The Social License and Bitting Ethics

The Social License and Bitting Ethics

Unless you have been living under a rock, you will have heard that the 'social license' of Equestrian sports has been called into question, more so since the abomination that was the Penthalon at Tokyo Olympics. 

I have been reading and debating whether or not to comment on this, but like everyone I have my own opinions, and this is something I would like to put forward to the equestrian community. When you know better you can do better. 

Bitting is a HUGELY contested issue, not only between equestrians, but people who have opinions about pictures they see on the internet. Admittedly many pictures are cause for concern, there is no denying that. This is where we should be doing better.

I stand firm on my base that the horses comfort is the priority and both bitted and bitless have the power to cause unnecessary damage. It's about doing what is right for your horse, and continually working to better your own skills for their sake. A soft bit in hard hands and a hard bit in soft hands can be on equal par in their workings. 

What concerns me hugely is the amount of mass produced bits similar to torture devices, freely available in the community to anyone who walks into a tack store or can shop online. In my opinion there is quite frankly no reason for them to be produced in this day and age where education is available (Shout out to the fabulous bitting companies who actually put research into their designs!) While NZ is typically not as bad as countries like the USA when it comes to this issue, it is slowly becoming a pandemic of 'fix the training with a bit band aid' 

There is no horse on earth that needs for example a twisted wire bit or a piece of chainsaw chain. If you think that, please get a lesson or six (harsh truth) 
Now I am not saying that every horse should go in a loose ring double jointed snaffle, that's simply not practical for every discipline or every horse. I am encouraging you to be thoughtful in your bitting choices, use leverage bits correctly, with two reins or roundings and a curb strap where ever possible.  Just WHY?!

Always remember that many issues behind present in the mouth, if you are having trouble start in the hind quarter and work forward. The tongue is connected to the hind quarter through a series of muscles. A number of horses I see as a bit fitter don't actually have an issue with their bit, but are tight or sore behind. 

Like the majority of tack and artificial aids most bits (and bitless bridles!) have their place in the world when used correctly, double bridles included. In order for the horse to want to carry itself forward in a correct manner it needs to have a level of trust in it's bit, for this the bit needs to be comfortable in it's mouth. 

In order for us to retain our social license to use horses in sport, there needs to be a high level of welfare maintained. This absolutely includes bitting choices. 

I challenge you as an equestrian and horse lover to make this change, research your bitting choices and make changes where you need so we can continue the sport we love. Are you a saddlery that sells bits? I encourage you to take a hard look at your stock and make some choices. 

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