Enlightened Bitting – Changing Attitudes

18th May 2019

Our attitude and objectives with horses have evolved greatly over the years. Originally horses were viewed as machines and their role was either work or as a war horse.  The bits were simply a means of control with little regard for the comfort of the horse and the trauma that many of them inflicted.

Horses working in the field

Nowadays we love and prize our horsey partners, horse riding is becoming ever more popular.  They take pride of place in our family and often our human partners have to compete for second place!  Whether we are pleasure riders in a simple snaffle bit or competing to Grand Prix in a Double Bridle, comfort is absolutely essential in order to obtain the connection needed for a harmonious relationship.

It is a fundamental requirement that the horse’s bit is comfortable in order to fine tune our signals and understanding through the rein.  There are many aids that we as riders employ in order to communicate with our horses such as body position/weight aids, leg aids, even voice – although not allowed in a dressage test!  However, possibly the most influential tool we have at our disposal is the bit.

Do not misunderstand me; there is absolutely no substitute for good basic training.  If the horse does not fully understand the aids and the rider does not know how to apply them, then no bit can compensate for this lack of foundation.  However, when the basics are in place the correct bit can make the world of difference to the horses’ way of going.  For pleasure riders a comfy bit results in an easier ride as at the very least the horse is more relaxed, not inclined to lean and fix against the hand and so much more compliant in downward transitions. Then we have the serious competition rider at the other end of the spectrum who needs to fine tune their signals through the rein for accuracy and in order to perform some of the more advanced movements.

NS Ambassador Olivia Oakeley

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