Pros for using a bit? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 10 Old 06-23-2013, 11:04 PM Thread Starter
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Pros for using a bit?

I'm writing a research paper as a school project about the pros and cons of bit and bitless bridles.

Skimming the internet i have found lots of info about bitless bridles, why and why not to use them, and lots of reasons why not to use a bit.
But I've had trouble finding out about the pros for using a bit.
Other than tradition and the feeling of safety they can give you, i can't find any positives for using a bit on your horse.

Does anyone have any ideas? If you ride in a bit, what are your reasons? Thanks heaps!
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post #2 of 10 Old 06-23-2013, 11:38 PM
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The bit is for communication. With the right bit, many horses are happier than bitless. There are also things you can communicate to a horse with a bit that are very hard bitless.

I started bitless and rode that way for 3 years. But when I tried a bit with Trooper, he acted calmer. When I had Mia trained to use a bit, she started calming down.

Last Dec, I switched Mia to a curb bit. Some people will tell you leveraged, curb bits are evil. Don't tell Mia. It took about 3 rides for her to get used to one, but she now rides much calmer and more relaxed in an evil, cruel curb than bitless.

A bit is not a substitute for training, but a bit can be very helpful in training and riding. That doesn't make bitless wrong - some horses do great bitless. So I guess my advice would be to keep an open mind and let the horse tell you what is needed.

Some examples: Trooper used to fall in to a turn with his shoulder, and tip his nose outside the turn to keep his balance. With the sidepull halter I was using, that was almost impossible to correct. With a bit, it is pretty easy to make him tip his nose in & work make circles that are round, and not a pentagon. Once he felt that balance, he started doing it all the time.

When Mia gets her weight too far forward, I could play with the bit - not pull back, but just lag the forward motion a little. It is hard to describe but easy to see. The horse responds by shortening its stride with its front legs while still pushing with the rear. That would be tough bitless.

More experienced riders can probably give more examples. I will admit I was shocked at how much better Mia rode within days of starting using a curb. I rode her recently with a snaffle...she didn't spit it out of her mouth, but she wasn't a happy horse either.
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post #3 of 10 Old 06-23-2013, 11:55 PM
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Bits give clearer communication, and allow pressure to be spread in different places.

For example, I run barrels in a Jr Cowhorse bit. It puts pressure in the mouth, but also on his poll. My horse is really ratey, and likes to drop his shoulder so with the bit I can pick his shoulder back up, where if I was just using a hackamore/sidepull, we'd have a barrel down and i'd have a sore leg.

I ride bitless (sidepull) for some schooling, a French link full cheek, and we run in a sweet iron jr cowhorse. Different bits or bridles for different situations.
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post #4 of 10 Old 06-24-2013, 12:17 AM
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First off, welcome to the forum .

Bits just offer more refinement than any bitless option I've ever seen. The only bitless type option I've ever seen that had enough feel to compare to your average curb bit was the rawhide bosals used in the Vaquero training scale. They have leverage, they work on the nose, the jaw, and the poll, and there is enough rigidity there so that the horse can differentiate between a single rein lifted 2 inches up and 3 inches out and a rein lifted straight up.

I tell you what, there are about a hundred threads in the horse tack and equipment section and the training section about bits and how they're used and why. Some of the debates get pretty heated, but there is still a lot of really good information in them.

Bit Information (Snaffle and English-Type Bits)

Bit Information (Curb and Western type bits and hackamores)

Will your horse respond to your bit?

Old-School Horse Training Approach

Anyway, those are just a few where folks talk about the differences between bits and bitless. There is some bashing of one or the other by a few members (for some reason, it's always the bits that are evil ), but it's mostly civil and educational.
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post #5 of 10 Old 06-24-2013, 01:35 PM
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absolutely nothing you can do bitless that cant be done better with a bit, nice to be all daisys and buttercups, but bottom line is you are dealing with an animal that is about 10 times your size. A bit of leverage can come in handy
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post #6 of 10 Old 06-24-2013, 01:46 PM
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I am happy you are doing a project on this. To me both cause to some sort of pain response to the horse, and simply that is how most people control their horses. With a bit, the different links in the bit create different pressure points on the tongue, and pull on the sides of the mouth. Like the french link bit causes two areas of the tongue to be pinched. Now to the bit less bridle. I have heard some much talk lately about how great the bit less bridle is, and people don't seem to understand the the bit less causes pain too. The bit less bridle causes pain to the nose. You can decide for yourself which would be more painful. The tongue or the nose. Just ;like the bit, the bit less bridle can also cause a horse to tighten at the poll and neck which can eventually lead to a horse rollkering. Over all, both tools can be used incorrectly.

