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Thursday, June 4, 2009

Odd Bits

Ok, I have run across these two bits on several sites, but have never seen one in person or in use. Could someone please explain to the class how they work and how they are used? I tried doing an Internet search and found zip. The first one I have seen called a "colt bit" and a "stud bit" on several sites, and it seems to be something that is used on racehorses. The second one looks a bit more sinister to me, I have seen it called a "Citation bit" and a "mule bit" and from what I have read (the little I could find) it is supposedly quite severe. Nowhere could I find photos of horses actually WEARING one either. So, anyone out there have any input?


  1. We knew this first bit as a Dexter bit - it was used on hard to handle racehorses. The large ring is used for leading or for handling while tacking up. Can't help you with the second one. It looks painful.


    Sorry for the long link but there are some pictures

  3. Here's two pics of racehorses with the first one:,1211373910,1.jpg,1215602757,1.jpg

    I think these two have the second one in. I don't think I'd want it in my mouth if I were a horse...,1214961198,1.jpg,1223337054,1.jpg

    This one's different, but looks worse to me, again it's on a race horse. It looks like it's being used more as a distraction then as a riding bit it least, but I don't know for sure:

  4. Me again...
    skyped my sis who owns a tack store. They refer to this as a Norton bit. No pictures but a pretty good description of the use at ...

  5. Ferret Girl - That last picture is a chifney bit and is supposed to be used only for leading and handling a horse on the ground. Let's hope no one rides with it.

  6. Well it would make sense they are used in the racing industry. Now I never said appropriate...

  7. I knew I had seen the first one on the track before, but didn't have references. The second one though I'd be seriously afraid of. Ouch! Thanks for the incite!

  8. DigitSis is correct - the second one is a Chifney bit. It is sometimes known as an anti-rearing bit, and isn't intended to be ridden in. You can see a good picture of one being used here on Flickr along with some comments.

  9. Sunny- the pic in the photo, didn't look like the second bit to me.

    The first one I have heard of it being called a Chiffney bit and seen some variations as far as the design. It is often used on difficult to handle horses. I have also heard of it called a 'colt bit' or a 'stallion bit' as they are more routinely used on stallions, but if you can't handle them properly or control them in the day to day- why are they still intact? Who wants a field full of evil little monsters running around?

    Long before we met, my husband worked he Keenland sale. He got slammed up against the stall wall/bars by a horse he was told to put a Chiffney bit on and lead the horse out so prospective bidders could get a good look before the sale. The horse was fairly young, but who wants to deal with that?

    That second contraption just looks like something I would use to hang a roll of TP on. That's about the only thing you could use it for that wouldn't involve inflicting pain on a horse.

  10. I have one of those reverse ported chifney anti-rearing bits. When she was young and fresh off the track, my OTTB mare HATED any kind of pressure on the bridge of her nose. I guess she had been shanked a lot with the chain lead at the track. One tug and she'd shoot up on her hind legs. But on a plain lead she was like holding a ball of fire.

    The chifney bit was the only way you could lead her without her running you over or rearing when pressure was applied to her nose. If that bit was in her mouth and clipped to her halter, all you had to do was gently but firmly increase the downward pressure on the bit and she'd give immediately by lowering her head and settling down. I would NEVER yank on it!!! It looked harsh but when used with care was the best way to lead her safely.

    Thank goodness she grew out of that with training and gentle handling.

  11. They use those for race horses.
    They don't look comfortable at all, but they're used all the time.

  12. I don't know the name for the second bit, but it seems to be a race driving bit. Don't forget that going a mile in 1:48 and change is pretty blazing fast and these horses can pull your arms out!! Sitting BEHIND your horse is NOT like sitting on it, you ONLY have your hands, voice and whip to communicate. Your wieght/seat are not available to you in a race bike. Now add to the mix that you are going mach ten with your hair on fire behind a race horse who's only job is to trot/pace his heart out for you.

    I believe it is meant for a bad puller; it collapses on the bars if they get to lugging. Like anything else, only a cruel item if you hang on the reins.

    As to Chiffney bits, don't knock what you've never used. They are 90% for 'show' when you see horses photographed wearing one in a posed 'confo shot'. And any one who's handled a stallion for live cover will tell you that you need FULL control over the stallion. Some studs are perfect gentlemen, some need 'supervision' if you will. Doesn't make them bad studs to handle on a daily basis.

