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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug. 22, 2007
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    Rhode Island
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    Question The bit

    I was told that by riding in a bit I'm causing pain, so of course I had to research this claim and all I could find were Dr.Cook's articles. Among other things mentioned were that he found bound spurs and depressions on the bars, but these were from horses as natural history museums so the bits used were probably quite harsh as were the riders. Does this research have any merit concerning the ways bit are used today? Has any research been done on modern bits? I just want to make sure I'm not causing any unnecessary pain.

    Also, what are your opinions on his design of the bitless bridle? I would think the pressure under the face would be confusing since horses are trained to move away from pressure.
    "A horse doesn't care how much you know until he knows how much you care."

    "It's not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of fight in the dog."



  2. #2
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    Aug. 30, 2007
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    Illinois, USA
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    Quote Originally Posted by daisyfields View Post
    I was told that by riding in a bit I'm causing pain, so of course I had to research this claim and all I could find were Dr.Cook's articles. Among other things mentioned were that he found bound spurs and depressions on the bars, but these were from horses as natural history museums so the bits used were probably quite harsh as were the riders. Does this research have any merit concerning the ways bit are used today? Has any research been done on modern bits? I just want to make sure I'm not causing any unnecessary pain.

    Also, what are your opinions on his design of the bitless bridle? I would think the pressure under the face would be confusing since horses are trained to move away from pressure.
    I actually have a post about Cook's BB on Off Course right now. Don't give into Cook's "research" about bits, it's horribly biased and basically just one gigantic marketing ploy.
    Tell a Gelding. Ask a Stallion. Discuss it with a Mare... Pray if it's a Pony!



  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug. 22, 2007
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    Rhode Island
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    Quote Originally Posted by sublimequine View Post
    I actually have a post about Cook's BB on Off Course right now. Don't give into Cook's "research" about bits, it's horribly biased and basically just one gigantic marketing ploy.
    That's what I had thought, but it got me seriously worrying about riding with one. Thanks, I'll have to check that out.
    "A horse doesn't care how much you know until he knows how much you care."

    "It's not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of fight in the dog."



  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb. 16, 2003
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    MI USA
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    I don't think a horse wearing a bit is in continuous pain, even if the reins are being used. Horses in pain act like they hurt, refuse to do things that cause pain. So the horse who opens his mouth for the bit, not getting any reward beyond a scritch, is certainly not expecting the action to cause him pain while he wears a bit.

    Horse has to be trained to understand, work with the rider/driver, using the bit for communication along with other aids.

    Some bits may be painful because they don't fit well, are wrongly used, reins in the hands of an inept person.

    Bits work off pressure, whether direct or leverage, on the horse head and jaw. Teaching a horse takes time, so both you and horse can work together and understand the signals for responses. Most people are rather lazy, will take shortcuts if they can so "gimmick" bits, stronger leverage, bizarre mouthpiece bits may come into use. Yes they can hurt if horse doesn't respond well or quickly to the directions.

    I believe the bitless types of bridles can have their place, but seldom are they as effective a tool as the correct bit on the well trained horse. Just not as communicative, as bit and aids have been, in my experience. The bitless folks don't usually want to go in collected frames, ask as much of their animal as the bit folks do. Not saying it can't be done, just not common. Hackamore (western with a bosal only) horses are expected to have a high level of skills, but always plan to move on to a bit in their further training. A number of Jumpers with no mouthpieces, using various mechanical hackamores for control with leverage under the jaw. It works.

    What do you expect out of your horse in daily riding, goals in the future?



  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug. 30, 2007
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    Illinois, USA
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    Quote Originally Posted by goodhors View Post
    I don't think a horse wearing a bit is in continuous pain, even if the reins are being used. Horses in pain act like they hurt, refuse to do things that cause pain. So the horse who opens his mouth for the bit, not getting any reward beyond a scritch, is certainly not expecting the action to cause him pain while he wears a bit.

    Horse has to be trained to understand, work with the rider/driver, using the bit for communication along with other aids.

    Some bits may be painful because they don't fit well, are wrongly used, reins in the hands of an inept person.

    Bits work off pressure, whether direct or leverage, on the horse head and jaw. Teaching a horse takes time, so both you and horse can work together and understand the signals for responses. Most people are rather lazy, will take shortcuts if they can so "gimmick" bits, stronger leverage, bizarre mouthpiece bits may come into use. Yes they can hurt if horse doesn't respond well or quickly to the directions.

    I believe the bitless types of bridles can have their place, but seldom are they as effective a tool as the correct bit on the well trained horse. Just not as communicative, as bit and aids have been, in my experience. The bitless folks don't usually want to go in collected frames, ask as much of their animal as the bit folks do. Not saying it can't be done, just not common. Hackamore (western with a bosal only) horses are expected to have a high level of skills, but always plan to move on to a bit in their further training. A number of Jumpers with no mouthpieces, using various mechanical hackamores for control with leverage under the jaw. It works.

    What do you expect out of your horse in daily riding, goals in the future?
    Well said!
    Tell a Gelding. Ask a Stallion. Discuss it with a Mare... Pray if it's a Pony!



