Benefits of The Bitless Bridle™
Robert Cook FRCVS, PhD
The logo encapsulates the four major benefits of the patented Bitless Bridle™. Compared with all other bridles, the benefits are – for both horse and man – improved welfare, better performance, increased safety (as a result of better control), and greater pleasure. In hindsight, the benefits are uncannily similar to those listed in the Declaration of Independence; life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. They could be summarized as freedom from fear. The horse at liberty on the logo depicts the suspension phase of the trot, when all four feet are off the ground. It is based on Edward Maybridge’s classic research of 1878 and symbolizes here the more natural movement that the bridle’s freedom from pain provides.
Benefits of The (Dr Cook’s) Bitless Bridle – in Brief
Kinder Control: No more metal in the mouth. Man has been controlling the horse by applying pressure in one of the most sensitive parts of the horse’s body. ‘Natural Horse-Man-Ship’, is now more readily available to everyone with the introduction of the crossover (cross-under) Bitless Bridle. The horse is happier, performance improved and the partnership with man more willing.
Safety & Security: Better “brakes”. At no time can the rider be denied control. Your horse cannot “get-the-bit-between-its-teeth”. With this crossover (cross-under) Bitless Bridle, a rider cannot inflict pain.
Painfree Poll Pressure, not Poll Flexion: The Bitless Bridle controls by non-painful pressure on the poll, cheek and nose by a double loop system. It allows for a more natural position of the head and neck. Control is no longer dependent on painful mouth pressure, poll flexion and partial asphyxia. The Bitless Bridle pushes, whereas the bit pulls.
More Oxygen & More Energy: Because your horse is not so flexed at the poll, which obstructs the airway at the throat, and because it is not retracting its tongue behind the bit, which causes the soft palate to rise and further obstruct the airway, it obtains more oxygen and, therefore, has more energy. Because it no longer “fights the bit” it wastes less energy and has more for performance.
Freedom of the Neck: The new bridle permits that freedom of the neck so essential for any athlete. The neck of a horse that leans on the bit tends to be tight and rigid. Stiffness of gait follows and the power, grace and rhythm of a horse’s natural movement is forfeited.
Increased Concentration: The bit constitutes an impediment to performance. It initiates digestive system responses (salivation, chewing, tongue and palate movement) which are counterproductive. Eliminating the bit, allows the horse’s nervous system to concentrate on breathing and galloping, rather than trying to respond simultaneously to signals that are diametrically opposed to exercise. Neither human nor horse should be asked to eat AND exercise.
Improved Performance: The Bitless Bridle improves a horse’s balance. It lightens the forehand, lengthens the stride, strengthens impulsion and increases speed. Improved performance can be anticipated in all types of activity from dressage to racing.
Reduced Risk of Breakdowns: A horse that is less heavy on the forehand puts less strain on the bones, joints, tendons and ligaments of the forelegs.
No More Evasion of the Bit: Banishing the bit is the obvious cure for the common and all too familiar problems that are known to be caused by the bit. It may also alleviate a number of problems that are not currently associated with the bit; e.g., headshaking, flipping the palate; epiglottal entrapment and bleeding from the lungs.
No Need for Tongue-ties: These additional encumbrances are now rendered obsolete, as asphxiating tongue and soft palate movement is no longer initiated.
Do you have a head-shaking horse? A bit can trigger facial neuralgia and this, in turn, can be the cause of headshaking. (Read more about headshaking, including so-called ‘seasonal headshaking’, ‘allergic’ and ‘light-sensitive’ horses- The Bit as the cause of the Headshaking Syndrome)
Does your horse swallow its tongue? This is caused by the horse retracting its tongue away from the bit.
Dorsal Displacement of the Soft Palate (DDSP)? Also known as ‘flipping the palate’, and ‘choking-up’ – this results from the above and from horse’s attempts to eat and excercise simultaneously.
Does your horse make a noise? Retraction of the tongue lifts the soft palate, narrows the airway, and causes the horse to ‘roar’.
Is your horse heavy on the forehand? The bit unbalances your horse and reduces impulsion.
Are you a riding instructor who doesn’t want to risk a novice to damaging the mouth of your fully-trained horse?
The Bitless Bridle is the answer.