    Nearly every race horse is presented wearing one at the Sales. I prep STB yearlings for the NJ and PA sales every fall. We teach them to accept the Chiffneys as part of thier prep, but no, we don't use them to lead them every where. Not all that practical, and generally not necessary. The naughty ones are lead with a chain over the nose like any other horse.

    Yes, at the sales the yearlings are more "up" or even aggressive and ARE hard to handle. Let's think about that for minute, based on how "my" farm does the yearling preps. They've been in an intensive program for two months, being conditioned in a Euro-ciser daily, in addition to being fed hi-energy feeds. I refer to the feed we use as "jet fuel" because of the hi-calories and hi-fat levels. Yes, they are turned out, but they are used to being out 24/7 before being brought in for the sales. They are handled/groomed daily and taught basic good manners, but they are still just babies and those colts are *just* figuring out the difference between girls and boys. Then we stick them in a trailer and ship them off to a new place and this is thier first time off the farm. The new place is teeming with new sights, sounds, smells and is overflowing with new humans. In two words, sensory overload. There is NO turn out at the sales. They are taken from the stalls for folks to look at, but NO exercise for several days. Then they get brought into the sale pen, surrounded by a gillion humans, the auctioneer speaking in tongues on the PA, flashing cameras, AND they are held by a human they don't know.

    AND that, dear reader, is why race babies may seem a bit looney at the auction and why they may need a lil bit of steel in thier mouths to control them at the sales.

  13. I do want to add one more thought about chiffney bits... This photo posted earlier shows the lead shank clipped to BOTH the ring of the bit and the halter. That lessens the severity of the bit, particularly if the bugger likes to pull back. You'll hit the nose of the halter just as much as the mouth. The horse is clearly aggitated, but it's not fair to blame the bit, we have no way of knowing what else is going on or what happened right before the shot was taken.

    This photo also shows the bit buckled to a bridle crown or a bridoon strap. It is also possible to use special clips and connect it to the halter.

    And yes, it's not meant at all for riding, just extra control in-hand.

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  15. Pat, wow, your explanations just confirmed why I am switching to a bitless bridle. I know you do this because it's your business and you have to be able to handle the colts, Pam, and I respect that. I just don't understand why so many people think causing pain to a horse to get it to behave will work in the long run.

    Honestly, everyone, why is it that we think we can control a 1000-lb animal using a tiny piece of steel in its mouth at all? If a Tyrannosaurus Rex came clumbering down the trail, I guarantee you no horse within sight of that creature will stand perfectly still and wait for his rider's cue, no matter what kind of bit is in his mouth. Okay, that won't happen, except in a made-for-Sci-Fi-channel-movie, but I always think of the worse case scenario. It's not about control--it's about learning respect for the rider and what the rider is asking for. I'm hoping to get that same kind of respect with a bitless bridle. I know it can be done--I have a friend with a Percheron stallion who was so abused he used to attack people. Now she rides him in a bitless bridle and a bareback pad. It's amazing what gentle work and gaining respect can do. Guess no one wants to take the time to do it.

    P.S. Sorry to delete my comment and repost it--I was using the wrong login. :)

  16. The first bit is a Dexter Ring bit, and one of the most common bits used at the racetrack. The half cheeks are better for steering than a plain snaffle, and the ring causes the mouthpiece to behave somewhere between a jointed bit and a straightbar. This variable mouthpiece makes it more difficult for the racehorse to grab on.
    The second bit we refer to as an overcheck. It is used on Thoroughbreds that are really bad pullers. There is a strap connecting the two small metal bits that are on the small mouthpiece, which puts pressure on the nose. The reins attach to the big rings. The effect is that when the horse pulls, the bit contracts around the top of his mouth, discouraging him from pulling. It is only used with a horse that pulls extremely badly.

  17. Well here in Australia they are both only used on race horses. The first one helps horses that tend to lug to the outside of the track. The second known here as a Norton is used with an overcheck and yes is a very strong bit. Pretty much puts the horses mouth in a vice.

  18. Obviously katphoti, you didn't really read my post.

    Clearly I stated that the chiffney bits ARE NOT used daily. They are put on them so that the bits are not a new thing at the sales. Typically they wear them while crosstied for grooming. Considering that the barn manager and I almost single handedly (or is that double handedly?) prepped 25 horses by ourselves, the horses wore them for LESS than 20 minutes a day.

    I also did not say they were utilized in a manner that inflicted pain. Nor did I state that the colts or fillies are manhandled before, during or presumably after the auctions. But thanks so much for assuming that is how we handle the kiddies. That was nice.

