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Don’t judge people by the bit they use…
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Don’t judge people by the bit they use…

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.

 

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  1. aminaa
    aminaa
    My rule of thumb for horses fighting the bit etc is bit DOWN, not UP. People way too often take resitance to mean their bit is too light and often it is too harsh. Always always use the lightest bit your horse can go in! This is why I started my horse in a full cheek snaffle and transitioned down to a rubber loose ring.
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  2. spirithorserider
    spirithorserider
    Good article! Every horse is different. Every rider is different. Every horse I've had, I've had to figure out what they need as far as bitting. It has always been a journey of enlightenment. I now ride my big draft cross in a plastic mullenmouth. And she is light as a feather. I see a previous note that says if there is a problem, go down, not up in severity and I agree. Same way with spurs. If your horse isn't listening to the spurs, don't get bigger, sharper spurs. Take off the spurs entirely and learn to use your leg better (been there, done that). Keep up the good work with your blogging!
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  3. Rene Wright
    Rene Wright
    I've seen a few posts like the one you are talking about where one person thinks everyone should follow what they do. It tends to make me wonder why have the power struggle with someone like that in the first place. Each horse acts/reacts differently to bits, no bits & it really is up to the person riding that horse to decide which is best for it. Great blog, I look forward to seeing more :) Voted
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  4. Chestnut Mare
    Chestnut Mare
    Voted. I read this blog with great interest. I have just submitted a blog about bitless bridles, after doing some research into it, as I came to the conclusion they are more humane. However that does not mean I judge people who use bits. As you say, you know your horse best, and I am sure you are very concerned about his/her welfare. You might find my blog of interest though, Bitless Bridles: The Humane Way To Control A Horse, so please take a look, and if you like it, please vote and feel free to comment.
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  5. PonyGirl
    PonyGirl
    I enjoyed this blog very much. I think you made some excellent points.
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  6. Timbermama
    Timbermama
    Everyone here is correct, yet not all horses can go bitless bridle (I wish), what I do believe is every horse with time can be trained to move down into a rubber mouth piece at most, and bitless would be the goal after that if they have never been bitless. The competition needs to rid themselves of the bridle, long shanks, etc., that you must have to compete in the ring and advance themselves into a more sensible mouth piece and or bitless. They are the area that needs to be worked on. They insist only bridles with the shanks
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    1. PonyGirl
      PonyGirl
      I ride western, and I find that a long shanked bit with a solid no-port mouthpiece, is easier on a horse than a snaffle, IF USED CORRECTLY. Ideally, there should be no contact at all when riding with a western curb. The horse gets his cues from the touch of the reins on his neck or the lightest touch of the curb chain on his chin. There should be no pulling on his mouth at all. However, if used incorrectly a curb can damage a horses mouth and chin very quickly. I personally do not like rubber bits. I find horses have a tendency to lean on them. I have also seen young horses rub the corners of their mouths raw on a rubber bit. It seemed to be the width more than the material that's the problem. But I truly think that the proper bit for any horse depends on his rider's ability to keep light, steady hands, the style of riding engaged in, the horse's training, and also the horse's conformation. If both horse and rider are comfortable with the bit used, then there's really no problem.
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