Natural Horse World

Bitless Science

The science around riding bitless is limited but here are some helpful articles and sources.

Both of these articles have the same title, but different information.

One focuses on the physical damage a bit can cause to the horse, and the other on a study done to evaluate the difference between young horses started with a bitless bridle or a bitted bridle.

‘To Bit or Not To Bit’

– by Janene Clemence from the Academy of Equine Performing Arts had this excellent article published in the local Equine News magazine last year and it is now available on my website.  Here is an excerpt:

“I’ve seen many articles recently that talk about bitting the horse, mostly on how to make the horse work better, how to fit the bit, the importance of quiet hands etc.

What I haven’t seen in any of these articles is the truth about what a bit actually does…how it really works in the mouth, and what other effects that bitting may have on your horse…your horse…the one you call your friend and claim to love.

It is not enough to just stand up and say, “I think bits hurt horses and we shouldn’t use them!” If we take a simple look at the anatomy and physiology of the horse, we can better realize the psychological and physiological impact on the horse and then come to an informed decision on whether or not bits really belong in a horse’s mouth

Without visiting the anatomy and physiological aspects of the horse, we will fail to understand the impact the bit really has on the horse.” Click here to read it now.

To Bit Or Not To Bit

–  by Dr Amanda Warren-Smith of the Millthorpe Equine Research Centre looks at the Responses of young horses to bitted and bitless bridles during foundation training.

Briefly, the methodology involved getting horses that had not much handling previously and had not been ridden before, giving them to students to take through the process of foundation training, with half of them (the horses) being educated using a bitted bridle and the rest educated using a bitless bridle. The training program lasted approximately seven weeks and consisted of three main components that were used as measuring points. These were:

  1. Bridling: which looked at how the horses responded to having the bridles put on
  2. Long-reining: which assessed the responses of the horses as they first learnt the rein signals
  3. Riding: where the horses were backed and ridden for the first time

Research has shown that horses that undergo foundation training in a bitless bridle can perform just as well as, if not better than, those in a bitted bridle. Read the full article here.

There are many scientific papers studying the use of bits and some bitless bridles which are summarised in this video.

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6 thoughts on “Bitless Science”

  1. Cheryl

    Hi Cynthia, just love your lightrider Bitless bridle, I am transitioning my apply/quarter horse to the Bitless, and so far, so good! I am 66, and, although wouldn’t say that I’m a complete beginner, I would not say that I’m a great rider either. I’ve been having riding lessons but my instructor tells me that Bobby should be ridden in a bit to make steering more accurate, (I think the problem is that I need to be more confident and definite). I also ride in a treeless Western saddle. Just love your bridle, articles and videos-they are so clear and easy to understand. Thankyou!

    1. Cynthia

      Thanks Cheryl, I hope your transition to bitless continues as you progress with your riding skills. I’m glad my website and videos have been helpful. 🙂

  2. Sherry thomson

    Hi Cynthia, I just ordered 2 bridles one for my OTTB :15 years old and the other one for my 5 year old gypsy mare. I have been using my friends light rider for my TB as I am restarting him and also rehabilitating him. He is sound but needs weight and muscle. When I got him he was herd bound barn sour and you could not get near him with a halter , he broke my finger trying to get his bridle over his ears. Slow forward 5 years of bonding and connection he now puts his head down for the light rider. The other day I rode him in a halter with clip on reigns because my friend was using her bridle. Needless to say I need my own . Originally my instructor was thinking to put him back in a bit. we have totally changed that thinking. My Gypsy is just getting ready to be backed and I have been so careful to purchase a perfect fitting saddle just for her . It only makes sence to me that I am just as thoughtful with her mouth. My TB also has a made to measure saddle. As your article clearly states if we love our horses as we claim we should be committed to their whole being. Body mind and spirit taken into consideration. Thanks for caring about the welfare of our horses and riders

    1. Cynthia

      Hi Sherry,
      thanks for your message and its great to hear you have already been using the LightRider Bitless bridle and that you’re starting your young horse this way. Sounds like you love and care for horses as much as I do!
      Hope the bridles you purchased fit well, and I look forward to seeing some photos when they arrive 🙂

  3. jackie

    i have a pony that has copd im thinking of getting a bitless bridle would cause her more problem with breathing

    1. Cynthia

      Hi Jackie,
      Great to hear you are thinking of getting a bitless bridle for your horse. On the contrary, it would cause less problems with her breathing as the bit actually interferes with breathing by not allowing the lips to seal properly.
      The only reason a bitless would interfere with breathing is if it was too low on the nose or was the a leverage type that continued increasing pressure and was sitting too low.
      Have a look at this article to see where to position a bitless bridle and how to choose the best one for your horse: /choosing-best-bitless-bridle/
      I hope this helps,
      Cheers, Cynthia.

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