Shrake Connector Bit

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This elevator bit attaches to the headstall with 3” upper shanks. The headstall rings are curved slightly away from the horse to give more headstall clearance. The reins connect to 3” long curved-back lower shanks. The rings outside the mouthpiece are 1 1/2” wide and 2” tall. They are not designed for a curb strap.

The upper and lower shanks connect to the mouthpiece in an eggbutt style no-pinch joint. The generous 5” mouthpiece measures 1/2” thick over the bars. This mouthpiece is a #2 on a scale of #1 to #4, with #1 being the mildest Richard Shrake Resistance Free mouthpiece. The bars are smoothly curved to fit the tongue, while the center is raised slightly to give tongue room. The mouthpiece joints move freely and allow the bit to close laterally in the horse’s mouth.

Mouthpiece Material: German silver bars and copper center piece.

Features: The curve, materials, diameter and double joint of the mouthpiece make this bit comfortable.

Action: The upper shanks give considerable poll pressure along with upward pressure on the corners of the mouth. The rein connections on the lower shanks initiate this pressure, while moderating it (slower and milder) when compared to straight lower shanks. The considerable rotational motion of this bit gives a “PreSignal” to the cushioned corners of the horse’s mouth just before pressing on the tongue and poll, and with more rein pressure, the bars.

This bit is classified as an “elevator” bit, and Richard Shrake gives credit to horseman Jimmy Williams for an earlier design. Bits of this type have extensions above the mouthpiece and work with considerable poll pressure from curb shanks. They do not have curb straps. They sometimes have snaffle rings but only for secondary use.

We especially like this mouthpiece. The double joint gives milder, yet compelling, lips and tongue pressure because it squeezes from three directions. Traditional single joint snaffles give more of a nutcracker effect.

Background: The traditional vaquero style of training included teaching a colt to respond well to a snaffle bit, then eliciting the same trained response in a bosal, then switching to a thin bosal under a curb bridle to get him even more responsive. The goal was a horse of the highest sensitivity. Shrake designed this bit to help today’s riders bridge the gap between snaffle and curb without using the bosal. The name of the bit comes from its use (connecting the snaffle to the curb during training).

Uses: This is one of a series of Resistance Free bits, which are designed to allow communication with your horse without resistance, force or unnecessary pressure because of the preparatory “PreSignal.” When your horse responds to this light “PreSignal,” instead of to a more severe pull to the tongue and bars, Shrake says you should feel a light, balanced frame of self carriage.

Self carriage comes from the horse taking more of his weight onto his hindquarters and balancing himself longitudinally (front to back). In self carriage, which is fleeting as the horse begins to learn it, he will feel light in your hands and won’t hurry forward to catch his balance.

Self carriage is a result of training. While working on longitudinal balance and the musculature to support it, this bit may help. However, we don’t believe this bit will help train for lateral bend and balance, which are important foundations of longitudinal balance.

Shrake says this bit is good for retraining prospects that are stiff in the poll and for nervous horses. The PreSignal gives the horse the opportunity to respond before feeling traditional mouth and tongue pressure. If your horse is nervous about such pressure, he may well be more comfortable with this bit.

This bit is also marketed for horses that are too heavy to ride in a snaffle, for horses that run through a snaffle, or for children to use when a snaffle is not enough. Shrake suggests trading bits during training, depending on how your horse feels each day, and for trail riding or hunting.

This bit has no curb-strap ring and is not designed to use with a curb strap, although use of a curb type strap on snaffle rings is common in some circles. Indeed, curb strap action would be minimal because rein pressure causes the mouthpiece to close at the joints — this drops the curb strap away from the chin groove.

We tried this bit on horses that are comfortable and well-mannered in both snaffles and mild curbs and found some nose-poking resistance, which we felt was probably from the increased poll pressure they had not previously experienced. Shrake recommends giving any new bit at least 10 trials to allow the horse to become comfortable with its different pressure distribution. He said horses learn to protect themselves by stiffening and altering their head position, which was probably what was happening before our horses learned to respond softly to the new bit.

Shrake suggests that this bit, and any jointed bit, be ridden with two hands. The joints allow independent communication with the two sides of the mouth. We tried riding with one hand, neck reining, and believe the stretched inside rein (to remind the horse of the correct inside bend) may well be lost in the accompanying inside poll pressure.

We also rode with two hands and think any opening (leading) or direct (toward your elbow) single rein signal may confuse the horse, because the directional and bending signal is accompanied by poll and upward corner-of-the-mouth pressure. Additionally, if the rein and lower shank are brought out to the side, the upper shank can rub against the side of the horse’s face.

Shrake says he does not mean for this bit to be used with reins on the snaffle rings. He sometimes uses a longeing aid called a rhythm collector that can be connected to these rings.

We did ride in this bit with four reins and subsequently just with two reins on the snaffle rings. It was in this latter position that the comfort of the mouthpiece became apparent. The horses responded more softly and comfortably than in single-jointed snaffles.

Warnings: You’ll need a bridle with adjustable (short) cheek pieces to accommodate the long upper shank. Notice the curve of the mouthpiece when connecting the bit to your headstall; the curve of the bars gives this bit a definite front and back.

Check to be sure that the bit’s upper shanks are an appropriate length for the size of your horse’s head and that your headstall is not too wide. Rein pressure brings the headstall rings forward and the headstall may move uncomfortably close to the horse’s eyes.

Legality: We suggest this nonconventional bit for training. Change to a standard bit for the show ring. However, jumpers, endurance horses and barrel racers use this bit.

This bit is available from your local retailer or contact Richard Shrake at 800/635-8861. $49.95.