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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Torture Device Tuesday

Today I have a bit that I had thought extinct, a relic of a more barbaric practice of "controlling" horses. The bit that I speak of is commonly known as a "Spanish" ring bit. Now, this is not a ring snaffle we are talking about here, this is a style of bit that was used from the middle ages up through Spanish Colonial times and into the 20th Century. Here is an illustration of a 16th century piece.

Here is an extant piece from the Spanish colonial era...

Bits like this were created to control war stallions, they exert huge amounts of leverage and can literally crush a horse's jaw if used with a heavy hand. For those who are unfamiliar with the way one of these functions, let me explain. The bit is placed in the horses mouth with ring encircling the lower jaw in place of a curb chain. I always thought them a relic of a bygone age, but alas, as with so many things in the horse world, I found that these things are still being made and used. These photos were sent to me by a reader, the bit pictured was (currently SOLD OUT, is that not disturbing?) available for purchase and can be ordered custom made to your specs.

Not only is it not a particularly well made piece, but it lacks the graceful lines and the tongue relief (however small) that the antique pieces offer. It is an ugly piece of work no matter how you look at it. It makes me sad because I KNOW that there are yahoos out there using this thing improperly.


  1. OH. MY. GOD! What ways to torture these beautiful animals can humans concieve of?

  2. OMG OMG!!!!! that is just awful. It makes me cringe to even look at and the fact one of the was 'sold out" it honestly makes me hope to hell that perhaps only 2 or 3 have been made and some idiot bought all 3 of them or perhaps 2 or 3 were made and some kind soul seeing the world of hurt that would do to a horse, bought them and destroyed them.... sadly I bet that's not the case

  3. that is just sad. Sad to think what the old war stallions dealt with and what horses today are put thru. That really brings a tear.

  4. A trainer once said "where knowledge ends, violence begins". People use torture devices because they don't know how to deal with horses any other way and some people, sadly, just don't care to learn a better way either!

    I use full cheek snaffle bits on my horses, only wore spurs during drill competitions when necessary and received lots of critical comments because of it.

    A bit is not what controls the horse. TRAINING is what is going to control the horse!

  5. You know, I understand the logic of highly experienced and sensitive riders and horses performing comfortably and successfully using bits that would become tongue-cutting torture devices in the ham fists of untrained or dominance-crazed riders. I really do.

    And that a highly-trained but battle-crazed, killing-machine, testosterone-encouraged war stallion could take one of those antique bits because the rider knew what he was doing, and possibly only had a pinky finger available to control the horse.

    But.... NO NO NONO. NO.

    I'm hoping that someone bought these bits only for decorating Medieval Times....

  6. I'm pretty sure people buy these because they are a pretty peice of art. I'm pretty sure anyone who actually does anything with their horse would not want to spend the money on a bit like this in the first place.
    get a grip, you take everything over the top

  7. These are mind blowing. How can anyone justify using this bit?

  8. cattypex: And what happens when the rider "slips"? OOps-horse's tongue cut in half! Even the best intentions can go by the wayside when riding.

  9. Completely and totally overkill in so many ways.

  10. Well, if you ARE riding with a big ol' bit, your hands should be so light, and contact so so so SO soft, you'd probably drop the reins if you slipped.... yet another reason to like pretty romal reins I guess ; )

    Hey, I prefer a very mild bit - or even NONE - myself, but I don't consider a strong bit (WITHIN REASON) inherently abusive.

    Now, those things? nu uh. Or anything that features pulleys, wires, bike chains, sharp things, chain nosebands, rings, gag things...... Nope.

    But I guess I'm not such an absolutist that I can't see that some horses & riders go just fine in various curb bits. What can make it work? Years of training, very soft hands, well-constructed bits... I'm NOT an advocate of bits that could easily break a jaw or tear a tongue, but a well-made curb with a port that doesn't bother the horse, he performs happily in it, and you know how to use it? Go for it, I say.

  11. From the website-

    >>These ring bits are also called "Chileno" bits and are generally used for only a short period of time with an older, advanced horse.<<

    So this sounds like they are marketing to someone with a clue as to what's going on, but no garuantees as to any 'selective release restrictions' by the sellers.

    It looks much worse than it is, when you consider the mechanics of how it actually 'works'. The high port has the potential to bang into the roof of the mouth when the reins are pulled or yanked and yes that will bring the ring up against the lower jaw, but by the size of everything as pictured- it doesn't look like the ring will be making contact as soon as, or before the port of the mouthpiece does.

