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Ulbasse "Basse" Cold blood trotter born in 2004 in Norway with a bitless Micklem multibridle.

BIT AND ANATOMY

Why is it important to understand how a bit works?

From the beginning, the bit was developed to control the horse in sharp situations, i.e. in war.

Back then, we didn't have the knowledge we have today,

about, for example, how horses feel pain, and therefore we think this is basic knowledge

which everyone should start with at an early stage: Learning how a bit works,

what happens in the horse's mouth when we take the reins and how the horse reacts to it.

Why is it dangerous to talk obout kind bits?

When you learn how bits work, you also understand that there is a big risk in talking about "kind bits". If we were to ask the horses, they would probably say that there are no kind bits, because when we start riding, we usually don't learn to hold the reins as little as possible. What we riders can train ourselves in, is how small our aids must be and how soft we must be on the hand in order not to cause any discomfort to the horse.

We also have to take care of the horse's oral health and adjust the bit so that it is stable and still in the horse's mouth

without having parts that squeeze or press on soft parts or teeth.

Why does the horse open its mouth?

If we take a bit that is considered a "kind bit", the two-parted, it folds up in the horse's palate like a "v" when we take the reins. It is not pleasant and to prevent the discomfort the horse opent its mouth, partly to protect its palate, but also to try to distribute the pressure with the tongue. The human solution to this can be to get a bit that prevents the horse from equalizing the pressure with the tongue, or the most common way, to put on a nose strap that we tighten so that the horse can no longer gape. Then we think the problem is solved.

Why doesn't the horse protest?

It does! But often we label the horse as "weird, dangerous or simply a problem".

What we need to learn is, how the horse looks when it feels pain, how it behaves, and what we can do about it.

But can the horse react to pain when we remove the possibilities for it, such as tightening a nose halter?

Yes, we can see it in the horse's eyes, facial expressions and body language.

Is bitless always a better option?

"Bitless isn't the solution to everything, but it's almost always better," Anders Eriksson once said, but even with a bitless halter, the horse can get pressure injuries if used one-sidedly and incorrectly. It is the knowledge of how we use our technical aids that is important and that we always have the best interests of the horse in our focus. That we educate ourselves and constantly question why we should use it and how it affects the horse before we actually do it.​

 

Do you want to learn how to ride with with primary aids?

With us, you will learn to use your primary aids, i.e. seat and voice. You will learn to ride with such small and fine aids as possible and you will notice that it works perfectly in all disciplines. You will also have the opportunity to learn how to get started with the use of bitless bridles. We have been Sweden's Ambassadors in the World Bitless Association since 2020 and here you can try several bitless bridles on your horse.​

We would like to send a big thank you to our friend and Mounted Archery colleague Arno Hendriks in Holland, who has made a very informative 3D animation of how the bit works in the horse's mouth, and we hope it provokes your thoughts

about wanting to learn more about riding and driving bitless and use reward-based training:

THE HORSE'S ORAL HEALTH

Can horses experience such discomfort from bits that they rear? They absolutely can. Basse has a background from the trotting industry and had been labeled a "problem horse". The first time we were going to drive Basse, we harnessed him traditionally with a bit. He got up on his hind legs, so we put a regular halter on him instead and the problem went away. How easy do you think it is, to think that rearing can be an expression of discomfort from the bit, and what happens when we remove the possibility for the horse to protest? Instead, we taught Basse bitless driving and this is what it could look like!

Bit-related injuries

Bit-related injuries in the mouth through pressure injuries are the most common fault in horses' mouths. (Lundström, 2004). The pressure damage occurs i.a. against the mucous membranes, gums and teeth, but the horse can also have congenital dental defects such as overbite and underbite. So how do you know if your horse is in pain?

What you can learn are the signals and behaviors that the horse gives you to tell you that something hurts or is unpleasant (horses can also have mental trauma after previous discomfort that has disappeared, like Basse),

you can also pay attention to:

  • If the horse gapes when riding or driving

  • If the horse puts its tongue over the bite

  • If the horse feels stiff

  • If the horse feels unequal when riding or driving

  • If the horse spits food balls

  • If the horse eats very slowly

  • If the horse smells bad from the mouth

  • If the horse often gets colic

  • If the horse has difficulty holding the weight

We recommend that you have regular contact with a specially trained veterinarian or equine dentist who will help your horse to maintain good oral health. It is the teeth that determine how old your horse will be

if the horse is otherwise healthy, and of course we want to

have our best friends in life as long as possible?