    It's the folks who think that this is all fun and games and "my horsie luvs me" or just don't grasp how powerful they are that get hurt or get somebody else hurt. It happens every bleeping year with the STB babies. Two years ago, somebody wasn't minding thier horse and got me hurt when he failed to control his filly and she pretty much took me out. (short answer, I probably broke my ankle) Last year somebody else who was incapable of instilling respect into the colts nearly lost a finger. Why? The colt started playing up and he just stood there AND he had the stud chain in his HAND. It was not over the nose where it would do some good, and dear GOD, you don't hold the stud chain in your own hand! It's hard to explain how, but the chain took his flesh to the bone when it when the horse took the slack out. The only thing that saved it was that the barn ceiling is a bit low and it kept the colt from standing up full hieght. He was a pleasant man to be around but he was also an accident waiting for an opportunity. While I'm far from happy that he *was* hurt, I'm plenty glad I didn't get the fallout this time.

    This fellow on his second day stated "wow, the horses really respect you!" Yup, dude, they do. It's not because they remember me, they saw me a year ago for two days and then were turned out; I barely touched them back then. It's not because I beat the crap out of them now. Heck I've only been back for two days myself, I've only been in a stall with maybe a third of them. IT's because I DON'T PUSSY FOOT AROUND. It's all business. This is my dancing space, this is yours, lil' colt/filly. If I want to cuddle, I have 3 cats at home. I don't 'cuddle' with my own horses, they are not teddy bears. They are my 'kids' but 1000 pound children are not to be treated like lap dogs.

    I also didn't say the Norton wasn't strong. Nor did I recommend the item. I simply related WHY they are used. It is meant for use by professional trainers and drivers, not the average Yahoo from down the street. Who, BTW, can do plenty of damage with a regular snaffle or a simple curb.(neatly illustrated in the 6/5 post) I also reckon that nobody goes from a plain snaffle and a straight overcheck right on to a Norton. I'm sure that there are plenty of steps along that trail.

    To the "bitless bridle" folks, yeah, um OK. You try working an STB or a TB for a fast mile in a Dr. Cooks. If you come back in one piece, on the horse, and the trainer isn't cussing you out for going an extra mile before you managed to pull up, then I'll give you props.

    So no, I don't think I can control a horse with a bit if T-Rex came down the trail. No more than you and your Dr. Cooks bitless bridle rig will.

    If the bitless works for YOU and YOUR horse, then go for it. Just don't look down your nose at people who use other means just because you feel that you are the "enlighted one" in the equation. I find it offensive that you imply in your post that people who use bridles with bits don't respect thier horses. Bits do not inflict pain, poor usage does. Period.

  19. I have to post this in two parts because Blogger doesn't seem to like me and I can't post the whole thing, even though it's under the size it should be.

    Pam, I figured you'd attack me, even when I said I respect your need to run your business and did not direct my second paragraph at you particularly. It was a general comment about what I see is so common with bit use.

    For the record, I'm not going to use a Dr. Cook's bitless bridle because I don't think it works. My goal is to develop a partnership with a horse, which starts with basic groundwork and going up from there. It's based in communication and respect for one another, and I don't have to get respect from putting a spiked bit in their mouth for 20 minutes. For the record, I HATE the Parelli's and don't "play" with my horses.

    You had a very “yeah right” attitude when you talked about using a bitless bridle on a racing horse. I don’t race my horses, so I don’t know what it takes to use a bit on the track. But honestly, I'm SURE a horse properly trained in a bitless bridle could run just fine. But hey, no one wants to take the time to do it--gotta get those colts out there and ride them as long yearlings so they can go to the track as 2 yos. They don't make us money unless they can do that!

    I didn't look down my nose at you. People can use bits if they want--I use them myself. I just was pointing out that how those bits work and why they’re used must cause a lot of pain. It makes me realize again and again why I only use plain snaffles. I don't appreciate that you obviously assume I'm some backyard nutter who "plays" with my horses. I've run the gauntlet of training, from beating my horse if he misbehaved and long shanked high port curb bits for "control" to learning classical dressage methods to teach my horse roundness and suppleness.

    I DO agree with you that bits don't inflict pain unless someone uses them wrong. The problem is that MOST people use them wrong. And honestly, a bit with SPIKES in the mouthpiece has GOT to hurt if even the slightest pressure is put on it. I'm sure you wouldn't use it if it doesn't.

  20. Second part...

    I told you I respect that you are trying to run a business. I know how that goes. People in TN with their TWHs (yes, that’s my breed) do it all the time. They produce 100 head of horses a year and have to take about that many to the sale every year because they're "duds" in the show ring. Who has time to train all those horses using groundwork and quiet methods? They don't. So they resort to shortcuts, which includes gadgets, and many of those produce pain.

