Don’t worry about your lack of experience - you’ll improve and be back out there before you know it.

lol! BRAKES! and i actually have a trainer lined up now!

I am so ready to start fresh!

[QUOTE=Flash44;8642728]Brakes, like in a car, or like in taking a break?

It’s the hands that make a bit harsh. I’m not a big fan of tom thumbs, but Stacy Westfall is so go figure.
http://westfallhorsemanship.com/2014/03/17/what-bit-should-i-use-with-my-horse-why-dont-you-always-use-a-snaffle-bit-doesnt-a-bit-hurt-a-horse/

If your horse does not know how to neck rein, you should not be in a western shank bit. I’d also recommend staying in the arena until you have much more experience and your horse always stops when you ask. Don’t worry about your lack of experience - you’ll improve and be back out there before you know it.[/QUOTE]

That bit Stacy Westfall has pictured is not a Tom Thumb. Isnt it an Argentine Snaffle?

Yes, a tom thumb is a short straight shank bit with a two piece snaffle mouthpiece:

https://www.valleyvet.com/ct_detail.html?pgguid=2e87c186-7b6a-11d5-a192-00b0d0204ae5&gas=Tom%20Thumb%20bit

As soon as you have some curve to the bottom part of the shank, they are generally called argentinian snaffles, even if they can work as leverage bits.

The trouble with leverage bits is that they are not so good to teach a horse the basics.
Once the horse is more advanced, then you can get by with any kind of bit.
Different bits then refine your signals in different ways, depending on your discipline and what you are doing.

Try how ANY bit works in your own hands before you use it on a horse and you will be surprised that horses are so kind and smart to understand what we want, even when we give them all kinds of strange signals with our reins thru all kinds of contraptions for bits.

Hold the bridle in one hand by the cheek pieces, bit hanging down.
Grab the bit from above with the other hand and close your fingers on it, thumb on the bottom.
Have someone from behind use the reins and try to figure what that bit is telling you to do.
Then, humbled, we have to go thank our horse for being patient with us.

The Tom Thumb bit will be one of the more confusing ones we may try, twisting and poking and pulling every which way, no consistency at all with it.
At best using such bits tells the horse to pay attention, just not what to do next.
That is why with it you have to kick and prod the horse to do something, until it gets it right and again next request, over and over and over.
At least an argentinian snaffle has less leverage to irritate a horse, but still falls into the kind of bits with confusing signals.

For the horse’s sake, it is best for beginner riders to learn from an instructor, as the OP is going to, so it is easy for everyone.
Not a very good way to communicate.

You’re right, not a Tom Thumb.
This is:
http://profchoice.com/i-7196585-john-deere-tom-thumb-bit.html

The bit that Stacy pictured and called a Tom Thumb is a little better balanced but still wouldn’t be my first choice stepping up from a snaffle.

[QUOTE=abeginnerandamare;8642734]lol! BRAKES! and i actually have a trainer lined up now!

I am so ready to start fresh![/QUOTE]

Ha. I thought you meant when the horse breaks gait. I don’t know beans about gaited horses so I thought maybe you correct that with a shanked bit. Y’know because you so often see gaited horses in bits with long shanks. Haha. I’m a moron.:smiley:

OP, gaited horses are more apt than even the average non-gaited horse to have big holes in their training. Often they are just taught to gait down a road and not much else. So they lack groundwork basics, a good set of brakes, any lateral flexion. Find a snaffle bit that she likes, and a decent trainer. There are a lot of bad trainers out there, so be wary. I second the recommendation of Buck Brannaman’s DVDs. They can help you work toward softness/responsiveness, or at least give you an idea of what a decent trainer might be like.

our new barn has multiple trainers so i should learn a lot. My new trainer specializes in gaited horses so hopefully we will be a good team. I’m pretty sure my horse was never really finished so we have a lot to work on, starting with groundwork. I will def look at some of buckys stuff. Any snaffle suggestions?

Well neither do I! Ha! And It took me until now to figure out that “OP” meant original poster lol!!