Measuring Pain and Distress caused from horse bits

A Method for Measuring Bit-induced Pain and Distress in the Ridden Horse


English: Description: Western style bitless br...
English: Description: Western style bitless bridle Source: The Bitless Bridle Author: Dr. Robert Cook FRCVS, PhD Permission: Dr. Cook releases the image into the public domain. See the discussion page. Attribution is requested. Permission has been sent to the OTRS. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


By the 19th and 20th centuries, when racing jurisdictions and the FEI first drew up competition rules for many disciplines, the horse’s bit had been in daily use since the Bronze Age. As a result, the bit was ‘grandfathered-in’ and no questions were asked. In racing, dressage, and some other disciplines, the bit was made mandatory as it was taken for granted that this common device was also effective. But the fact is that the bit’s time-hallowed status had never been tested.


In July 2013 this changed when Dr. Robert Cook presented the results of the first numerical evaluation of the bit. Data from riders who completed a questionnaire and recorded the improved behavior and performance of 56 horses when switched from bit to bitless seriously questions the validity of the bit. The number of unwanted behaviors in each horse when bitted ranged from 5 to 60 with a median of 32. The number when bitless ranged from zero to 16 with a median of 2. Not less than 94% of unwanted behaviors were caused by the bit.


To read the abstract, text and discussion of Cook’s paper “A Method for Measuring Bit-induced Pain and Distress in the Ridden Horse”, presented at the 2013 conference of the International Society of Equitation Science go to this PDF file:








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