  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov. 11, 2006
    Posts
    132

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    this page has been linked in before on CotH. But I love it. tons of information on the bit and how they work. might help you make an informed decision about your bit in particular if you didn't know the mechanics.

    http://www.sustainabledressage.com/tack/bridle.php#bit



  7. #7
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    Jan. 5, 2003
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    New York/New Jersey
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    My BO tried the Cook's bitless on her horse and he was OK with it for about a week, and then started freaking out and rearing. I wouldn't touch the thing with a 10 foot pole!
    She wasn't running away with me, I just couldn't stop her!



  8. #8
    Join Date
    Aug. 25, 2007
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    Quote Originally Posted by daisyfields View Post
    I was told that by riding in a bit I'm causing pain, so of course I had to research this claim and all I could find were Dr.Cook's articles. Among other things mentioned were that he found bound spurs and depressions on the bars, but these were from horses as natural history museums so the bits used were probably quite harsh as were the riders. Does this research have any merit concerning the ways bit are used today? Has any research been done on modern bits? I just want to make sure I'm not causing any unnecessary pain.

    Also, what are your opinions on his design of the bitless bridle? I would think the pressure under the face would be confusing since horses are trained to move away from pressure.
    Dr. Cook's "reasearch" is opionion based upon an anthropomorphic assumption, not any science.

    There are several threads on these devices. A common thread is that they produce massive pressure at the poll and have a poor track record of release when a rider eases rein pressure. In short, they are neither humane nor "kind."

    Bits have been around for more than 3000 years. They were invented for a good and effective purpose. They promote clear communication between horse and rider. If they cause pain it's because the rider is intentionally doing so or is inept in their use.

    Many cultures start horses in bitless devices like bosals. Other start them in snaffles with a variety of mouthpieces. Neither program is necessarily superior to another.

    Bitless devices may also be appropriate for horses with mouth pathology or conformational issues. They are also much less precise and offer the chance of confusion to the horse in what the rider wants. Bits offer precision and clear communication.

    Some claim they are "control" not "communication" devices. In the wrong hands (inept or careless or cruel) they can be right. In trained hands they are not an issue.

    G.



  9. #9
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    Oct. 19, 2005
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    Well, without solid research (which might never come) this is really hard to say, but how would you feel with a piece of metal in your mouth that was really not meant to hold one? It may also depend on a type of bit and the horse's oral cavity and of course the rider's hands.

    Ultimately, for me, the horse always has the last say. I would try and seriously ride with and without to see how your horse reacts to it and then take it from there.



  10. #10
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    Jul. 5, 2007
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    Beside Myself ~ Western NY
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    Quote Originally Posted by BornToRide View Post
    ...how would you feel with a piece of metal in your mouth that was really not meant to hold one?
    I always took the fact that the bars of a horse's jaw, coincidentally in line with the corner of his mouth, was God's hint to put a bit in there and ride ride ride! Ever try to put a bit in a cow's mouth? Now there is an animal not really designed for man to ride. Besides having a back that is really super uncomfortable bareback. He also carefully engineered the horse to sweat so he could carry us at great speeds and not overheat. I really think it's their destiny.



  11. #11
    Join Date
    Aug. 25, 2007
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    Quote Originally Posted by BornToRide View Post
    Well, without solid research (which might never come) this is really hard to say, but how would you feel with a piece of metal in your mouth that was really not meant to hold one? It may also depend on a type of bit and the horse's oral cavity and of course the rider's hands.

    Ultimately, for me, the horse always has the last say. I would try and seriously ride with and without to see how your horse reacts to it and then take it from there.
    I've got metal in my mouth (some ancient amalgam fillings). As a teenager I did the "braces" thing. I survived without injury.

    As noted, my mouth is not like a horse's mouth. The design of the horse's mouth virtually invites the use of bit. So any sort of anthropomorphic comparison is misleading.

    G.



  12. #12
    Join Date
    Apr. 17, 2002
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    between the barn and the pond
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    BTR were you born to type ? Born to hold a mouse? Born to sit in a chair and use the internet? It didn't exist when you were born, are you sure you're really supposed to be here, doing this thing that didn't exist when you were created?



  13. #13
    Join Date
    Aug. 6, 2003
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    Lapeer, MI, USA
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    An additional type of bitless bridle is the side pull. It can be effective when working with young horses who are still losing first teeth and not all their adult teeth are "in" or fully formed.



  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jul. 25, 2003
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    Boston Area
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    When pain is inflicted by a bit it is generally caused by poor riding.

    The mildest snaffle can be harsh when the rider is yanking on the horse's mouth. That said, most horses seem to do fine with bits that 1) fit and 2) are used properly.

    The Sustainable Dressage link is useful because it explains how different bits act on a horse's mouth. The most appropriate solution for *your* horse will depend on how you ride, what you want to do, and, to a certain extent, what your horse prefers.

    I had a horse that really did go better bitless. He had a thick tongue and a low palate and when I finally tried him bitless he practically turned around and asked me what took me so long to figure it out. However, he hated the Dr. Cook's bridle as it controls primarily with poll pressure. He did much better in a sidepull or an LG bridle.

    However, he is the only horse that I've ever ridden that felt that strongly. My OTTB vastly prefers to be ridden in a snaffle. He also hated the Dr. Cook's bridle and he pretty much ignores other bitless configurations. He likes a plain, single link loose ring snaffle. No fancy mouthpieces for him.

    Unless your horse is clearly uncomfortable in a bit and you've eliminated the issue of problem with his teeth, you should be fine riding with a bit.
    Last edited by Bogie; Dec. 17, 2008 at 03:51 PM. Reason: edited for style
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