    So your horses only wear those bits for about 20 minutes. Does that mean that in 20 minutes, time will stop and you and the horse are safe? You pointed out how a guy got his arm torn down to the bone. I'm sure it took less that 2 seconds for that accident to happen. What happens when a colt lunges in your 20 minute window and rips his tongue out because he's wearing one of those bits?

    You're right--those bits are only for professionals and stupid yahoos shouldn't have them. But people learn from whomever they consider a professional, and if they see somone using a bit like that, they will go out and buy one and try to use it. I'm sure you don't have a sign on your bits saying "FOR PROFESSIONAL USE ONLY." Those bits are available online for people to buy them, and they will.

    I do respect that you have a business to run and you or whomever you work for produce a lot of horses that need to be sold each year. I have learned that the best way to deal with these situations is to say hey, man, I can't change your mind. It's your choice what you do. I understand how your mindset works when it comes to having large numbers of animals to train because I've seen it myself and continue to run into it. My belief is that animals are not objects to be produced in mass quantities, culled, and hustled off to sales if they don't make the mark--they are living creatures that deserve respect. There is no reason for there to be such an overpopulation of horses, and big barns that over-produce are a major cause of it. If people don't have time to train properly and choose to resort to gadgets, then don't produce so many horses and start making the time.

  21. Oh, the bitless bridle I'm going to use is a different style thank Cooks'--it uses the horse's whole head to ask for movement rather than just the sides of their mouth.

  22. You REALLY DON"T READ. trully. You can't even get my name right. If you are going to start a post using MY NAME (or something close) Uh, well, YEAH, DUH, I'm going to take it personally.

    NOT my breeding business. Some one elses farm. I just work there. I thought I made it pretty clear.

    THe dude who got hurt was injured because he was doing MANY MANY things wrong. He did not discipline the horse, he did not put the chain over the nose but he did put the chain in his hand. Chain nosebands only hurt if you wail away at thier heads. A short, sharp snap of the lead and a growl was usually enough to keep these colts in line.

    Yes, ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN in 20 minutes. THey are NOT left alone wearing them. They are not left loose wearing them and they surely aren't TIED by the bit. So exactly HOW are they going to tear out thier tongue on a bit while supervised on cross ties whilst being groomed?

    It is not a big barn, we sell less than 30 yearlings each year. THat's not too many. The yearlings live separately from the other horses so they get 100% attention in the fall.

    You are making some ridiculous statements about "culling and over population" about a barn that YOU HAVE NO knowledge of. Shall we talk about SpongeBob and Crim? Both were NOT fit for sale at the time they were consigned. (apparent neuralgia for both) BOTH were kept at home. Crim seemed to sort himself out and is STILL at home as a baby sitter, sound and happy as a pig in poop. Bob was 'fixed' (long story) with surgery and put into training. Bob doesn't like to trot terribly fast so he's back at home, waiting to go to a riding home some day. Oh, and Kay Ellen, the retired broodie that is now living out her days as a baby sitter. Or the filly that showed cysts on her stifles after the auction. Yeah, they careed sooo little about Indulge Me's future that they bought her back at $55k. There's something you do when money is the only concern. Indulge Me is actually 100% sound and has broken records for her age/track size and has a best mark of 1:53.2 at the Red Mile, ending the fall of '08 as National Seasonal Champion. I'm guessing she's got a permanent home to look forward to. Next we have Cam Fella. When his fertility tanked, he was retired to the Kentucky Horse Park, for all to admire. Not shuttled off to auction. Ah, but last but not least, Landslide. Landslide was a good stud but they *did* sell him eventually. When he was located years later as a "old man" looking for a pasture to end his days in, the farm owner's made all the logistic and financial arrangements to have him sent to NJ for just that. Crazy evil race horse breeders...

    I don't work for asshats. I've told off people who are. I've walked out on the asshats. I come back to these people one season after the next precisely because they are not asshats. They DO have to make a buck to keep the lights on, but they also put the horse first every single time.

    SO now you are comparing teaching a young horse to accept a bit for the first time to the training practices of the TWH people. WOW. I don't even know how to address that one.

    Spiked bits? what?? were did THAT come from?? The norton is NOT spiked, nor the chiffney.

