Preliminary investigations of horses' (Equus caballus) responses to bitted and bitless bridles during foundation training

Jessica S Quick, Amanda Warren-Smith

Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperConference paper

Abstract

Preliminary investigations of horses' (Equus caballus) responses to bitted and bitless bridles during foundation trainingJessica S Quick1 and Amanda K Warren-Smith2*1Faculty of Rural Management, University of Sydney, PO Box 883, Orange, NSW, 2800, Australia2*Faculty of Science, Charles Sturt University, PO Box 883, Orange, NSW, 2800, Australia; awarrensmith@csu.edu.auAbstract Traditionally, bridles have been the primary mechanism for controlling the ridden horse. Normally, these bridles will contain a metal bit, designed to apply pressure to various locations within the horse's mouth, which is a highly sensitive site. Despite the near universal use and acceptance of bitted bridles by riders, debate continues as to whether the presence of the bit is required for the effective training of horses. In response, bridles that do not require a bit have been made available, although the effectiveness of bitless bridles on horses has not been previously examined scientifically. Therefore, the current study measured behavioural and cardiac responses of horses (n=8) undergoing foundation training wearing either a bitted or bitless bridle. Measures were recorded during three stages of training; bridling, long-reining and riding. There was no difference in heart rate between the groups during any of the training stages. However, the horses wearing the bitless bridle had lower heart rate variability when long-reining (P=0.035), indicating that they were experiencing less stress than those wearing the bitted bridle. During all stages of training the horses wearing a bitted bridle exhibited more chewing (P<0.001), head nodding (P<0.001), opening of the mouth (P<0.001), pawing the ground (P=0.009) and rubbing their noses on the ground (P<0.001) than those horses wearing a bitless bridle. The horses that had the bitless bridle were more likely to maintain a steady head carriage, a desirable response in most performance horses. Accordingly, the data indicate that there maysome benefits to both horse and rider in terms of communication, safety, performance and welfare in using bitless bridles and that further work with larger numbers of horses using bitless bridles in a range of disciplines should be conducted to establish further advantages.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInternational Equitation Science Conference
EditorsJack Murphy
Place of PublicationWexford
PublisherUCD
Pages42
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2008
EventInternational Equitation Science Conference - Dublin, Ireland
Duration: 01 Aug 200804 Aug 2008

Conference

ConferenceInternational Equitation Science Conference
CountryIreland
Period01/08/0804/08/08

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