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

    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.

    1. Cynthia

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

  2. Steve Riddle

    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

    1. Cynthia

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

  3. theresa hughes

    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. 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

    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.

    1. Cynthia

      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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