Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Bits vs Bitless

Today we have an e-mail from a reader in Washington asking me about the on-going issue of bits vs bitless bridles.

Q: I've seen so many people brag about using a bit less bridle on their horse and saying that they would never dream of using a bit on their horse. I know you support the use of bits and was wondering what you thought about the people who say this.

A: I've seen these people too and let me tell you, it PERPLEXES me. What they fail to realize that in using something like a sidepull, hackamore, bosal, or something like Dr. Cook's bitless, they are actually bearing down on MORE nerves than if they are using a bit. Consider the following diagram:

Note how it shows all but one or two nerves and nerve endings where the bit goes, yet DOZENS where the nose band of a hackamore, sidepull, and bosal goes. If the diagram went back farther, it would show a cluster of nerves behind the horse's ears where the pressure is focused on Dr. Cook's bridle.

The point of the matter is that the people who act all self-righteous about it because it's "not as harsh as a bit" have absolutely no idea what they are talking about it. It is, in fact, HARSHER than a bit.

That being said, I am in no way against the use of bitless bridles. Like curbs, when used properly they can be very effective and not harsh at all. My first horse was bit shy and I rose her in a sidepull. My current project was severely abused with a bit, and so I have never ridden him in one, instead using a sidepull (which is, by the way, legal in show jumping for those of you who have a horse who just won't go in a bit).

However, I've ridden countless other horses in bits. I've ridden in hackamores, bosals, halters, curbs, snaffles, and once in a gag bit (I didn't put it on the horse, they insisted the horse need one and it was painfully obvious he most definitely did not).

There are some things such as chain bits and cathedral bits that I absolutely do not support. I do not support gag bits and I do not like the Dr. Cook bridle simply because the sliding head piece has too much opportunity for an accident.

In the end, it comes down to what the HORSE prefers. Ignoring what all the NHM nuts say, and ignoring what your cowboy horse trainer says, you have to find out what YOUR HORSE DOES BEST IN. The extremists can argue until the cows come home, but that will never change the fact that some horses just do not respond to certain things, but work well with others.

Some horses will blatantly ignore bitless contraptions and set right up against them, making them hard-headed. Others will toss their head and constantly play with a bit. It's all about what's best for the horse.


  1. I can brag about using a less bridle on my horse as a matter of fact I've using less bridle or even none since I was about 10 years old, that was when my grandpa used to have his dose of Viagra Online.

  2. Hello, ok-lets actually talk some sense here rather than propaganda.

    It's a clear fact horses cannot breathe correctly when they have something in their mouth (the bit-any bit for that matter) as this triggers an automated food reflex which limits air intake to allow for eating and this is where the bit causes many problems including the production of excessive stomach acid which is preapring for the food that never comes often contributing to stomach ulcers.

    Bitless riding is the only human way to ride any horse and the bit is a painful and nasty device that even in the hands of a neurosurgeon causes pain and the other problems that most people over look is that it also causes pshychological damage to the horse too-fear of the bit stays with them forever-so my advice is not to excuse your behaviour with unfounded facts about excessive pressure etc.... but go bitless as it's the morally correct thing to do for our equine friends too.

    Tracy from www.naturalhorse.co.nz

  3. LOL, it seems someone may have some education needed in both physics and physiology.

    Force is a result of pressure over area. If you are pressing with equal pressure more nerves scattered over a wider area each is receiving less force individually.

    If you reduce the area the the remaining nerves are getting the force on them that was applied to more.

    Thus if you take the relatively narrow small area of the blades of the jaw and apply pressure to them equal to that which was applied to all those other nerves being mentioned, you are applying it to a much smaller area, thus you are applying vastly more force.

    In addition you overlook the fact that nerves are not a single type of sensing device.

    Some record pressure force, some recall heat, cold, some pain, some not.

    Some are more sensitive to pain... in other words the nature of the nerve determines its sensitivity to pressure force, and pain.

    I would doubt that there are many places on a horse more sensitive to pain then the bars of the jaw.

    Certainly not the area around the ears, and even over the nose where a bosal rests, though certainly each area has some sensitivity to pain.

    In other words you just blew that out of the wrong orifice, child.

    Nothing is as harsh as a bit. In ANY hands.

    Any accidental hook up of reins to the horse also has serious consequences to the horse. Horse steps on reins. Rider is thrown and holds on to reins. Bridle hooked on branch or protrusion strong enough not to break.

    On which part of the horse do you think less damage would occur, the poll or the jaws? Come on now, honest answer.

    The truth about bits is coming home to roost. The story is over, there is just the moping up to do and the cleaning house.

    Cleaning house consists of having bit advocates face the facts about equine anatomy and the science of physics.

    Happy trails.

    1. And what about the people that don't have a horse that just sits in their back yard and goes off on trail "rides"? The shows that my horse and I go to its just not acceptable to ride in a bitless bridle and for good reason. I can tell you that my horse very eagerly takes the bit, and has no reservations about it.