Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: southern Arizona
My mare hated bits when I got her, so I switched her to bitless. We've spent 2.5 years riding bitless, and she does fine in many ways. On a calm day, she'll respond to the weight of the rein on the bridle, which is just a rope halter with rings for the reins to attach to.
That said, on Monday I tried riding her with a snaffle. It was only the third time in over 2 years. And frankly, she seemed pleased as punch. She didn't complain about it going in her mouth, she turned well, and when I put just slight (little finger) pressure on it, she took off. Not bolting, but she stretched her trot out, lowered her head, put her ears forward, and we did circles, figure 8s, etc at a pace just below a canter with her acting like it felt GOOD.
At the end, I did need to hold the bridle for nearly a minute before she spit the bit out, and she acted like it was a snake coming out - so maybe I now know why she was afraid of a bit when I got her (it took me 3 days to get a bridle on her, and then I switched to bitless with her).
So no, bits don't hurt horses, people do! And FWIW, someone with heavy hands can be every bit as harsh with most bitless bridles.
It is like the farrier told me when I asked him about shoes for horses. "Listen to the horse!" was his reply. "Some need shoes, and others don't. Listen to your horse!"
BTW, you can see them bitless in my 'barn' pictures.