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Do Horses Really Need Bits to be Ridden?

Updated: Mar 14

The short answer is no. Am I saying bits are bad you should never use one ever! No. Bits are a tool. Horses don't need them. People do. Think about it.

I get it. It takes a lot of trust to ride a horse bitless. They could take off. How would we stop them? We ask our horses to trust us, we want them to trust us, but in this case, we need to trust them. Now I am not saying throw your bit away and do a trust fall! No, not like that, please. I will not fault anyone for using a bit. Like I said it is a tool. I use bits as well when the pros outweigh the cons.

Building trust takes patience, time, and training for both of you together. The reason we have bits in the first place is it is an easy quick way to control a horse without putting in the time and effort. Especially in a world where instant results are the standard. It also gives us a sense of security. You can force a horse to stop or do what is needed with less effort. If you are in a situation where your horse must listen to you for your safety, your horse's safety, and others. It is easier with a bit to accomplish that. Horses are powerful creatures. The bit creates leverage. A lot of horses yield to that. However, on the flip side, bits can cause a lot of problems or make a situation worse. And really, if a horse is that afraid/determined he/she will most likely overpower you anyway if you add pain and discomfort on top of that. Where people go wrong with bits is they rely on them solely to control their horse without addressing the underlying problem or acknowledging that they are causing discomfort to the horse's mouth. It is very common to see people go to a harsher bit if a horse is tossing its head. The horse still tosses his/her head because he/she was trying to get relief from pressure and now it is even worse. Then comes the tie-down. Problem solved, the horse is not tossing his/her head anymore but, man, that mouth is wide open. Que, the noseband's mouth is closed shut. Honestly, this is a scary place to be. The horse can not get any relief except to go upwards and this is why some horses rear "randomly". Then the horse is deemed dangerous. There are many factors on what would make a horse rear. This is just an example of how the misuse of bits can contribute to "bad behaviors".

Another thought, I know I am guilty of, is when a rider loses their balance. I don't know about you but as much as I try not to I tend to tense up and use the rein to rebalance. That means the horse's mouth is being used to rebalance me. I feel in a bitless bridle the horse doesn't mind this as much, if at all.

There are so many types of bits and honestly boggles my mind about how many types there are. From my experience of not having easy access to basic horse gear when I started out, I learned that training and trusting trumps forced obedience. Horses do have their preferences on bits and my own horses would accept a bit but I could tell they were way more relaxed and happier without it. Bits do have their place as a tool and using it correctly with the horse's well-being in mind is totally fine.

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