  23. It's not you, it's the web site. it didn't like my post too well either, thus it's in half-ish.

    THe chiffney is not a gadget or a short cut. It is not used daily. It is for ADDITIONAL control, WHEN NEEDED. Go back and actually READ my post about what auctions are like for an 18 month old horse. Our horses are properly and thoroughly trained. When they get to the sales they've been crosstied, groomed, flysprayed, blanketed, clipped, bathed, trimmed/shod and have likely stood for the vet a few times too. All things a baby horse should be able to handle. They are babies and there is a limit on how much information you can cram into thier lil heads. But they are just babies and you have two choices when they freak out. Be the Alpha or be the dirt. I for one like to have all the tools on hand to remain the alpha.

    OH, not all chiffney's have a port. I had a link but Blogger didn't like it for some reason, do a search so you can see the types available. These are the sort we use. I actually had no idea that they came *with* the port.

    It's my understanding of the cooks that the straps crossing under the head DO work the whole head. At any rate, I DO ride with hackamores. Heck, I can ride mine in a halter and two leads. That's not the point. It's the sentiment that you can do *anything* in a bit-less rig that is obsurd. Which is why I suggest that one try it for *anything* and report back.

  24. "You are making some ridiculous statements about "culling and over population" about a barn that YOU HAVE NO knowledge of."

    I didn't say anything about culling at the barn you work at particularly. I said this:

    "My belief is that animals are not objects to be produced in mass quantities, culled, and hustled off to sales if they don't make the mark--they are living creatures that deserve respect. There is no reason for there to be such an overpopulation of horses, and big barns that over-produce are a major cause of it."

    But it's not worth it to comment anymore. You attacked me when I just made a comment about how those bits are to be properly used (by your definition) and how I don't understand why so many people want to cause pain to a horse's mouth to control it. I didn't say you specifically. I even told you several times that I respect what you're trying to do. It was just a general comment, but you seem to want to defend yourself, and I'm not sure what for. Do what you want to do--it's your choice.

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  26. This post is totally separate from my last one. This is for everyone: I have to tell all of you about this because I believe it can really be something that might help folks with their horses if they're having problems with the bit.

    I lead a moonlight ride last night and rode my husband's 17-hand 10 yo TWH gelding who has always been a fighter on the trail. He hates when other horses pass him, and he fights me on the way home, pushing into the bit and hollowing out his back to fight against my not letting him blast home. He can take off in a canter or full gallop and I have zero respect from him. He usually wears an eggbutt snaffle and I have been working on classical dressage methods to teach him to round and gait correctly, but it's always a fight.

    I used the Nurtural Bridle on him last night for the first time. Now, the NB folks recommend that you DO NOT take your horse out on a trail ride in it the first time you try it on. However, I'd been working with him in it early in the day and was getting amazing responses. So I took the bitted bridle with me but decided to try the NB since I was with a bunch of people who are experienced and can help me if something happens. I also always wear a helmet. So there's my disclaimer--be sure to keep yourself safe! :)

    Anyway, I could not believe how amazing he was. He is still headstrong and does need to learn how to soften in this bridle, but he did not fight me. In fact, at one point he was performing a true flat walk DOWNHILL, and he does not have the proper muscle tone to do it yet. I was SHOCKED. I usually have to fight him on the way home and turn him in circles to keep him from blasting home. He usually hollows out his back and pushes me as hard as he can until he's almost in a fast rack. This time he just motored along and kept his head level and his body rounded. I even "tested" things a bit and dropped the reins, and he never broke his stride or tried to take off. Other horses were passing him and he was fine with it. Other horses would speed up and he wouldn't care. He responded to my asking for collection by rounding his back, and he actually balanced himself. No more stumbling over himself because he was fighting with the bit. If I asked for him to lower his head and not round his back, he did with no hesitation. He even backed up without tossing his head up in the air.

    I also need to point out that we have gone through what feels like hundreds of bits on this guy; everything from a high port with shanks to the eggbutt snaffle and multiple bits inbetween. Even the dressage work was not getting through to him. Now everything we know about him has changed: he has always hated the bit but has accepted it because we've asked him do and he wants to please. Now he's going to be a lot happier and I will be able to work on my goals with him.

    Anyway, I am just so thrilled that I will be riding him bitless in the sound horse show we're having out here in September. I now feel like I can actually ride him for real instead of fight with him all the time and get him ready for this show with no problems.

    If you're interested, check out I am not affiliated with them in any way--I'm just out to help folks if you have problems with bits with your horse.

    Sorry to delete my previous post--it was the same as this one only I saw some glaring mistakes! :)

  27. SORRY! That website is!