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.