Horses Prefer Bridles That Have A Bit Missing

An ex-cowboy has found a way to make a horse's life more comfortable with a bridle that does not need a bit and which significantly improves on other bitless devices.

Bits have been used since before 1600 BC to help riders steer, slow down and stop their mounts. Their basic design has stayed virtually unchanged: a metal bar or chain, attached to rings on either side of the horse's mouth. By pulling on reins connected to the two side rings, the rider exerts sideways and backwards pressure to move the animal's head. But some horses dislike having the bit pressing on their tongue, and misbehave as a result.

Now Allan Buck, a horse trainer from Ramona in California, has worked out how to control a horse without interfering with its sensitive mouth. In his bitless bridle, the reins run through the side rings to a third ring, which hangs below the jaw. A loop passes through this ring and up over the horse's head (see Diagram). Any pressure exerted on the reins gently squeezes the horse's head behind its ears and under its jaw, rather than pulling it down and back.

Buck, whose company American Spirit is patenting the bridle, believes that this design will eliminate behavioural problems in horses that are upset by the discomfort of wearing a bit. It might also improve the performance of competition horses, and reduce the risk of respiratory disease, he says.

Buck's bitless bridle has been tested by Bob Cook, professor emeritus of surgery at Tufts University veterinary school in Massachusetts, who has spent more than forty years researching disorders of the equine ear, nose and throat. He says the bridle may be the biggest advance in equine technology since people started riding horses. It will significantly improve the welfare of horses, he says.

Putting an object in a horse's mouth confuses the animal, stimulating salivation and other feeding reflexes. Cook points out that because a horse cannot breathe and swallow

Contact: Claire Bowles
44 171 331 2751
New Scientist

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