    The chains from the ring to the shanks? As the shanks rotate and the ring engages, the ring moves downward and the chains will loosen if anything. They are most likely more for display as they don't serve any other purpose.

  12. I see what you mean..... I thought the silver chains were "just for prety" myself....

    I'm still not too keen on the metal that goes under the chin....

    and the straight bar with a port? That doesn't look RIGHT to me at all!

  13. Actually that drawing looks like the most practical bit of all of these....

  14. I don't see anything wrong with a curb, but this thing, in any hands, on any level or age of horse, is just scary! I suppose on a war horse, where it means break the horse's jaw or DIE, then okay, but we are not fighting wars via horseback any longer, so why???

  15. Torture Tuesday hurts my brain.

  16. xmarisax02,

    Well, since the website is touting the bits are for use on horses, then I doubt they are decorating pieces. It IS over the top.

    It seems the Spanish Inquisition extended its torture to horses as well...

  17. You can bet there are idiots out there using these things. I just recently had an experience with people like this. I've been wanting to blog about it but am having trouble with words besides explicitives.

  18. I couldn't put one of those bits in/on for my life, even if I wanted to, and only giving up my family would come before doing that.

  19. I have seen some people (2 or 3) use this type of bit properly ~ with the reins so loose they almost hit the horses knees!

    It kills me to see people walk into a tack store looking for a bit and getting sold a "western" style bit because they have a western saddle to trail ride in! Arrrggghhhhhhh . . . Holy Crap!

    I quit training horses because I cannot ride with a heavy hand, and very few people I came across can ride with a soft hand.
    Maggie taught me (and MANY others) to ride with soft hands. If she caught you pulling on one of her horses mouths, you were off for the rest of the day! (Not a 1 hour lesson, but summer horse camp ~ we probably rode 3-4 hours per day. Imagine standing outside the ring holding your horse while everyone else went on a trail ride!)

    I wish I could remember who said it, but there is a quote by a military rider (quite a while back) talking about the severity of the bit being inversely proportional to the ability of the rider. Okay, spelling sucks. Sorry.

    Still pissed!

  20. Hola,
    just a side, but historical comment - these bits - known in Europe as 'morisco,' 'gennette,' 'gineta' between 15-18th centuries, were know here, in the Americas, as 'ring bit' ( US ) - chileno or morisco (Spanish Texas, pre-1848 US Southwest and Latin America). Instead of a curb chain it uses fixed ring (some are removable while others are permanent) attached to the port (short port it should be). According to a Californio writer and horseman Ed Connell (died in 1970s), it was supposed to be used on a 'finished' horses by experienced riders - check some paintings of Californio riders from early 1800s, I imagine in Puerto Rico , Cuba and Santo Domingo they might have done it too. Obviously in the Americas it was not a war-stallion bit but a cow horse bit, especially in the good old US. In California, until the 1930s, was also used on parade horses along with a very elaborate 'barba de freno', the same in Mexico and other Latin America. They still may use it in southern Latin America. This bit was very popular with the Navajo and other US Southwestern tribes during the XVIII and XIX century.
    It is no more cruel than any leverage or non-leverage bit when used by inexperienced or heavy-handed rider. Ed Connell stated that it took 4 years of training, from snaffle through hackamore to curb-bit, to finish a reinsman's horse, so I guess at one time there were true ecuyers in America and also regular cowhands who destroyed horses mouths with heavy bits... c'est la vie. Who spends so much time now to train her or his horse and for so many years before going into a show arena?

    Perhaps it could be beneficial to read some good books by authors like Spaniards Pedro de Aguilar or Pedro de Machuca, French ecuyers Pluvinel and la Gueriniere, Californio reinsmen like Ed Connell, horsemanship specialist like Deb Bennett or simply Encyclopedia of Bits and Bridles...

  21. With all due respect read this explanation by Dr Deb Bennett posted in 2008 on her forum- it should be very enlightening, I daresay -

  22. it was used for a reason. and im sure it worked or it would not have been used for so many years. im sure the horses at the time needed this bit as they were semi wild and very hard to handle. the men who used them im also sure didn't care abt wining crybabies crying abt how it hurts a horse. these men needed control and needed it now. not waiting years to break a cowboys break a horse down fast and once we get a saddle on him we ride him into the ground and break his will into submission. it works fast. we don't have time like you tittie suckers to sweet talk a horse. the animal is only a tool for use to use to help get our job done.