Benefits of The Bitless Bridle in Depth
The Bitless Bridle™ (BB) transmits the hand aids painlessly, eliminating the fear and nervousness caused by the bit that precipitates so many accidents. Without a bit there is no impediment to breathing, so the horse tires less rapidly and accidents caused by fatigue are less likely. Because a horse strides in time with its breathing, locomotion is more rhythmic and graceful. It is also more efficient because the BB doesn’t interfere with the energy-saving ‘headbob.’ As bits are a common cause of painful bone spurs on the bars of the mouth and headshaking (facial neuralgia), the BB avoids both of these serious complications. The BB is the only bridle that cannot hurt a horse. All bits and all other bitless designs (mechanical hackamores, bosals, sidepulls and rope halters) depend for their action on actual pain or the threat of pain. Snaffles in the wrong hands can be instruments of torture. Mechanical hackamores in the wrong hands can fracture a horse’s nasal bone or lower jaw. (See comparisons between various types of bitted and bitless bridles)
The BB provides better steering than a bit or hackamore, and more reliable brakes than a bit or sidepull. Being painless it doesn’t precipitate the hundred or more behavioural problems in the horse that are bit-induced. Freedom from fear favours calmness. A calm horse spooks less readily and recovers more rapidly. No longer distracted by pain, a horse is able to pay attention and learn. It becomes more obedient, compliant and manageable. Injuries to the rider arising from a horse rearing, bucking, bolting or having a panic attack are less likely.
The longer stride of the BB horse translates into greater speed. Obviously, this is of special relevance to the racehorse but other horses also walk and trot faster. The more energy-efficient stride translates into greater stamina, confidence and willingness to work. Absence of pain means that the horse’s neck is not tense. Consequently, the spine and legs are relaxed. Stiff and choppy gaits are avoided. Elimination of bit-induced head shaking* means that a horse can perform better in dressage, show jumping and many other disciplines. Removing the bit from a sensitive body cavity eliminates a major physiological confusion in the throat of the horse. A bit triggers the digestive mode, whereas what is needed is the respiratory mode. Problems such as a gaping mouth, protruding tongue, excessive salivation and repeated swallowing are eliminated when the foreign body is removed. The BB is wonderful for starting young horses.
*User’s comments with specific regards to headshaking from January 2000 – October 04 can be downloaded as a pdf file: see User’s Comments on Headshaking Syndrome
The key to success with a bitted bridle is ‘good hands.’ The term describes the minimal use of hands and, therefore, the minimal amount of pain for the horse. Less is more. The less a rider depends on hand aids, the more her performance and that of her horse improves. The ultimate of ‘good hands’ is no bit at all. By definition, therefore, the BB guarantees ‘good hands’ and focuses the rider’s attention on communicating by seat and legs, balance and breathing. It makes for better riders. It also enables both experienced and novice riders to appear more capable, as they are not having to constantly correct a resistant horse. Instead they ride a compliant horse, and enjoy the harmony and partnership that defines good horsemanship.
Bits hurt horses. They cause the four Fs of fear, flight, fight and freeze. In the wild, all four responses favour survival but only the last response enhances the safety of the domesticated horse. Frightened horses are nervous, excitable, ‘hot’, and unpredictable. They are accidents waiting to happen. Bit-induced episodes of rearing, bolting, asphyxiation and fatigue result in horses incurring fractured skulls, broken backs, breakdowns, pulmonary bleeding, fractured jaws and other disasters. Bitted horses that bolt are literally blinded by pain and are a danger to themselves and their riders. With the BB, the training of ‘green’ horses proceeds more rapidly.
The bit – incorrectly thought of by most horsemen as necessary for control – commonly causes loss of control. For example, bit-induced pain triggers bolting. Also, by placing the bit between its teeth or under its tongue, a horse totally deprives the rider of control. Bit-induced problems such as bolting, rearing, bucking, and rushing or refusing jumps, are causes of serious injury to the rider or even sudden death. Bit-induced fear can be the cause of a horse becoming aggressive (biting & kicking) in the stable. A bitted horse may become dangerous at the moment of mounting. During exercise, hair-trigger responses to the bit or over-reaction to bit aids are to be avoided in an animal as powerful as a horse. The BB provides for painless communication.
A bit-free horse is a pain-free horse is a happy horse. Such horses become easy to catch in the paddock and enjoy work in the same way that a dog enjoys being taken for a walk. Instead of being difficult to bridle, horses drop their heads willingly into the BB. Under saddle, they don’t fidget and jig, but pay attention, and become better scholars. Without a bit, training advances more rapidly, because a host of bit-induced problems have not been generated and the horse’s trust in the rider has not been breached. Horses do not become resistant, argumentative, and inclined to terminate the ride by heading for the stable. Thanks to the BB, many a horse is exonerated from being wrongly accused of what the rider had assumed to be permanent and incurable character flaws. When bridles annoy, neither man nor horse can enjoy.
Without recognizing the real source of their difficulties, riders of bitted horses often lose confidence in their ability to ride. Because of so many seemingly incurable problems, riders become frustrated with their lack of progress and even frightened of riding. Many consider selling their horse, or giving up riding altogether. The BB enables the better nature of the horse to be expressed; a harmony develops between horse and rider, and the rationale of riding returns … to give pleasure. The BB makes horse riding simpler, safer and more satisfying.