A bitless bridle is a generic term used to describe a wide range of headgear for horses, which enable the rider to control and communicate with them without placing a bit in the mouth. These include the hackamore, bosal and sidepull, to give some examples. This type of bridle is a far more humane method of control, as metal bits cause pain and sometimes mouth damage and bleeding to horses. The traditional bit is actually a painful and invasive method of communication with the horse, as opposed to the bitless bridle, which is painless and non-invasive (the bit is invasive inasmuch as it involves inserting a foreign body into a body cavity) This is, of course, why they were invented, as they act on one of the most sensitive parts of the body, and so the horse will respond to the rider to avoid the pain.
I am concerned about the inhumane aspects of using a bit, so I am all in favour of the bitless bridles. A bit (any bit) causes a horse pain, whether or not the rider is aware of the fact. Here are listed all the disadvantages of the bit:
1. Pain, besides being cruel to the horse, causes behavioural problems that are more serious than previously realised.
2. Manifestations of pain increase the likelihood of accidents to both horse and rider.
3. The bit is a common cause of asphyxia (‘thickness of wind,’ ‘roaring,’ and ‘choking-up’).
4. The bit is a common cause of several diseases for which the cause has previously been listed as unknown (e.g. the headshaking syndrome and dorsal displacement of the soft palate, and others).
5. The bit is a common cause of poor action, stumbling, and shortened stride and, because it reduces the supply of oxygen, results in premature fatigue, breakdowns, falls and limb bone fractures.
6. Removal of the bit benefits not only those horses that riders recognize as ‘hating the bit’ but also those in which the rider has never recognized any such aversion.
7. Removal of the bit makes riding safer, simpler and more satisfying for the rider.
8. Removal of the bit enhances performance, reduces accidents and promotes the welfare of the horse.
With a bitless bridle the control is maintained by means of a noseband or cavesson. It appears that the noseband was one of the earliest tools invented to control the horse, the bit came later. There is a correlation between the sensitivity of the noseband and the amount of tension in the reins needed to get a response from the horse. Nosebands may add some pressure to the nose, when the reins are applied, depending on certain factors.
Here are two excellent websites, below, which give more details about these bitless bridles, where to get them and how to use them:
I hope you enjoyed this blog and found it informative. Your votes and comments are much appreciated.
Picture courtesy of www.nurturalhorse.com