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Billy Allen Bits

Hi Franklin,

What do you know/think about Billy Allen bits, or snaffle bits with shanks? I have a large 4 yr old Appy, first bit was a snaffle, went to a Tom Thumb snaffle, but the shanks are to short, they tend to get caught up in his mouth when I first put it on, of corse causing some problems. He has done well with this type of bit, starting to neck rein with less & less direct rein, and gives to leg pressure. I have recently seen the Billy Allen bits, but concerned that the longer shanks will put more pressure, and want to stay with as little pressure as possible. What do you think?

Thanks you, Kathy

Dear Kathy,

The truth about bits is that they are tools, just like a hammer. In skilled hands a hammer can build masterpieces. In unskilled, unconscious, clumsy, rough, harsh, etc, hands it is a weapon of mass destruction. It is not the bit that gives a horse a perfect mouth or supports a great performance. It is the hands of the operator (rider). If a rider truely understands how to use a bit (rewarding the horse constantly for efforts at compliance) then there are many choices as to which bit might be best for a given horse. I am inclined to develop good stops, directional changes, etc. first off of my seat and legs with little to no reliance on the bit. I will set a horse's head sometimes by bitting the horse up (static or elastic side reins). Or, try to allow a natural collection to happen from appropriate riding (again very good use of seat, legs and body). For a horse that is a bit older and already going under saddle for quite a while, I tend to remove the bridle completely, redevelop the horse's mouth by riding in a rope halter and leadrope in a smaller arena or round pen and then begin to use a broken bit (like a snaffle, but unlike a Tom Thumb which I think is over used today) but one with a short shank and curb chain or strap (similar to a Tom Thumb but less severe). The bit I am referring to is a simple 'Reinsman' made bit.

There are many good bit makers out there today. I have used many of them. I tend to stay away from a bit that contains a gimmick of some sort (head setting bits). This tends to make for sloppy human hands as they think they can solely rely on the bit to correct whatever the undesirable situation is. A longer shank will not put more pressure on the horse. Your hands will. Remember these things are tools. They are only as good or as bad as the skill and knowledge of the human using them. Good Luck.

Sincerely, Franklin

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