Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Tack Touchpoint: The Infamous Whistle Bit

One of the more intruiging pieces in my current tack collection is the infamous whistle bit. I've gotten a ton of questions about it, so here's the top 8 facts you need to know about whistle bits:

1) They don't actually whistle. Horses breathe through their nostrils, not their mouth. Sad face.

2) There is precious little information available about them ANYWHERE. Here's what I've got.

3) They are most commonly used on the racetrack--either in the stall to help curb windsucking or on the track to encourage salivation.

3b) Windsucking actually doesn't cause colic. Keeping a bit in your mouth all day seems wildly uncomfortable. I'm not testing this out.

3c) The idea behind encouraging salivation is that the saliva builds up in the holes in the bit. Maybe like a spit swimming pool? Hard to say.

4) I have one for the very technical reason that I heard of them and was like "wtf", then found one for sale cheap while doing extensive research. I didn't buy it to address an issue. I was just curious.

stolen from internet
5) There are several permutations of this bit. The simple tube seems to be for stall use, the hexagonal option (that I have) has edges to discourage leaning on the bit while running, and there's a pessoa/three ring that is commercially available.

6) I can't tell if this is an old bit losing traction or a new bit taking off. Needless to say, it will probably come back around if you really want one.

7) Courage did have a little more foam than usual when I rode in this. He rarely has a foamy mouth at all, and there were traces of saliva on his lips.

stolen from internet
Whether that's because the whistle bit did it's job or whether that means it's just super wide for his mouth, I really can't tell you.

8) While I didn't buy this bit for a specific reason, it's actually been fun to play with and I've be curious to try it in a galloping situation with Courage--he doesn't do well with bigger bits, but he's comfortable in a mullen. That said, he'll run right through a happy mouth mullen and this has a little bite... so maybe? Definitely worth keeping it around.

And that's what there is to know about whistle bits for now.


  1. My barn in PA had the 3 ring version in their pile of spare bits and I always wondered what the holes were for.

  2. I have never heard of this! Learn something new every day...

  3. You are awesome for being curious and sharing results with us

  4. Fascinating bit. I wonder if it makes a whistling sound if a horse tries windsucking with it in his mouth?

  5. 6) Old-timey bit - from when people really thought that windsucking would cause colic. Although, I think people do still seem to think that sometimes, even though the windsucking is a symptom of a problem not a cause.... ehhh.
    I had a trainer in college who had this HUGE trunk full of nothing but bits. Bits EVERYWHERE. Bits I had never seen before and have never seen again. She had some of these - she had statched them up from bygone eras, and complained that she had trouble finding them anymore.
    I've seen whistle bits since, but I am still searching for the "puzzle bit" she let me try on Gogo once - not the one with the dangley keys, this one looked like it was one of those little metal mindstumper riddle puzzles only your weird uncle could houdini open when you all sat around at Christmas trying to undo it. That's what one need in your collection!

    1. I want to go to this lady's yard sale. Or maybe just outright steal the trunk.

    2. Yeps, they've been around a long while. Thanks for sharing the variations, very interesting. I confess that even this "I will find how ALL THE THINGZ WORK!!" dork has yet to figure out (a) how it was expected to work or (b) if there IS any actual function aside from being a funny looking mullen-mouth, LOL.

      I agree that windsucking doesn't directly CAUSE colic, and is not the same as true cribbing, as I think Andrea was aiming, particularly for the latter, unaddressed, there can definitely be dire, if not fatal consequences. I've had the sad experience of watching a beautiful young horse crib himself to death, including snapping his own teeth off, while I was powerless to help. I tried to nudge owners, but rider was a teenage girl with uninvolved parents & a horrible trainer, heartbreaking. Caveat that obviously the cribbing itself didn't cause his death (via massive impaction colic), but the stress on his body & mind both from & causing the behaviour was terrible. :(

      Ummm, sorry for the OT, heh.

  6. inneresting! i'm always super curious about different bits, but oddly resistant to actually trying them myself (not entirely sure why either...)


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