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.
– 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:
- Bridling: which looked at how the horses responded to having the bridles put on
- Long-reining: which assessed the responses of the horses as they first learnt the rein signals
- 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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