I’d by lying if I said I never started a horse in a bit. When I was younger we rode in bits most of the time; often selecting them without really understanding what they did or why it was/wasn’t right for the horse. While the science and understanding of horse riding has come a long way in the past 20 years, the accessibility for the information still seems to be quite difficult for the most part, which is possibly why bitless has become so popular in the past couple of decades. However, with demand there comes production and many bridles have been designed and brought to the market and now riders face the same questions with the bitless bridle, as they did with the bit – which one should I use? If you’d like more information on this subject please see my previous article Selecting a Bitless Bridle.
Whether you’re thinking about starting or restarting your horse bitless, it’s helpful to note some of the pros and cons to starting a horse bitless.
- Seek more gentle communication
- Focus on seat, leg and voice aids
- Can transfer caverson/halter skills ground to ridden
- Reduce discomfort as adult teeth erupt
- Reduce tension throughout the horse’s body
- Adult riders can compete in mainstream showjumping
- If you plan to resell not all homes will want a bitless horse – reduces your market
- Can’t compete in mainstream eventing or dressage
- Can’t compete in most mainstream showing
- Young riders can’t compete in mainstream showjumping
A balance for some riders is to start horses bitless and introduce the bit later on, and this could be a sensible option if you plan to sell the horse at a later date. However, this isn’t always an option, especially for horses with any physical issues which means they can’t ride in a bit. You need to assess what is right for your situation – and understand what is driving you to make a decision.
How can I assess I’m making the right decision to start bitted or bitless?
Sometimes it is difficult to maintain a balanced view, here is one of my systems to check in with my decision making processes.
How it works
List the pros and cons for your situation, but for BOTH bitted and bitless in a Mind Balance Sheet – you can use some of ours to help you, but it will help the most if you write it out for your individual circumstances. If you’re not sure of the pros and cons, this is the perfect time to do a little research. Check our a copy of our new book Bitless & Bridleless which takes you through the anatomy and science behind bitless riding, in an accessible way, without the jargon!
Once you’ve listed AT LEAST 5 pros and cons for each column you’re able to access all of the information before making a decision, in my experience, it’s the best way of checking you’re making an informed decision, rather than an emotional one. You could also talk to a few people from both sides of the argument to get more ideas for pros and cons – it’s a good idea to fact check what you’re told.
You can use the Mind Balance Sheet for any decision or if you’re not sure you’re for or against something, download a free blank copy and print off as many as you need.