Riding problems Dependence from Bit and Bridle Contents

3880 words (16 pages) Essay

1st Jan 1970 Psychology Reference this

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INTRODUCTION

No studies have yet been published to quantify the difference in ridden behavior of a horse when bitted compared with bitless and bridless, though some studies of bit influence to the horse were available (Quick and Warren-Smith, 2009; Cook, 2008, Isakov, 2006 ) .

The experiment tested the null hypothesis that if a horse is ridden in a bitted bridle and then again without bit and bridle there will be no change in its behavior

As a result of work already completed (Cook 1999; Isakov, 2006) it was predicted that there would be a change. Furthermore, it was predicted that behavior would improve dramatically when riding bitless (Cook 2003, 2007a-c).

The primary objective of the experiment was to demonstrate that most of riding behavioral problems and vices are caused by bit and bridle.

The secondary objective was to measure the behavior of six horses when ridden, first in a jointed snaffle bridle and then without it.

The third objective was to demonstrate how a horse reacts when first switched from a bitted bridle to no bridle.

The author introduced the experiment and answered questions when it was over but otherwise took no part.

3 MATERIALS AND METHODS

Six horses were provided for the experiment. These were riding school horses of various ages, types and riding problems (Table 1), all of them were chosen due to their “extraordinary” bad riding behavior (vices).

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These horses had been used for riding throughout the day, ridden in bitted bridles. None of the horses had ever been ridden without bit and bridle. The experiment was scheduled as the last event of the day, in a time slot of 20 minutes.

Every of six horses were ridden first in a bitted bridle (jointed snaffle) and then, immediately after, without bridle. Six certified riding instructors (equivalent to Grade 3 or above), volunteered to ride the experimental horses. Every instructor rode one horse given to him by random drawing for 10 minutes with bit and then 10 minutes without bit.

Table 1: Six horses being tested in the study.

Ref #

Name of horse

Age in years

Breed or type

Sex

Main riding behavior problems reported by the horse owner and observed during bitted riding test

1

Ovod

10

Thoroughbred x Hanover

gelding

Disobedience; unable to stand still; anxiety; Failure to slow or stop; stiff through head & neck.

Bit evasion: Behind the bit or running through the bit. A horse that has the bit between its teeth too often.

2

Rachel

8

Ukraine

gelding

Starts ride well but gets more resistant later; becoming over-excited when collection is required; prancing and rushing when required to walk or back-up. Going into reverse in response to a forward cue.

Bit evasion: Crossing jaws, opening the mouth, behind the bit.

3

Dudka

10

Budiunniy

mare

Lack of obedience; no submissiveness; bucking, snatching, head shaking.

Bit evasion: Tongue-over-the-bit and tongue out, Open mouth, so “required” strong nose band

4

Vasya

12

Toriyskay

(1/3 draft horse blood)

gelding

Rubbing-off the rider; stumbling and clumsiness; Lack of slowing down: Failure to respond to the aids; heavy on the forehand.

Bit evasion: Grabbing the bit, Leaning on the bit Teeth grinding; against the bit.

5

Barbusin

9

thoroughbred

stallion

Over-Excitement; rushing forwards; bolting, napping; rearing as a response to rains.

Bit evasion: Overbent; leaning on the bit; nervous catching of Reins, bit cheek pieces and martingale; tongue out and over the bit , not a second of quiet mouth and tongue during the lesson.

6

Adler

7

Terskiy ( arab x)

gelding

Rearing; ‘Head tossing’ and ‘trigeminal neuralgia’; on the forehand; no coordination of the gait; tends to ‘rush,’ especially at the canter.

Bit evasion:, above the bit, headshaking, snatching the rains

The only criterion to evaluate was overall behavior of horses.

Each of the exercise tests were scored, on a scale from one to ten, by the horse owner and two independent judges whom the author had not known before the experiment.

Each horse completed two identical exercise tests which includes usual schooling work of the horses. Both tests were staged consecutively so that any differences in behavior would be most apparent to the delegates. The tests were timed to take 10 minutes so each horse was observed for a total period of about 20 minutes. All the tests took place in the same covered arena, under similar environmental conditions.

One judge was a Certified a Grade 4 Riding Instructor, and a member of Russian FEI Judging Association with 20 years experience of judging dressage and other classes. Second Judge was an experienced trainer and teacher of the School who trained the horses participated in experiments for years. Following standard horse show protocol, the judges stationed themselves at letter ‘C’ in the arena. Horse owners scored their horses separately from judges in other spot of the arena.

Both judges were provided by the specially prepared table where they graded the performances and put down their scores and comments. A stopwatch, a timekeeper called out the different phases of the test.

4 RESULTS

The behavior (performance) of all six horses exhibited a marked improvement when bitless compared with bitted. The improvement was reflected quantitatively in the scores (Tables 2, 3 and Fig. 1). The average score when bitted was 1.9 and, when bitless 8.9. Percentage improvement in scores from bitted to bitless ranged from 120% to 650%, with an average of 370%.

