Bitless Debate

Here's an interesting article on British eventer Mark Smith challenging the requirement to use a bit in the dressage phase of eventing, or I should say, attach reins to the bit. I'm of the opinion people should ride with what makes the horse happiest.
I don't believe bitless is necessarily more comfortable for horses, or vice versa. A lot depends on the horse's needs, the rider, the style of bit, or style of bitless bridle. I'd like to see people be able ride bitless if they want to though, in any competition.
Fairly recently (two or three years ago?), Equine Canada updated rules to allow snaffle bridles all the way through to Grand Prix, unless competing for qualifying scores. Before that they were optional in Third  Level and required from Fourth on. Perhaps bitless will follow.
Any thoughts on this? I'm curious as to what people think.


Nicole said…
I have always wanted a bitless option to be available. My want stemmed from my Arab having melanomas in the corners of his mouth. Since we evented it was a concern as they enlarged for using a bit. He worked the same in a bit or in a halter and lead lines.
A bitless option would show so many riders that flexion and frame do not come from the hand/bit connection. Too many times a bit is used as an abusive tool.
It is a constant hope for me, but I know change comes slowly.
Carol said…
Nicole that is such a good reason for wanting to go bitless! It's amazing that there aren't at least medical 'excuse' options for bitless. I rode my Appaloosa bitless after a broken tooth was discovered - although it was removed right away I wanted to give his mouth a break.
Anonymous said…
I think it's entirely a matter of how the horse goes - if the horse is happy and moving and scoring well, then what's wrong with bitless?
Lori Skoog said…
I am for the option! Have not ridden with a bit for years and my horses really appreciate it. Either use a bitless bridle or an English hackamore. Agree with Nicole. There are times when the bit is used as an abusive tool...and that goes for all levels. Cranking as a shortcut...let's see what the rider really knows about working properly with the horse.
Carol said…
Thanks for the feedback Kate and Lori.
Just have to say this - bitless can be abusive too - depends on the bridle style and the rider (noses are very sensitive, as much as mouths). I know the people commenting here know this, but I find sometimes in reading other blogs it seems to be assumed that bitless is always better, when this isn't always the case.
Good point re cranks. It's hard to find a dressage bridle without one. I had Rogo's bridle hand made, without a crank, and was able to find one for Savanah without one. Dan's bridle has one, but it's never tightened. They seem to be used sooo much, and I don't get it.
I don't see a problem with using a bit less if that's what the rider and horse prefer. I'm not opposed to bits and always have used them. Nothing severe ever. I also agree with you that bit less can be as harsh as a bit on soft noses. It all comes down to a caring rider with soft hands.
I wish! Being able to compete bitless would have improved my horse Archies dressage scores by at least %25. I always ride bitless on the flat at home with him, it removes ALL tension...unfortunately all bits make him tense and uncomfortable.
Achieve1dream said…
I would love for bitless to become an option! And for snaffles to be allowed for qualifying scores. I didn't know they'd made it so you could use a snaffle all the way to Grand Prix when not qualifying. That's cool! I ride bitless because my horse is young and his mouth/teeth are changing. I will probably teach him to wear a bit when he's older just so he has that skill, but I prefer riding without one. Just a preference. :)