Are Bits Abusive To Horses

Elaine Sutton
• Sunday, 06 December, 2020
• 8 min read

I pointed out that because horses do not need to be ridden, doing so constitutes using another being for our own entertainment, an action that is decidedly unethical from a vegan perspective. Now not everyone agrees with this stance, including some vegans, so I think it is important to talk about the effect of horse tack like bits and whips both for those who are still going to ride horses, and also for those who don't find the act of riding itself objectionable, but may not know the true impact of these devices.

bad dressage horse horses tongue grey bits bit riding mouth hunter prix eventing grand reins equestrian horsemanship equine dapple tight
(Source: pinterest.com)


There is quite an array of bit types and variations, each made to apply pressure to a horse in a specific manner. All bits are designed to control a horse through this applied pressure, meaning pain.

There exists the argument that when properly fitted and controlled, even the most severe of bit styles can transmit subtle, nuanced signals to a horse without any pain. Additionally, the mouthpiece of the trigeminal action bit hits the horse’s palate and squeezes down on his or her tongue.

The joint of a dental bit also hits the horse’s palate when pressure is applied on the reins, causing the inferior alveolar nerve and infroarbital nerve to transmit pain signals. Horses will often insert their tongue in between the bit joint and the roof of their mouth in an attempt to escape this pain.

The four most frequently cited effects were to instill fear, to make the horse fight back, to trigger a flight response, and to cause facial neuralgia (head shaking). However, the responses were not limited to the oral cavity, for they included a whole cascade of systemic effects.

Dr. Cook’s studies show that the impact of bits reaches far beyond a horse’s mouth. He advocates natural horsemanship using a witless bridle and his analysis of the impact of bits is from the perspective of bettering the riding experience.

spade bits horses saddleupcolorado nrsworld taken
(Source: www.saddleupcolorado.net)

They will also shake their head and perform other neurotic behaviors in an effort to stop the pain. “Whichever way a person tries to argue, science can lay the truth on the table.

Please feel free to say yours too. My opinion is that bits are not necessarily abuse. Some people say they're abusive because they're in the sensitive part of the mouth, but that can be an advantage when the rider wants to communicate with the horse.

I like to ride with my legs and use the reins as reinforcement to prevent hurting the horse's mouth. Again feel free to express your thoughts as well, I may be replying to them.

So... Kinda also depends on your interpretation of 'abuse' & how... wide you understand that term to be. I also personally think that putting a bit of metal in a horse's mouth for lunging, 'desensitization' of 'scares', forcing to load on a trailer, etc, etc are abusive ', because the likelihood of pain/injury caused is high & the punishment not reasonable.

I also think that using a bit on a young, totally uneducated horse, OR by an inexpert rider is abusive because there's a strong likelihood that a lot of unfair punishment will be going on, while the learner learns. If however, a bit is only used after both the horse & rider have a good understanding with each other, if the horse understands how to yield to pressure well, if rider has skill and consideration to not use the bit 'strongly' or unnecessarily, with perfect timing & release, then I do believe a bit can be used 'well' and without 'abuse'.

cowboyspecialist finding steps bit favorite horses horse
(Source: www.pinterest.com)

After my kids had been riding for years, independent seat, able to use rein aids 'gently' and with great timing, AND their ponies were not just well-trained & reliable in a halter, but they had first been desensitized to wearing a bit, then sensitized to yielding softly to it, THEN I put the 2 together, as the kids wanted to go to pony club & rules decree horses must be fitted. But as it's not necessary, they only used bits at pony club, for the year they were members.

I think (in my humble opinion) everything depends on the horse + person match and the horsemanship of the owner. I know lots of people don't have the same philosophy as me, but the way we look at horses is culturally 'learned'.

. Kinda also depends on your interpretation of 'abuse' & how... wide you understand that term to be. People often do things that they deem to be 'normal' to animals because our culture says it is.

That's dominant threatening behavior, but people do it all the time. Some designs are far more aggressive and the unfortunate part of that is they often find use by hands, body and mind that do not fully understand how that design works and that finesse is key to making the working relationship a beauty to watch.