Such an improvement in performance achieved in the first 10 minutes’ experience of the bitless riding suggests that the jointed snaffle bridle was an impediment to the performance of these six horses. The improvement also demonstrated that five of the six horses experienced no if any behavioral problems during bitless riding which let the author to suggest that the cause of bad behavior of these horses were bit and bridle. Horse #4 showed some riding problems being bitless which probably connected with back pain. None of the horses or riders had problems when switching from a snaffle bridle to no bridle.

Table 2. Score sheet. The judge’s comments and scores are shown for six Horses.

Main Riding Behavior problems reported by the horse owner and observed during bitted riding test

Main behavior problems and features during bitless riding (all judges opinion summarized)

Judge1 score

Judge 2 score

Judge 3 score (horse owner)

bit

No bit

bit

No bit

bit

No bit

1

Disobedience; unable to stand still; anxiety; Failure to slow or stop; stiff through head & neck.

Bit evasion: Behind the bit or running through the bit. A horse that has the bit between its teeth too often.

Able o stand still, easy to stop,

Calm closed mouth

2

9

3

10

2

9

2

Starts ride well but gets more resistant later; becoming over-excitement when collection is required; prancing and rushing when required to walk or backing-up. Going into reverse in response to a forward cue.

Bit evasion: Crossing jaws, opening the mouth, behind the bit.

No resistance, no excitement, no rushing and prancing

Calm closed mouth

3

10

2

10

4

10

3

Lack of obedience; no submissiveness; bucking, snatching , headshaking.

Bit evasion: Tongue-over-the-bit and tongue out, Open mouth, so “required” strong noseband

No bucking, no submissiveness, no full obedience,

No headshaking

Calm closed mouth

1

10

1

10

2

10

4

Rubbing-off the rider; stumbling and clumsiness; Lack of slowing down : Failure to respond to the aids; heavy on the forehand.

Bit evasion: Grabbing the bit, Leaning on the bit Teeth grinding; against the bit.

Rubbing off the rider, stumbling and clumsiness, not easy to communicate

Calm closed mouth

2

4

3

6

1

3

5

Over-Excitement; rushing forwards; bolting, napping; rearing as a response to rains.

Bit evasion: Overbent; leaning on the bit; nervous catching of Reins, bit cheek pieces and martingale; tongue out and over the bit; no one second of quiet mouth and tongue during the lesson.

No excitement and rushing forwards, no rearing, napping and bolting, no holding of ammunition and breast biting.

Calm closed mouth

1

10

2

10

1

10

6

Rearing; ‘Head tossing’ and ‘trigeminal neuralgia’ ; on the forehand; no coordination of the gait; tends to ‘rush,’ especially at the canter.

Bit evasion:, above the bit, headshaking, snatching the rains

No rearing, no rushing, normal coordination of gait

No signs of trigeminal neuralgia

Calm closed mouth

2

10

1

9

1

10

Statistical analysis of results

Table 3. Averaged scores of the six horses

A

B

C

D

ARef #

Bitted, according 3 judges

Bitless, according 3 judges

% Improvement, according 3 judges

1

7

28

300

2

9

30

230

3

4

30

650

4

6

13

120

5

4

30

650

6

4

29

630

Total

34

160

Average

1.9

8.9

370

percentage

19

89

Table 3. Showing in columns B and C the averaged scores of the six horses, when bitted and when bitless, for the each test as judged on a scale of ten by 3 peoples. Column D shows the degree of improvement, expressed as a percentage, whenthe bit was removed. The bottom row shows the combined percentage scores of all six horses and the marked improvement from 19% to 89% when the bit was removed.

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Fig 1: Chart based on data in table 3, showing the improvement in behaviour test scores when bitless

5 DISCUSSION

Although in-depth statistical analysis is not possible in the experiment, the distribution test gives a very strong evidence to suggest that the results are not random. This calculation assumes that events are independent, i.e. the performance in the exercise is not affected by performance in the preceding one. It is not known for certain that this assumption holds, though for the reasons given below it seems likely. Regardless of that, the strength of the finding provides sufficient evidence to warrant further investigation on a larger sample size allowing more robust statistical analysis.

5.1. Interpretation of results

Five of six horses showed very high percentage of improvement in behavior while being bitless. They all had no any signs of riding vices, which they demonstrated while being bitted, their mouths were calm and closed. No bit evasion is possible if the horse is not bitted.

Horse #5 has maximum improvement of 650%. None of riding vices such as rearing and nervousness were demonstrated during the test by this horse. One horse – #4 showed improvement in behavior demonstrating calm closed mouth but carried on with “Rubbing off” the rider and with stumbling. These signs allow the author to suggest that other reasons such as back pain, wrong saddling and hoof imbalance were the reasons for such behavior. Anyway, the average improvement in horse #4 was 120%, while average improvement of all six horses was 370%.

