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'Snaffle' label use/misuse
 Moderated by: DrDeb  
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Joined: Sat Mar 31st, 2012
Posts: 1
Status:  Offline
 Posted: Sat Mar 31st, 2012 10:11 pm
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Hi - I'm new to the forum but longtime 'student' of Dr Deb -

I'm a fairly new horse owner as adult-
I learned early that a snaffle bit can -by definition- have no leverage or shanks (that are used) - however I see rampant mislabelling of shaked bits as 'Snaffles' or 'Cowboy Snaffles' in catalogs and by (Western) clinicians -
I am hoping to find a good resource explaining 'snaffle' and how it has evolved to be used on any bit with a broken mouthpiece ('snaffle mouth') even if it is attached to 8" shanks (referred to as 'just a snaffle')-
I believe this perception that
Any broken mouthpiece = Snaffle = Mild = destructive
because the users think it is mild so feel ok in applying more pressure -
I have a TWH who came with a Wonder Bit that was called a 'little shanked snaffle' by trainer - a contradiction of terms in my understanding-
I've had a few 'discussions' about this and people inevitably go to a catalog or item in a store to show me a mislabelled 'Snaffle Bit'- the Tom Thumb is a common example -
Thanks for any thoughts or input - please excuse if this has been addressed previously - NO offense intended in any direction

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Joined: Fri Mar 30th, 2007
Posts: 3309
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 Posted: Sun Apr 1st, 2012 12:53 am
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Yes, Forever -- the term 'snaffle' is frequently mis-used. Properly, 'snaffle' is the name of a type of mouthpiece which consists of two or three segments. It is not the name of a bit. The problem arises, however, insofar as there is no other name for a shankless bit having that type of mouthpiece; therefore, it is usual to refer to this type of bit as a 'snaffle bit'. The proper term is 'watering bit', but that is antique and not used by anyone anymore, so I accept 'snaffle bit' as a term that conveys the same idea to everyone.

What is very incorrect is to refer to any shanked bit having a two or three-piece mouthpiece as a 'snaffle'. Shanked bits fall into the great category of leverage devices; snaffle bits (as above defined) fall into the opposite category of non-leverage bits.

Leverage bits with snaffle mouthpieces include the Tom Thumb, Argentinian training snaffle, and cowboy snaffle, all of which generally have rather short shanks. There are also leverage bits with snaffle mouthpieces that have quite long shanks. For myself, I would never advise the use of any such bit, because the snaffle mouthpiece is not ipso facto mild, and combining it with the usual sort of shanks, which are fixed to the butts without the ability to swivel in the plane parallel to the horse's midline, creates the danger and likelihood that when the reins are pulled separately, the bit will twist in the horse's mouth. The only way that a snaffle mouthpiece can be used with fixed shanks so that the bit as a whole works comfortably and cogently, is if the shanks are braced by a bar fixed between them.

Yes, there is a perception that snaffle bits and snaffle mouthpieces are milder, and yes I do agree that some people consider this license to reef or pound on their horses' mouths. But such people are ignorant, just as the dressage mavens who want to use a lever device to crank a dropped or flash noseband down tight in the belief that this will force the horse to 'accept' the bit. They are grossly ignorant, but in general they are not brutes or innately evil; though thanks to their indoctrination or holding on to wrong ideas, it may take quite a strong kick in the head before they see the light and make the needed changes in themselves.

You yourself, Forever, of course do not need to worry about anything that anyone else does. You have styled yourself a learner, and that's grand; and the best thing about it is, that if you really are a learner, it relieves you of any need to judge what anybody else is or is not doing. So you just bit your own horse correctly, and make sure you use the proper terminology, and beyond that, if anybody overhears you or sees you setting a good example of horsemanship, and then chooses to imitate, that is all the evangelism that anybody is really likely to be able to stand. Cheers -- Dr. Deb


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