I won't get into actual bit types/classifications...that is a huge white elephant of dialog and bitter arguments so nope, not going their. A bit though is as kind, soft and giving as is the person who chose it and why...

blood called eventing he scandalous concern witch hunt become does packy right
(Source: eventingconnect.today)

In the right hands and mind a gift of communication shared.in the wrong hands a cruel and heinous piece to inflict hurt and injuries...we the handler are who make the choice of good or bad when we use any bit. Any yes indeed, that same thought also applies to anything we use on or with our horses from grooming tools to halters, shanks...just anything and everything...in the hands of an educated equestrian....

I pretty much agree with blue eyed pony. We did some treat training, and now he drops whatever he's doing and excitedly walks up whenever he sees that I have his bridle out, picks up the bit himself, and chews it up into his mouth where it belongs.

Whenever I have it and see him, I call it his “instrument of subjugation,” as a joke. But I guess I don't imagine that Teddy has much of a sense of humor.

This is a picture of Cedar wearing his abusive torture device and being forced to carry me up a mountain. One of mine stepped on a lead attached to a halter at speed and had to be put down because of a broken neck.

(So that horse that will kick your rear hard when you don't “control” him/her... ERM... well don't breed it or use it because it is not suited for “human use”... to put it cruel.) I think (in my humble opinion) everything depends on the horse + person match and the horsemanship of the owner.

barrel racing abuse bad riding publicity deal
(Source: www.writingofriding.com)

I know lots of people don't have the same philosophy as me, but the way we look at horses is culturally 'learned'. As long as you're having fun and you and the horse are safe and happy it doesn't matter the equipment.

I've just never yet heard any actual rational reason for this belief. As long as you're having fun and you and the horse are safe and happy it doesn't matter the equipment.

I am a beginning rider and I ride in some kind of basal type witless thing. The horse I ride understands when I want to go left because he feels my head and hips turn.

If a horse can feel a fly they can certainly learn to react to minor other cues. If the horse doesn't slow down enough with a voice or seat command I gently pull back the reins, so he understands (not needed with the horse I ride).

I think you could even learn a horse to react to stroking the neck or rear end if you wanted to... But culturally English riders don't touch their horse or speak to them.

horses bad tying riders unwilling know horse trainers thinking give biting reaction anyone difference example
(Source: behindthehorsestable.blogspot.com)

I do touch a horse when I ride it or on the ground to give it signals. I can understand it's not possible to do everything by physically touching them (that's why we use a headpiece and reins), but I don't think you need a bit (a piece of equipment that is -come to think of it- really weird and alien to horse anatomy) to give subtle cues.

I have experience only with a Dr. Cooks witless bridle.or riding with halter and 2 shanks. For me, I find I need to use more hand motion and “grand gestures” to have my horse respond with the same quickness he does with a bit. His bit is a Billy Allen mouthpiece he loves and will hold not wanting to let go when time to remove his bridle.

He is very soft mouthed and a wiggle of a pinky has him complying... I just find with the witless I see a lag in what he does, but he does it... Is it me, could be...:| I don't have nor have I used anything else though so nothing to compare...

I've just never yet heard any actual rational reason for this belief. If your end goal is to have a horse who can canter in place and then launch in any cued direction, stop instantly in a balanced manner, etc., then you might well have very different beliefs about batting than someone whose end goal is a horse who trots freely across any kind of terrain for hours at a time.

Because in the former case, you will need to be able to tell your horse exactly and instantly what leg to pick up and what you want him to do next with it. In the latter case, you probably just want to be able to stop him if he gets a wild idea.

abuse control does become
(Source: heatherclemenceau.wordpress.com)

I don't know any master trainers who can impart exactly how they get their mounts to do what they do, and only the most verbally adept of them, using metaphors and “what it feels like” are any good at even an approximation.

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1 www.gibsonhorses.com - https://www.gibsonhorses.com/blog-1/the-american-paint-horse
2 www.helpfulhorsehints.com - https://www.helpfulhorsehints.com/american-paint-horse-facts/
3 horseracingsense.com - https://horseracingsense.com/american-paint-horse-facts-colors-pictures/
4 www.horsebreedspictures.com - https://www.horsebreedspictures.com/american-paint-horse.asp
5 justcredible.com - https://justcredible.com/american-paint-horse/
6 ihearthorses.com - https://ihearthorses.com/american-paint-horse-facts-you-might-not-have-known/
7 ihearthorses.com - https://ihearthorses.com/images-of-paint-horses/
8 apha.com - https://apha.com/