Did you expect any other response? To bit or not to bit…that is the question. I am of the “not to bit” group of riders, but I haven’t always been that way. First, I have never liked putting a bit in a horses mouth. Even when I was young taking lessons, that part of tacking up always bothered me. I honestly didn’t understand where the piece of metal belonged in the back of mouth. As an adult I kept researching on the bit, trying to understand what each bit did and hoping I had the best bit with the least amount of pain to control my horse . I should have stopped shopping right there and never put a bit again in my horses mouth with that statement, but instead I bought a D-ring snaffle with copper rollers. This would be a good choice for Cheyenne, currently the horse I was riding.
As luck would have it, I had a high school girl come for February break to college shop and ride my horse. That week the high temperature during the day was 10 degrees Fahrenheit. It was a beautiful cold sunny day, so we headed for a quick ride. I had warmed up the bit before attempting to put it in Cheyennes mouth, but the 2 seconds getting it ready for her mouth, it had gone cold and she wanted nothing to do with it. Can you blame her! I didn’t even attempt a second time. That was the moment I said never again. There was 3 feet of snow around us, if she acts up, it will be a safe landing. We snapped 2 lead lines on her halter and rode her around my snow blown paths. Cheyenne was better than ever. A happy horse. I instantly saw a difference.
I borrowed a friends Dr. Cooks bitless bridle to test on Cheyenne. In the mean time I was researching all the available options in bitless bridles and came to the conclusion after testing the Dr. Cook bridle it was the closest to the current bridle I was using, just no bit. Perfect!
“Prior to 1997,” Dr. Cook says, “I might have listed 12 problems as ‘aversions to the bit.’ From research completed since then I now list over 200 negative behaviors and 40 diseases…I kick myself for not having recognized sooner that the bit causes so much mayhem. Bronze age man made a mistake putting a piece of metal in a horse’s mouth.” “One of the most deeply rooted myths in horsemanship is that a bit controls the horse. It doesn’t. A bit doesn’t act like the brakes on a car. On the contrary, it often acts like an accelerator. Horses run from pain. If you hurt your horse, it speeds up,” he explains.
Spring was around the corner and I will admit, I was getting anxious about using a bitless bridle for real trail riding. I started to think about the couple of times my horse took off and how the bit did nothing to stop the horse. I had to train myself that the bit doesn’t control a panic situation. In May 2015 I had my first chance to test the bitless bridle on Cheyenne off my property at Highland Forest, New York. It turned out to be an enthusiastic 4 hour ride with lots of opportunity to rate the control of a horse in a bitless bridle. When the ride was over, my horse had earned an A+ for so many reasons and so did the bitless bridle.
I now have 2 horses that are being ridden in a Dr. Cooks bitless bridle and I am lucky enough to have a bunch of experienced and new rider friends come ride with me. I am more relaxed putting people on my horses with a bitless bridle as I am not worried they are constantly pulling on the reins and inflicting pain in the mouth. When I put a new rider on my horses, the rider doesn’t even realize if there is a bit or not.
In Australia a movement towards the use of the bitless bridle in horse competitions is taking place. Equestrian Australia (EA) and Federation Equestrian International (EFI) are the main governing bodies of the Equestrian Sport in Australia. Rules have been amended to allow the use of bitless bridles in show jumping and at event competitions in the show jumping and cross country sections, a bit is still expected to be used as a component in dressage. Oddly enough the two activities in which the bitless bridle has been allowed for use are viewed as dangerous horse sports. Pony Club Australia, governs its self and does not allow the use of the bitless bridle in any of its events. Bitless bridles are permitted at all endurance events and trail-riding clubs. Bitless bridles are not permitted for show horses, driving or vaulting.
The good news is there is discussion going on worldwide. I truly believe it is just a matter of time when it will be obsolete. I hope in my lifetime.
Most people I ride with use a bridle. I did too till February 2015. The saying “if it isn’t broke don’t fix it” is an ok saying, but there is also a saying “try it, you might like it”!