A global survey reveals broad acceptance of bitless bridles among the equestrian community.
The World Bitless Association, a British-based charity that represents the bitless community, has released the findings of its global horse sports training and tack survey for all equestrians.
It was completed by both bitted and bitless riders from all over the world.
Of the 1626 respondents, 93% agreed that horses should be able to compete bitless in all disciplines, with 84% believing strongly that this should be the case.
Just over 76% of participants were strongly concerned and 19% concerned about excessive use of pressure on the head, particularly overtightened nosebands.
Participants were asked if they had concerns about horse welfare concerning riding and training in competition. In all, 61% had strong concerns and 26% had average concerns. This adds up to 87% of survey participants who admitted to concerns around welfare at competitions.
When asked if they felt that welfare would be improved by allowing bit-free horses to compete alongside bitted horses, 88% of participants said yes.
Just over 88% of participants felt that evidence-based, horse-friendly benign training was crucial for optimum horse welfare.
The association’s operations manager, Jo Richardson, said the results pointed to an improving general attitude within the global equestrian community toward the use of bitless bridles.
The overwhelming number of respondents who felt that bitless horses should be able to compete on equal terms, and who felt that horse welfare would be improved by allowing bitless horses to compete, represented a massive step forward, she said.
It showed that riders are concerned about ethical training and competing, she said.
“We can take this information forward to the FEI and National Federations as proof that equestrians across the world want to improve horse welfare including a choice that allows them to use the bridle their horse is happiest in, rather than the one the rules state they must use.”
The majority of survey participants were women aged over 21.
Respondents comprised competition and leisure riders, as well as equine professionals. Those who took the survey lived in Africa, the Americas, Asia, Oceania and Europe.
Those who took the survey were asked if they competed and, if so, whether they competed bitless or bitted:
- Dressage: 35% bitless
- Driving: 31% bitless
- Endurance: 90% bitless
- Eventing: 38% bitless
- Reining: 61% bitless
- Showjumping: 58% bitless
- Vaulting: 50% bitless
- Trec: 80% bitless
- Equifeel: 100% bitless
- Horseball: 80% bitless
- Hunter Trials: 53% bitless
- Polo: 14% bitless
- Pony Games: 66% bitless
- Showing (Ridden/ In-hand): 58% bitless
- Western Equitation: 68% bitless
- Other disciplines: 79% bitless
Of the 651 non-competitive survey participants, 69% of respondents said they rode bitless.
The association lobbies for rule changes with equestrian federations around the world. It believes in equality for bitted and bit-free horses.
It held its first World Bitless Horse Day in 2019, and followed it with another on September 5 this year. The survey was held in conjunction with the day.