Bits - What's your opinion? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 25 Old 07-14-2012, 12:37 AM Thread Starter
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Bits - What's your opinion?

I'm curious, because I've seen both ends of the argument... from 'bits are horrible torture devices' to 'a lovely strong bit on a finished dressage horse is the most beautiful connection there can be between horse and rider'. I personally stand in the middle. I think bits are great when used correctly; bitless is great too. But I'm a firm believer that anything can be achieved with a simple mild bit and if not, there's a hole in the training (horse's or rider's) that needs to be fixed. Harsh bits are quick solutions that in the end will never be able to replace the hard work gone into good training. And there are some bits out there that just truly astound me. It's insane what some people put in their horse's mouths.

Anyways, that's my opinion... now I want to know your take on the matter, and why. Just out of curiosity. Feel free to totally oppose me, I'm down for some friendly debate if you are. What do you guys think?

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post #2 of 25 Old 07-14-2012, 12:53 AM
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My guy works fine with any bit.

I think bit, or bitless just depends on the horse.
One that seems severe on one isn't on another.
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post #3 of 25 Old 07-14-2012, 01:16 AM
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Theoretically a bit is only as harsh as the rider who uses it. Sitting there on its own it does nothing. The problem I think is that people use harsher bits to control their horses when they're not at the level where they can control their hands in the way required. So if the rider has steady kind hands, and uses the bit correctly, any bit can be soft.

I think some people just turn to bitless blindly to keep up with fashion. Most of the horses I see being ridden haven't been retrained to understand the different cues required, and while the rider may be able to ride them, their ride isn't really that great, but they overlook it by saying "oh, he's bitless". Although I see little reason as to why a good bitless horse can't be trained. It's not like the bit is a natural "stop" button. It's just trained in, like anything else can be trained.

So I don't know, I ride with a bit, but just a soft snaffle. I think the important thing is to teach people to ride properly. Almost nothing annoys me more than seeing kids with terrible hands riding with harsh bits in their pony's mouth, and yank them all about.
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post #4 of 25 Old 07-14-2012, 02:08 AM
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I'm of a mind that bits, in and of themselves (most of them anyway), are no more dangerous to a horse's mouth than a mouthful of soft grass. I couldn't care less whether a person rides their horse in a simple snaffle or a standard curb bit or a spade bit, so long as they have the knowledge to use it properly and the horse has the appropriate training to respond to it then all's well with the world.

I honestly don't understand why there are so many people in this world that seem to think that bits inherently cause pain and bitless is inherently kinder and all horses would prefer to "not have a nasty hunk of metal in their mouth".

I don't know whether they are just not educated enough to realize how much their hands affect how much pain/comfort the horse feels or whether they have been so brainwashed by the kook-aid of some ignorant hack of a NH trainer that they just can't think for themselves anymore.

I've seen lots of people ride bitless because they claim that it's so much "nicer" to the horse, yet they have zero hand control and are constantly bopping the horse in the face. The first thing that pops through my mind, though I usually don't say it, is that it would be a hell of a lot nicer if they would learn how to ride instead of depending on tack to cover up their shortcomings as a rider.

There is one popular online "trainer" (I won't mention any names, but there are probably lots of folks that can figure out who I'm talking about) that advocates bitless because it's nicer to the horseys. The way that said person rides is about like a 5 year old kid that's never seen a horse before. Said person flops around on the horse's back and is constantly bumping/pulling on the horse's face. I would never dream of treating my horse's mouth the way said person treats their horse's face with that rope halter or bosal on there on a common, every day ride. Sure, there are times when a trainer/rider has to get firm with a horse to remind them that they need to listen, but there's a universe of difference between someone with good feel getting harsh for a moment and someone with no feel hanging off the horse's face.

People just can't seem to fathom that it's not the headpiece that you put on the horse that gets results, it's the training that you put in their head. You put the right training on them and you can ride them in anything. But you can almost always tell the horses that are lacking in training and the riders who are lacking in ability because they are the ones that go around in a double twisted wire combo hack-a-gag with 8 inch shanks and a super tight tie-down or a long shanked curb bit run through a training fork adjusted so tight that it pulls the horse's head down between their knees before they get any relief.

The majority of riders would do well (and be better horsemen) if they had to ride in something no more powerful than a simple snaffle or leather sidepull because they would have to learn how to teach the horse instead of just overpower him with some nasty piece of headgear.

