Bit or bitless?

Bit or bitless?

Rarely have I seen as discussed a topic as bit vs. bitless. Therefore I have now decided to make my statement on the subject and share it with you…

Why do I ride without a bit?
I have been asked this question so many times and yet the best answer I have been able to give is that I have found no reason to use one. I often see that people who use bits are looking down on people who don’t and the other way around. Honestly I don’t understand why it has to be that way. Personally I have no problem with people who use a bit. I only have an issue with people who misuse a bit. There is a huge difference between the two and in my opinion it is no different from people who USE a bitless bridle and people who MISUSE a bitless bridle. No matter what kind of equipment it should be used properly and if it is, then you can use whatever you want from my point of view. As long as it works for the horse as well I see no reason to feel otherwise.

I have considered a few times to try out a bit on Alvaro. Not because I could not control him. Not because he would not listen. Not because I needed more power to make him comply. I considered it because what if he happened to like it better? What if he felt good when I did not have to use a noseband which you usually do with a bitless bridle? To me THESE are the right reasons to consider or choose a bit.

“When you do not need it, then you can use it”
– Sophie


Do you use or do you depend?
What makes the huge difference in my world is whether you use the equipment you have or if you depend on it. It applies to the use of bits as well as bitless options. If you use the equipment you have it means that you do not take advantage of the power and control it can provide you. It means that you will be able to work your horse both with or without it.  Maybe not exactly the same, but he will still understand the cues and comply nicely if you ask him for something. It means that you use it to give light help to guide your horse in whatever you do. If you depend on your equipment on the other hand it means that you need the power and control it provides you. It means that you depend on the equipment to train your horse because he otherwise will run away, become dangerous or stop listening. It means that you make your horse do things because you can instead of inviting him and waiting for him to be ready for it.

Maybe some of you have seen videos from western shows where they ride around with curb bits and long shanks and then suddenly take the bridle off and performs the exact same thing without any equipment? That is an example of using the equipment, but not depend on it.

So do you use or do you depend?

Patience, accept and understanding…
Riding a horse is not necessarily an easy job and no one have ever said it should be. Yet it seems like some people think that if the horse does not obey at their first wink they need to take more control to MAKE IT obey. Usually this ‘taking control’ is done by getting a bit or a sharper bit that will be able to cause more pain if you allow it. Once again this is a case of depending on the equipment rather than using it for light communication where nobody is forced, but asked and guided. Respectful communication can happen with a bit, a bitless bridle or with no equipment at all. I don’t matter tools as long as you know how to use them instead of becoming dependent on them. You should always seek to find the solution that fits best for your horse first of all. What is the use if you find the solution that fits you better, but it doesn’t match your horse?

Riding a horse takes patience, accept and understanding if you wish for a healthy partnership. You might need to make compromises, wait patiently for your horse to follow your guidance or understand that some things are more difficult for him than others. That is how partnership works – you support and accept each other!


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8 thoughts on “Bit or bitless?”

  • Oh my goodness, I can totally relate! Estella is now 5 and has only been ridden bitless. I come from a dressage background so people constantly ask me when I am going to ride her in a bit, but I haven’t needed it so far, so why would I? Although I don’t mind a properly used bit, I also get a huge amount of peace from bitless. I love seeing photos of her being ridden and she just has the sweetest facial expressions: there’s no tension and you can see how relaxed her mouth is. I absolutely love it :).

    • This is such an awesome statement from you or should I say another awesome statement! I have been asked the same question many times and if you reply nicely most people will also understand and accept. I feel the exact same way about the “why should I”. I am not saying it could never happen, but at this moment we both seem to be fine with the solution I have found. It is so beautiful to hear how you have observed her facial expression and relaxation. I love that and what a lucky horse for having such a caring human mom <3

  • I love this! I have a friend who rides “vaquero” style and I had secretly judged them for riding in these crazy spade bits, thinking that their horse was just afraid of the equipment and that’s why they behaved so well. When I finally asked them why they used such equipment, I was amazed. I never knew this but properly trained vaquero horses are ridden in a bosal for at least 3-4 years, where they are trained with incredibly light hands to respond to the slightest cue. Once her horse was at the highest level of responsiveness, they moved up to a spade bit, which she never actually has to use, she is able to make cues so tiny they seem invisible! I personally would never use a spade bit but it was a humbling experience to realize that I was judging something I knew nothing about. Of course I’m sure there are people who don’t use those bits in a gentle manner, and that is truly heartbreaking, but it made me realize more strongly that it’s “the execution of the method, not the method itself” that matters. My friends horse may never experience any discomfort as a result of the crazy bit she is ridden in, but another horse may be in pain as a result of an improperly used bitless bridle. It’s important to keep the perspective. Thank you for using your voice to share that perspective!

    • Thank you so much for your reply and your kind words! This is simply an amazing story. What a great experience and how lovely that you dared to ask her even though you might were a little biased. A know a lot of people who would rather just gossip behind her back about how evil she was instead of asking her face to face why she used that exact equipment! I most definitely agree that it is the execution rather than the method itself. It is so easy to judge (and how often haven’t we all done it). It takes humbleness and courage to confront people this way. You sound like such a beautiful person with an open mind to other people and new things. Keep it up <3

  • Thanks for writing about your experience with bitless Sophie – I stumbled across your blog and love all your writings. You explain so many topics so well and you obviously have a beautiful relationship with your horses because of your open mind. I have ridden bitless for most of my life (and I’m old now!) and have always felt that the educaiton you give your horse is far more important than what is on their head. In fact I believe if a horse is well educated, they should accept all equipment (so long as it’s comfortable for them which bits often aren’t) to no equipment at all.
    I became so passionate about finding a comfortable bitless bridle that I designed my own and have been selling it worldwide for the past 8 years –
    As a former instructor, I still encourage people to educate and develop a caring relationship with their horse along with looking after them in a natural healthy way. My main website has lots of articles I’ve written over the years that I hope helps many people find a gentler, healthier way to be with their horses.
    Thanks again for your inspirational posts which I’ve shared.
    Sincerely, Cynthia.

    • Hello Cynthia.
      I am truly honoured by your kind and heartwarming words. I can only thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences with me! I am so glad to hear that is what you think of my posts and the thoughts within. Besides I absolutely agree with you on everything you have written above and I am already looking forward to check out your page and articles.
      Best wishes, Sophie.

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