Horse Illustrated’s Online Bit Guide: Tom Thumb


Western Tom Thumb BitWestern Tom Thumb: This bit combines the simple, single-jointed mouthpiece of a snaffle with the shanks and chin strap of a curb bit. The idea is to maintain the basic nutcracker action of a snaffle, yet introduce the leverage action of a curb and the concept of neck reining.

  • Sometimes referred to a colt breaking or training bit for western horses.
  • Though often perceived as a bit for transitioning a young horse from a snaffle to a curb, it can actually be a very severe bit due to the leverage action of the shanks.
  • Green horses can become confused by this bit as it can be an abrupt change from the direct rein action and non-leverage action of a plain snaffle.

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Cindy Hale’s life with horses has been filled with variety. As a child she rode western and learned to barrel race. Then she worked as a groom for a show barn, and was taught to harness and drive Welsh ponies. But once she’d taken her first lessons aboard American Saddlebreds she was hooked on English riding. Hunters and hunt seat equitation came next, and she spent decades competing in those divisions on the West Coast. Always seeking to improve her horsemanship, she rode in clinics conducted by world-class riders like George Morris, Kathy Kusner and Anne Kursinski. During that time, her family began raising Thoroughbred and warmblood sport horses, and Cindy experienced the thrills and challenges of training and showing the homebred greenies. Now retired from active competition, she’s a popular judge at local and county-rated open and hunter/jumper shows. She rides recreationally both English and western. Her Paint gelding, Wally, lives at home with her and her non-horsey husband, Ron.


  1. I use a Tom Thumb on my horse that would NEVER respond to a snaffle (believe me, I tried) and it works great.

  2. I have used the tom thumb on all my horses,it never fails to lower the high heads,soften hard mouths,even emproved neckreining with green horses


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