And yep, I'm talking to folks who use bits

AND the folks who go bitless

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post #5 of 25 Old 07-14-2012, 03:24 AM
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^^^ Cough*** I've use the first 3 bits- lol But Im trained enough to handle them properly. Though I hated using them-
Agree with the other poster as well.
though I would like to add not all NH are bitless they suggest that it can be done that way- but a bit is an option.

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post #6 of 25 Old 07-14-2012, 11:12 AM
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Wow, smrobs! Those are some scariest-looking hackamores I've ever seen (I don't like mechanical hacks in general because lots of beginners think they are very mild)! I've seen the bits you posted, to me it's a big no-no whether you are experienced or not.

Bitless is not for every horse despite what some people say. I tried both - bitless and bit, and both my mares liked the bit more. I personally believe in mild bits, but I have no problem using an "upper" bits on well-trained horse as long as the rider is experienced and know what he/she is doing.

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post #7 of 25 Old 07-14-2012, 01:19 PM Thread Starter
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Yeah some hackamores can be really cruel... If I were to go bitless I'd use a simple bridle without the bit or rope halter. It also requires the horse being trained into it.

And very good points all. ^^ :) The thing is, although I believe a strong bit in the hands of a good rider is not necessarily 'cruel', I don't understand the point of using a stronger bit when the same results can be achieved with a simple snaffle. So why spend all that money just to stick a bigger, fancier bit into a horse's mouth when you can just use a simpler bit or even (with the right training) bitless to get just as lovely results? It certainly does not make a horse more 'finished', because that would be like saying a great dressage champion that can do all the fancy moves but uses a snaffle is not 'finished'. That's what I really don't understand.

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post #8 of 25 Old 07-14-2012, 02:08 PM
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Originally Posted by smrobs;1597010
I honestly don't understand why there are so many people in this world that seem to think that bits inherently cause pain and bitless is inherently kinder and [I
all[/I] horses would prefer to "not have a nasty hunk of metal in their mouth".

I don't know whether they are just not educated enough to realize how much their hands affect how much pain/comfort the horse feels or whether they have been so brainwashed by the kook-aid of some ignorant hack of a NH trainer that they just can't think for themselves anymore.
Hate to admit it, but I used to be one of those. Advocated bitless and argued for it endlessly. It was early in my horse ownership and I just couldn't understand why someone would think putting a hunk of metal in a horse's mouth would be a kindness and that training could cure all need for a bit. It came down to a combination of your second paragraph there - both a lack of education on the matter and getting the wrong information early on when I was really impressionable and I was all about kindness. Saw this picture of a person with a bit in their mouth and couldn't stop thinking about how uncomfortable that would be totally not taking into consideration the different shape of a horse's mouth. Pure ignorance really.

Now with more time and actually taking time to educate myself, I don't see bitless as kinder but rather just another option to finding the right fit for horse and rider. In our two horses that are trained under saddle right now one is completely bitless and one is in in a low port curb with a roller. Its what works for horse and rider and everyone is happy.

There is no "one size fits all" when it comes to bits and horses. In fact I don't agree with the "only bitless" crowd anymore more than I agree with "only snaffles" crowd.
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post #9 of 25 Old 07-14-2012, 02:21 PM
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I also used to be one of the "All bits are cruel and pointless" people, but my opinion has completely changed.

For a few months, I experimented with all kinds of bitless bridles and hackamores on my horse, convinced that if I found the right one he would like is soooo much better than a bit. Well, I never found that "perfect" bitless option, because there isn't one. My horse has very, very, VERY sensitive skin. So much that he can only use one type of girth with a specific type of fleece cover on it, I've tried so many other well adjusted girths on him, fleece covers and all and they still rubbed him raw within minutes.

So, something constantly putting pressure on his face and irritating the skin was the worst option. He was fine if I never ever had any contact for anything...ever. But, thats just not realistic for what I do, and a thick, smooth snaffle with light contact is the best option.

Personally, I've never been on a horse that I felt needed anything more than a smooth snaffle, and I feel like so many horses are labeled as being too strong for a snaffle, when really they just need more training and have become used to harsh bits constantly yanking on their mouths...just my opinion though.
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post #10 of 25 Old 07-14-2012, 08:45 PM
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I think that it depends on the horse, the rider, and what both plan to do.

However, I do wish people would realize that riding a horse bitless can be just as "cruel" as a heavy-handed rider riding with a bit.

I also believe that if a horse works best in something other than an eggbutt or D-ring snaffle, who am I to say otherwise? As long as the bit doesn't seem obviously overboard for the horse or above a rider's skill to use, and works, why not?
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