One thing that people often do is take pictures of their horse with and without a bit. I have noticed from these pictures that often one picture is taken at home, the other at a shoe. And, usually the contact on the reins is much looser with the bit less. I do not believe that is the bridle changing, I believe that is the rider.

Sorry I kinda went on a tangent Good luck with your project.
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post #7 of 10 Old 06-24-2013, 10:55 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for all your replies!! They are great! I'm glad i got such friendly responses!

Because this is a school project, i'm trying to really dig a bit deeper and have some facts or scientific evidence to back up my report.

Is there actually any proof that bits give clear communication or refinement than bitless?

Thanks in advance!
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post #8 of 10 Old 06-25-2013, 12:29 AM
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If you are looking for a scientific study showing a horse responds to to XYZ 23% better in a bit that bitless, no. Nor is there any on the other side, altho some manufacturers try to claim there is.

The problem is too many variables. There are a wide variety of bits and bitless. One horse will do well in a french link snaffle and hate a standard link. My mare preferred the standard link to the french link. Some like loose rings, others hate them. My mare seems to work well in a western curb, while others do not.

Then you have the REAL important stuff - how they are used. I could make a horse hate snaffles by how I rode them. Same with curb bits. Same with bitless. You cannot isolate the effect of the rider, so you would need a huge sample size to even out rider use. And what standard do you use? A horse may act relaxed because it is confident it knows what its rider wants, or because it knows it can ignore the rider.

I think what you WILL find is that almost no horses anywhere are trained to a high level without using a bit for training.

The flip side is also important - bits do NOT work on pain. There are far too many horses who act happy with a bit. Bits do use pain as a backup for control. If the horse is refusing to listen, then most bits allow the rider to cause more pain than most bitless bridles. However, that is a GOOD thing. Anyone who has ever been on a bolting horse heading for a highway or steep ravine understands that it is better to darn near rip your horse's head off than to have one run into a car doing 60 mph, or off a 10' drop concealed in bushes. The truth is that horses NEED the rider to take control.

Horses are emotional creatures. When their emotions are running strong - fear, competitiveness, etc - then you need to get past the emotion controlling them. Think of it as cutting thru background noise. In a mountain meadow, you can whisper to your companion. On a flight line of jet engines, shouting may not be enough. A 'harsh' bit may make it possible to 'shout' loud enough to save the horse's life, and yours.

All of these factor in to the decision to use a bit or not. The biggest fallacy pushed by most bitless fans is that bits cause pain. On rare occasions - racing to death, for example - then yes, they cause pain and save lives. But lots of us have horses who strongly resent pain, yet who will take a bit without any problem.

Does this look like a horse in pain? She has chosen to pull the rein tight while looking, but do you see pain? I don't...

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post #9 of 10 Old 06-25-2013, 12:59 AM
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Here are some problems I've seen in some 'studies':

One used horses learning to use a bit, and they were long-reining - which I think means this:

A horse new to using a bit will undoubtedly be more relaxed bitless. But then, there isn't any advanced communication going on in this - pretty much just left/right, stop/go.

Another 'study', by a guy who pushed bitless, involved 4 horses and a dressage judge he chose to evaluate what he sells. That impressed me about as much as the studies tobacco companies did showing that smokers were healthy studs...

"Make the right thing easy and the wrong thing...well, ignore it mostly."
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post #10 of 10 Old 06-25-2013, 01:00 AM
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Okay I'm going to be blunt

It does not matter what YOU like. It's is what your HORSE likes. If your HORSE prefers a bit, then have at it. If your horse does not particularly like a bit then try without.

Now I believe that bitless does not allow the same level of feel as a bit would because generally something more flat, unless it has some sort of weighted feel to it, will not allow vibrations to be felt as easily as through a bit in the horse's mouth.

They'd feel pressure, yes, but when it comes to being as light as possible.. I feel that *may* be an area that the bit has the upper hand in.

But again, it matters what the horse thinks, not the person.

"Strength is the ability to use a muscle without tension"

Last edited by Skyseternalangel; 06-25-2013 at 01:03 AM.
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