This very unique Mexican bit was in B.A. and Jimmy Jones' tack trunk which I bought at the last Jimmy Jones Estate Auction sale of August 16, 2002. Had I not also purchased an 8" x 10" photo showing Jimmy and Ben flanking a Calumet race colt, I would never have believed it was used on race horses. Obviously, Ben found this bit very useful in biting some thoroughbreds. I have no doubt that Ben picked this bit up in the early part of his training/racing career when he made forays into Mexico, primarily the Juarez track. It has been told that Ben was racing in Juarez one winter when Pancho Villa and his troops stormed into town with shootings and killings. It got around that Pancho was looking for black horses and his men were taking by force any appropriately colored animal in the vicinity. Ben's best allowance horse that season was Lemon Joe--a black horse, and Ben was worried. Joe Hirsch writes what happened next: "He (Ben) put some mud in a potato sack, wrapped it around one of Lemon Joe's legs and put a bandage over the sack. The mud weighted the leg down so every time the horse took a step, he appeared to be hopelessly lame. Villa's troops went up and down the shed rows looking for black horses. They rounded up several, but when they came to Lemon Joe's stall, they led him out, took one look and left him there." He goes on to say that Lemon Joe may have been saved, but Ben lost a nice new saddle in the process to the bandits. Such were the times and tribulations of B. A. Jones in his early racing career. This bit is a distinct relic of that long ago experience of Ben. Race trainers are always on the lookout for unique tack that will come in handy on future problem horses, this bit would fit that bill for Ben. He acquired it and used it.
This bit is of the Spanish Colonial Ring design. It has been around for many hundreds of years in Mexico in one form or another. This bit seems to be made out of iron with a very short curved 3" shank. The mouth is four and one-eighth inches long with what appears to be small copper rollers near the areas that rest on the bars of the horse's mouth and rollers up in the high 2.5" port. The end of the shanks are connected by a moveable half-moon piece of metal and connected to the top of the port is a large 4.5" diameter ring which probably encircled the lower jaw when the bit was in place. The bit seems in good condition with the exception of one iron ring missing on the right side of the bit which would have fastened that bit to the bridle. This should be easily replaced, if so desired. As a horseman, I would analyze this bit in several ways. I would possibly use it on a horse that the rider needed more control over than the ordinary snaffle. This bit would place pressure on the roof of the mouth while at the same time the lower jaw. A rather unusual combination of pressures for a race horse bit. The short shank would limit the pressure exerted by the rider's reins and would have far less leverage when compared to more common curb bits. This bit is a very unique bit, full of the Calumet training heritage and ingenuity of B.A. Jones. I will include with this display mounted bit, the original photo pictured below illustrating the actual use of this bit, and two smaller photo enlargments. You can bet B.A. and Jimmy liked this bit and it was one of their training bag of tricks.
The bit is mounted in a museum quality display case with the original Jimmy Jones owned photo picturing the actual use of this bit on a racehorse, flanked by both Jones on their ponies, bought by me at the Jones Auction. The other two, smaller, enlarged photos are recent blow-up copies of this original photograph designed to show bit and bridle detail more clearly. The display case measures 16" x 20" and comes with artifact provenance.
NOTE: To make this bit even more complete, I do have the same bridle that this bit was pictured with in the photo on the below bottom. It was also in the tack trunk that I bought at the Jimmy's estate auction.
Price: US$1600.00. (plus shipping)