In recent years ‘natural’ methods of keeping our horses have become the big thing with many of the devote natural believers preaching that their way is best and that anyone who doesn’t follow their ideas is verging on animal abuse. While I am one of the first people to say that bitless or barefoot can be the perfect solution for some horses, the alternative is not anywhere near animal abuse!
I was really pleased to see an article on Horse & Hound this week summarising a recent scientific study in how horses respond to different types of bitless bridles and snaffle bits. Interestingly, the horses in the study tolerated the same amount of rein pressure for both bitless bridles and the snaffle. Which essentially means that they found the bit no more uncomfortable than the pressure from the bitless bridle, suggesting that bitless is no better for the welfare of a horse than a bit.
Now obviously an ill fitting bit or someone using a bit or rein aids incorrectly can and will affect the welfare of the horse. But thanks to this study, I think we can now safely say that strong hands with a bitless bridle or even an poor fitting bitless bridle can cause just as much pain and discomfort to the horse.
If you ride your horse in a bitless bridle then that is fantastic! But for those horse owners who think that choosing bitless somehow makes them better horse owners, this initial research proves that this isn’t the case and hopefully there will be more research into this area to identify any possible risks and welfare implications to bitless bridles. You can find the Horse & Hound summary of the article here.