Thursday, August 6, 2015

Tracy Meisenbach-Stark Naked Bit™, how it works, and what you need to know

                                                        The Stark Naked Bit™:
           Jaw bits have existed since humans first decided to ride on the backs of horses. They are one of the earliest methods of communication between man and equine.

       Jaw bits have been made of rope, leather, braided grass cord, rawhide, twine and now Biothane ®. The action of a jaw bit is direct, but also muted. There is no leverage like a curb, no dragging across the tongue like a snaffle. It's direct and too the point, which is how all communication should be.

         We're going to look at a few different jaw bits. The leather jaw bit, with and without side rings, has existed since the 1800s. Prints of them can be found in The Horse by William Yount (1843), The Modern Art of Training Wild Horses by William Rarey (1858) and several catalogs including the 1886 Langrun's. 

       Metal jaw bits were actually created and used for awhile, but the dynamics were harsh and unstable. 

     This is the Donnelly Bridleless Bit. The flat metal mouth would dig in when the reins were pulled. Used without a headstall and the flat slightly inverted band will dig into the tongue. Not a very nice bit for the horse.

      Leather bits seem to fall into two categories. Round braided leather with a jaw knot, or flat stitched leather, made as a multi-layer strap with rein rings.  Leather jaw bits were used by the Native Americans, and even in some Asian tribes. Most worked with a jaw knot and would tighten if pulled on. The horse rarely had a choice where his tongue went, the bit was placed over it or under it at the whim of the rider. They could be ridden single or double reined, one handed or two. 
         One of the leather versions is a round rolled Snake Bit. It tightens as the reins are pulled and does require the use of a headstall. I'm not a big fan of it.

         In more modern times Erwin Meroth patented a version of the leather jaw bit and its tanning process in 1985, in Germany. It was never patented in the United States. Meroth passed away in 2000 and his patent was never renewed after the 20 year time limit was up in 2005. His website can be found here: Merothische. If you are looking for an original Meroth Bit we suggest buying from the actual maker, not a distributor, to make sure you get the original product.
         The Meroth bit site states that the leather is vegetable tanned and safe for use as a bit. That it meets European ratings for use in children's toys. Which is very good. However, we visited the website of the tanner that creates the leather used in the Meroth bit and we were surprised at what we found.

        Krekelberg Tannery
        On the Krekelberg site it explains their tanning process and I have to say I was rather startled. And I mean REALLY startled. When you go to their processing page it tells you how they do it:

        It's first tanned with lime, which is a corrosive base when combined with water. This is the translation: Dehairing and liming: means sodium sulfide and lime frees the skin of the hair. The case produced heavily loaded with nitrogen-containing organic load wastewater is in the on-site biological treatment plant cleaned.

        So basically they are treating the leather with two major corrosive solutions to dehair and soften the leather. Sodium sulfide and lime are NOT approved for oral use. And wastewater is just that, wastewater. No telling what is in there.

        So the tanning process is vegetable based, but the dehairing and liming is NOT. And in fact when you get sodium sulfide wet it turns into hydrogen sulfide, which is the chemical compound with the formula H2S. It is a colorless gas with the characteristic foul odor of rotten eggs; it is heavier than air, very poisonous, corrosive, flammable, and explosive.
Like sodium hydroxide, also known as lye and caustic soda with a highly caustic metallic base and alkali salt , sodium sulfide is strongly alkaline and can cause skin burns. Acids react with it to rapidly produce hydrogen sulfide, which is highly toxic.

        Sorry, but that does not seem safe. Certainly not more safe than Biothane® which is not made with those compounds. And vegetable tanning, which is pretty much drum soaking, is not going to remove caustic compounds from the leather. This is probably why the bondage industry has moved away from the use of leather in the creation of their products. 
        This is what a used Meroth looks like after just a few uses Meroth Used Bit

        Looking at jaw bit options had us scratching our heads. We liked the concept but not the potential problems. There is a cleanliness issue. Stretching is a problem, drying out and cracking, the small thin "safety" strings breaking in mid ride and several other issues. I don't WANT a bit that conforms to the mouth and just grips the tongue and jaw tightly. That method provides no relief or reward. So we looked around and found a product called Biothane ®. And therein was our solution. Biothane® can be sterilized, leather cannot. You can dunk a Biothane® bit in listerine, novalsan, alcohol or whatever other method and not change the composition of the bit. Do that with leather and you'll mess it up and remove the protective oils.

        We contacted an Amish Harness Maker and had several discussions with him about the material, stitching ring sizes and knew right away that since horses were not "one size fits all" we decided our bits wouldn't be either. We created several widths; 1/2 inch, 3/4 inch and 1 inch so that a rider could determine the sharpness of the action. The narrower is sharper and the wider is milder. We also decided on two different ring sizes. The 2 inch ring has more weight and vibration, with more pre-signal while the 1.5 inch ring is quieter and more direct. And so the Stark Naked Bit™ was born.

        One thing we really wanted to fix was the bit molding into one horse's mouth's shape and never springing back into shape. We knew that Biothane ® had a shape "memory" but we were really excited to find that the method of stitching created a bit that would spring back into shape and remove pressure from the lips and edges of the mouth. You pull back and release and the horse is rewarded with a reduction of pressure.

In the end we're pretty happy with our product and so are our customers. The bits are Biothane ® so they last longer and can be cleaned easier. They are stitched in such a way that they spring back into shape and take pressure off the sides of the mouth. They don't put any more pressure on the tongue than a metal bit and the horse can eat and drink with one in his mouth. They can be used with or without a headstall. People have been using them for jumping, barrels, trail riding etc. We are using one to start a green horse and will be documenting it with video.They come in a rainbow of colors and we can even make them two-toned!

You can visit us on facebook at Stark Naked Bits or our website at Stark Naked

Either way, Get Serious, Ride Naked!

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