Somebody in an online group commented that they don't use a bit on their horse. This person then decided to make some rude remarks about putting a bit in a horse's mouth being inhumane. Needless to say the discussion got pretty heated. Everyone has their own opinions about what bit is best or in this case no bit is best. Every horse and every rider is different; I don't think you can make a statement like this that applies to everyone.
A horse has to be trained to go bitless or to use any type of bit. The training level of the horse and rider are important when deciding what to use. If a rider has very light hands you can put the harshest bit in a horse's mouth and it should not cause them any discomfort. If you ride with heavy hands even riding bitless can cause discomfort for your horse.
There are several different interpretations when I say bitless too. When I think of bitless I think of a rope bosal or an Indian hackamore. The ones that I have used are a band across the nose and then two lines that cross under the chin and connect to the reins. I have actually ridden two of my horses in these before.
I transitioned Harvey (read my previous blogs for a little background on Harvey) from a twisted copper O ring snaffle to bitless and then back to the snaffle. When I first started riding Harvey he constantly fought the bit. I thought it was causing him pain. I later learned that it probably was, because I rode with very heavy hands. After taking a few lessons I learned to softly and gently cue my horse instead of sudden harsh movements. When I was riding bitless Harvey did really well as long as nothing "new" happened. One time he spooked when a friend was riding him and she had very little control with the bitless bridle. That's when I transitioned him back to the snaffle. I just make sure that if he is listening and giving me what I ask that I don't put any pressure on the bit. Then if I don't get the response I want I slowly increase the pressure on the bit. It really takes very little pressure to get the response I want. With the bitless riding I found that even when I released the reins the ropes that crossed under his chin didn't release. He became numb to the pressure of the ropes around his muzzle. It's also harder for Harvey to avoid a one rein stop if he has a bit in his mouth and with his history I need that one rein stop for emergencies.
Another horse of mine, Peanut, has never had a bit in his mouth. I normally ride him in a hackamore, it is a stiff rope that goes over his nose attached to long shanks and it has a bar on the underside that works like an emergency brake. The bar only makes contact if you pull back hard on the reins. I don't ride Peanut very often, on average he gets ridden for about 20 minutes every six months. Peanut is a very sensitive horse and he responds very well to this bit. He can almost be ridden with no hands most of time actually. Peanut was trained to be ridden with your seat. I only use the bit because he is not ridden much and sometimes he needs a little bit of encouragement to remind him what you are asking.
My other horse, Sierra, is ridden in a full cheek snaffle. In this bit if you ride with soft low hands the first pressure the horse feels is on the side of the face, not in the mouth. Sometimes Sierra can be a bit stubborn (typical mare) so I need a bit that is normally light but can have more pressure if needed.
In my opinion many people use the wrong bit for their riding style and their horses training level. However, to tell people that what they do is not right may be completely wrong. Don't judge other people and their horses just because they don't do things the same way that you do it. Every horse and rider is different.