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Bitless Bridles Seen as Safer Alternative for Horses in New Study - Natural Horse World

Bitless Bridles Seen as Safer Alternative for Horses in New Study


Helen and Oscar in Saudi Arabia compete in Cross country safely wearing a bitless bridle.
Helen and Oscar in Saudi Arabia compete in Cross country safely wearing a bitless bridle.

Previous studies evaluating the behavioural responses of horses to different types of bridles found that horses perform at least as well, if not better, with a bitless bridle than a jointed snaffle.

To probe deeper into the issue, Robert Cook, FRCVS, PhD, and Daniel Mills, BVSc, PhD, IL TM, CBiol MIBiol, MRCVS, tested their hypothesis that a horse’s behavior would change–for the better–when ridden with a bitless bridle, compared to a bridle with a bit. (Cook developed and patented the cross-under Bitless Bridle in the United States.)

The study involving four ridden horses of various backgrounds was devised to test the “null” theory that said a horse would show no improvement in behaviour by being ridden in a bitless bridle.Researchers, however, predicted that there would be a change and that a horse’s behaviour would improve when being ridden bitless.

Four horses, none of which had ever been ridden in a cross-under bitless bridle, were ridden through two 4-minute exercise tests, first bitted, using a plain jointed snaffle, then bitless.
An independent judge marked the 27 phases of each test on a 10-point scale and comments and scores were recorded on a video soundtrack.The results disproved the accepted “null” theory and supported the researcher’s predictions.

All four horses accepted the cross-under bitless bridle without hesitation.
The mean average score of the horses performing the ridden test when bitted was 37%. This rose to 64% when they were ridden bitless and asked to perform the same movements.

8 thoughts on “Bitless Bridles Seen as Safer Alternative for Horses in New Study

  1. Denise says:

    We have been bitless, barefoot and treeless for 8 years. Why oh why wouldn’t you choose bitless in these more enlightened times. If you can make a choice that frees our wonderful equine partners from discomfort and pain, and takes your relationship through astounding levels, why wouldn’t you. Our rescue arab developed self carriage by himself within a month of bitless, gone the hollow back and fear. The other has never known a bit as we have had him as a youngster. He is so bold and relaxed, he nickers with excitement when he is learning something new, and he realises that he has “got it”. I love them.

    • Cynthia says:

      I agree Denise and its lovely to hear your horses have benefitted so much from being bitless 🙂

  2. Steve Riddle says:

    We have started and trained horses for around 45 years. We have bred and trained 4 horses (Ages 3 – 18) for ourselves and none have ever had a bit in their mouths or worn shoes. They are used for cattle work and pleasure. There is no bit in the world that I could use to make my horses respond better. Period. With proper training, patience and a through knowledge of how horses work, anything is possible. It has to be done correctly right from a foal for best results, however, most horse can be taught in later life successfully. Some people believe that using aids like bits and spurs are a shortcut in training horses. In my experience, when taught correctly, once a horses learns to learn they actually learn faster and more calmly. Some people may disagree, but hey, it’s a commercial world isn’t it. I’m sure the bit or aid they sold you will solve all your problems. lol

    • Cynthia says:

      That’s exactly right Steve and wonderful to hear you are keeping your horses bitless 🙂 Thanks for sharing your experience.

  3. theresa hughes says:

    it has to be the way forward! the genuine communication between rider and horse would be wonderful. let’s get our Olympic riders to champion this – demonstrating the same control without using bits. the horses would surely fly! i have only witnessed bitless once – by a woman on her horse ambling down a village street. it was just lovely to see them both enjoying the outing!

  4. Richard Woolley says:

    I think the only reason people use a bit is because they are actually scared of the horse and will use any other justification they can to disguise this fear!

  5. Mary Lehr says:

    I haven’t tried the Cook’s bridles but I have used a bitless I found on Etsy called Simple Loops. It was so reasonable I figured I try it. I have 2 mares that are rideable but very green. Without any idea how the mares would react I tried the bitless on both. I must say they both acted like different horses. In a positive way, just nicer, less head throwing, more responsive and generally happier with the workout. None of us are great at riding so I figured I would be less apt to harm them without a bit in their mouths. They seemed to thank me for my consideration. Both mares are 8 yo arabians.

    • Cynthia says:

      That’s great to hear Mary, and I agree that horses do prefer to be bitless, especially when they or their riders are learning 🙂 Well done for recognising that.

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