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February 1, 2009

Dr Cook's Bitless Bridle

Sicily and I had a seamless transition to this bridle. It works the same way in my hands as a traditional bridle. Unlike a bridle with bit, this bridle applies only pressure to the sides of the head. It works differently from a bosal or hackamore in that it does not rely on pinching or pressure points, and different from a side-pull or halter with reins in that you get specific pressure along the cheeks, which allows for finesse.

My mare was notably more relaxed in this bridle, even though she never showed any 'typical' symptoms of problems with bit... Although I'm sure if I went back to the bit I would be able to find these symptoms very quickly.

This is the product website for the cross-under bitless bridle: http://www.bitlessbridle.com/
Although the web design may be lacking, the bridle itself is well-made. I ride in the padded english leather bridle, but use my own reins.

Oral Ulcerations in Horses Ridden with Bits; Tell et al

Vet J. 2008 Dec;178(3):405-10. Epub 2008 Nov 21
The prevalence of oral ulceration in Swedish horses when ridden with bit and bridle and when unridden.
Tell A, Egenvall A, Lundström T, Wattle O.

Pubmed Abstract:
"Oral soft tissue ulcers are common disorders of horses, but it is unclear if their prevalence is increased by riding horses with a bit and bridle. Oral examinations were performed on 113 horses and ponies, all which had received routine dental floating, that were divided into four groups depending on when they had last been ridden with a bit and bridle. The subjects comprised: group 1, a randomly selected population of ridden horses; group 2, a group of horses examined after being rested at pasture for 5 weeks; group 3, the previous group following 7 weeks of riding with a bit and bridle, and group 4, brood mares that had not been ridden for at least 11 months. Lip and intraoral soft tissue lesions were recorded at seven pre-determined locations, with lesions classified as large or small; acute or chronic. The examinations showed that horses that were currently being ridden with a bit and bridle had a significantly higher prevalence of large and acute buccal ulcers opposite the maxillary Triadan 06 teeth and of the commissures of the lips, as compared to horses that were not being currently ridden. It was concluded that using a bit and bridle can cause oral ulceration even in horses that have regular prophylactic dental floating. It is suggested that riding tack should be individually fitted for each horse and also that prophylactic dental treatments should be individually adapted for each horse."

I am curious about the closing suggestion to fit tack and provide dental treatment - while this seems to be a "sensible" suggestion to a horseman, scientifically speaking it has little, if any, relevance to the data collected: work using a bit. This study evaluated the effect of the bit versus no bit at all. How might peers and audiences have reacted if the suggestion was to avoid using bits altogether?

Welcome!

Welcome to The Bitless Horse. I began a quest to examine why I ride and train horses the way that I do.
sicily.jpg


Equestrian sport is steeped in tradition - which methods have endured because they are intelligent and effective - and which remain because individual thinking is not encouraged in the horse community? In short, this led me to examine the bit I was using - even the "gentlest" french link snaffle was still a piece of metal in my horse's sensitive mouth. And if I was supposed to achieve true collection with the seat and the legs, why use the bit anyway?

I will use this site to provide information that I'm gathering concerning bitless riding and classical dressage training. I hope it will encourage you to think about the reasons that you use the methods you do when working with horses, and perhaps inspire change.