Oregon TWH ridden in kimberwick with english bridle and aussie or english saddle in  pasture by rider who is advanced only in that I can ride most anything.  Training horses is a new area for me

Question: My question is not specific to a horse having a problem.  I am a gaited horse lover and in riding the ones I have owned over the last few years I have used regular, common bits with the Kimberwick being my favorite so far and that bit set in an english bridle.  I have found that in working with these horses that this bit is the most responsive and seems the most comfortable for the particular horses I have used it with.

I have recently purchased a "gaited horse" bit with interchangeable mouth pieces.  I have
noted in looking at gaited horse tack that the shanks on the bits commonly used are much longer than the bits I am accustomed to.  Can you tell me why this is so and how this works on a gaited horse vs. a "regular" bit.



From Panelist Erica

The longer the shanks the more severe the bit. Also a bit with long shanks and a straight shank is more severe than a bit with long shanks and a curved shank. They work off of leverage vs. direct pull.

Erica Frei

From Panelist Nancy

 Hi Carrie,  my advice to you would be to leave the long-shanked walking horse bits back in the store, and use a sensible, comfortable bit such as you would use on any other horse.  There are a lot of "training" techniques used on walking horses that you certainly don't want to emulate. 

My favorite type of bit is a short loose-shanked bit with a snaffle mouthpiece - such as a Tom Thumb (or a bit similar to this).  I use this bit after the horse has learned all his work and is able to be light and responsive in a plain snaffle - no leverage.

Nancy Cade

From Panelists Jonathan

Well Carrie ,

I'm no expert on bits . I'm kinda like you , a naturally inclined rider that does and uses what works for me . I can only guess why you have left what works for you to go to what may be puzzling .

All I can tell you is I have used a long shank bit on every breed of horse I have owned , gaited or not . I find the choice of useing them at the mouth or from the end of the shank a real plus when changeing to mounts that need a little extra leverage or less because of their willingness to collect better . That's it ! Now you know as much as I do .

Personally I would stick with what has worked for you in the past . But I must add that if you classify a broken snaffle as a "regular" bit then, I would keep searching . I don't find any of them to do any more than a non-jointed bit except produce a mouth I don't care for. 

Good luck on your search


From Panelist Lee

Hi, Carrie,

My general feeling is that "if it ain't broke, don't try to fix it" .... I know a lot of gaited horses that are very happy in Kimberwickes and gait just fine in them.  Use the bit that works.  The long shanks on typical gaited horse bits are a result of a couple of things -- often inadequate early training that leaves a horse with a numb mouth that will not respond
to anything with less leverage, and poor riding technique that contributes to poor head and neck carriage in the horse, which must be overcome by something with a long shank to "set" the head.

If you are training the horse sensibly to understand and work with a responsive mouth in a Kimberwicke, you don't need the long shanks to get him to gait.

Good luck with your horse, it sounds as if you are both on the right track.

Lee Ziegler

From Panelist Bob

Stick with what you know! Gaited horses work very well in "regular" bits. I find that many of mine also respond well in a kimberwicke bit. If I feel that I need to use a curb bit I go with a short shanked, mullen mouth, pelham bit. 

Contrary to popular opinion a longer shanked bit does not give greater control. Proper training is what gives control. The longer the shanks,the greater the leverage. More leverage equals more pain to the horse when the reins are pulled. The horse reacts by raising it's head, over-flexing at the poll, and getting "stiff" and unyielding. When a horse is high headed and stiff it's neck and back get into a hollow position and the horse loses it's 
gait and begins to pace! 

I would try to get my money back for the bit! <G>


From Panelist Liz

Hi Carrie,

What a good question!
Yes we do see a lot of "long shanked gaited horse bits" being use when it is not necessary and people are using them because they are made for the gaited horse so people believe this is what is needed. IMO, Not so. I start all mine in a snaffle or side pull and only go to a shanked curb bit when they have developed their gait and know how to collect , carry themselves and hold gait. In many cases these bits are used to force collection.

I have used longer shanked gaited horse bits but only when a horse is finished in training. The length of the shank creates weight  keeping the bit balanced in the right position in the mouth as a reminder for the horse to carry it's head in the correct position with little or no
contact. I never use them to correct a problem or develop a gait. I see them being misused and over used way to often.


From Panelist Laura

The best bit for any horse, gaited or otherwise, is one that the horse is comfortable with.  If the horse is not comfortable, they will toss their head, gap their mouth open, and do other things to let you know that they are unhappy.  The happier and more comfortable you can get the gaited horse, the better their gait.  They need to be relaxed to gait well.

The shanks you are talking about come in 4", 6", 8" and 12" lengths.  The length of shank helps determine the amount of leverage applied to the horse's mouth along with adding weight to a bit.  The amount & type of leverage is also related to the tightness of the curb chain (determines how much time the horse has to react to a pull on the reins), where the rider holds the reins (high or low), how force is applied to the mouth (a light gentle pull to a harsh, abrupt jerk), and to how the rider actually uses their hands. 

Generally you want a shorter shank, a moderate mouth piece, and a rider who uses their hands quietly and consistantly.  The rider's hands are the most important part of the bit.  This is true whether the horse is gaited or not. 


From Panelist Carol

Hi Carrie,

I'm personally not fond of long shanked bits and prefer to do almost all of my training in a snaffle.  I may use a shanked bit on a horse that is not accustomed to any thing else.  If the Kimberwick bit is working well for you, I see no need to change.  Maybe the tack store will give you your money back.

Carol Camp Tosh


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