Although bitted bridles have been the conventional method for guiding and controlling ridden horses for up to 6,000 years, they are increasingly the focus of scientific studies investigating their impact on horse welfare. Moreover, there has been a transition towards various forms of unbitted bridles with a corresponding emergence of bitless bridle clubs and associations. The reasons for this, along with the rationale for riders’ bridle choices overall, has never been the subject of scientific enquiry and, therefore, this study is novel. It set out to investigate whether bridle choices were based on four possible motivations – ‘tradition’, ‘rider safety’, ‘horse welfare’ and ‘club rules’ - and whether scientific evidence was available to support these choices. The data obtained from adult Australian equestrians by means of an anonymous, cross-sectional survey showed ‘horse welfare’ had the greatest influence on equestrians’ bridle choices, and that this influence was equally important for both bitted and unbitted bridle users. Respondents were also very influenced by ‘rider safety’ and ‘club rules’ in bridle choice but were unlikely to be influenced by ‘tradition’. Of the four variables, ‘horse welfare’ was the only one that was supported by scientific evidence. This topic polarized respondents in that both bitted and unbitted bridle users questioned the equine welfare implications of the other’s bridle choice. There is a reticence amongst some respondents to acknowledge bits can cause clinical problems regardless of rider experience or when a horse’s flight response is triggered. Club rules were found to discriminate against equestrians who wished to participate in club activities using bitless bridles and the survey results confirm equestrians’ preference to base their bridle choices on scientific evidence.
|Qualification||Master of Science|
|Place of Publication||Australia|
|Publication status||Published - 2020|