It was found that all six horses showed only improvement in behavior and no deterioration during the bitless test.

The possibility that the improved behavior could be attributed to the greater familiarity of the horses with the exercise test on the second occasion and not to the removal of bridle is considered unlikely. Such an explanation is not consistent with horses’ continued improvement during riding without bit and bridle (NHERC, 2008).

Similarly, the possibility that improved behavior could be attributed to the horses being better warmed-up can be refuted on the grounds that these horses had been fully warmed-up at the time of the first bitted test, which took place at the end of the day’s program. Their performance during previous 45 min on the program had shown nothing but deterioration as the lesson continued, so it was not to be expected that a sudden, substantial improvement in performance would occur late in the lesson.

Fatigue as an explanation for improved behavior has been considered but in man fatigue increases the frequency of error and irritation and it seems unlikely that horses are any different (Cook 2009). In effect, that, when bitless, all six horses were more willing and alert than when bitted.

5.2. Critique of Experimental Protocol and suggestions on the improvements

At first glance, some aspects of the protocol might appear to be weak but the presence of witnesses balanced strengths. Nevertheless, the study design can be improved. In the hope that others will repeat such experiments, some suggestions can be made.

A similar protocol could be applied to a larger number of horses, with additional judges and for a longer test period. To avoid bias it would help if the judges (and even the riders) were unaware of whether a horse was bitted or bitless.

Bitted and bitless tests for the same horse need not be consecutive. As long as each test was identified with a number, some horses could be ridden bitless before the bitted test. The order of the tests can be random.

Many variations on the general theme are possible. For example, riders could be novices or professionals, and the bitted bridle could carry a leverage bit instead of a snaffle. The exercise test used on this occasion was a test of basic training but similar studies could use a more advanced dressage test: jumping, driving, or barrel racing test … in fact a test based on just about any discipline.

A video recording can assist in the future study of the research. It should be even obligatory for such experiments for possibility to discuss the scores of the Judges.

5.3. Results of experiment in relation to other bit-related studies already known.

Pain and discomfort caused by rein pressure are always sharper and more extreme than pain in its back, neck or legs. Horse will obey this pain and a person who causes it. But doing more complicated actions provokes serious resistance, because these actions come in conflict with the myological and physiological nature of a horse (Lascov, 1997, Cook 2006). Removing the cause of pain (snaffle bit in the experiment) removes the ‘vices’ which absolutely correlate with the findings of previous studies of Dr. Cook and Isacov & Sysoev.

A barbaric invention of the bronze century, yet still being used in spite of the fact that veterinary science has already passed its verdict against it.

It would be incorrect to declare that the base of Equine sport is in pain application as some sort of discovery in equine science. Aside from works and researches made by professors Cook, McGreevy, Warren, Skinner and others, there are also quite a number of mature works that are credible by Russian scientists, that obviously describe influence of using bit to the horse.

Dr. Laskov declared the «great destructive effect of bits on the mouth cavity of a horse» and also about its effect on the horse’s neurological system, and finally about blows inflicted by the bit in his study «The horse training for the Olympic equine sports». He found that the horse has «an extremely sensitive mouth surface» and «Pain irritators – bit – instantly turn on general starting mechanisms of protectively-adaptive reactions in a nervous-reflectory way».

Dr. Laskov identified that «even short term pain irritations considerably change the reflective activity of spinal cord and condition-reflex of the large hemisphere brain activity».

In the same time with the reference to symptoms, Laskov agrees to the use of these powerful pain irritators for “achieving better results”. He explained his point: «Strong pain irritator should not be used on a day to day basis or as regular techniques in order to make a horse jump. It can be applied but only in case of developing or perfecting conditional reflexes of a horse».

Laskov also describes the typical behavior of a horse during the competitions: «Before a jump horses’ breathing gets intense, more frequent, and more shallow than usual. Judging by those symptoms, it mirrors identical breathing patterns exhibited at moments when the entire nervous system anticipates action resulting in severe pain» (Laskov, 1997). Such examples clearly demonstrate that FEI, Equine Science and veterinary were well aware of the pain caused by using bit at least in 1997, and they find it acceptable and allow its application up to now.

The results of the present study are consistent with the findings of Dr. Cook, that the bit is a cause of well over a hundred behavioral problems (Cook 2007c). Collectively, these constitute clinical signs of 40 different diseases (Cook 2007b). Use of a bitted rein-aid can inflict pain and frighten a horse (Cook 2007 a-c). Pain and fear are incompatible with well-controlled ridden or driven exercise. In addition, the bit triggers inappropriate digestive system reflexes that are incompatible with the physiology of exercise (Cook 2007). Specifically, use of the bit results in salivation, movement of the tongue and jaw, and obstruction of the nasopharyngeal and laryngeal airway (Cook, 1999, 2003), (NHERC,2006). Bit-induced pain, fear and physiological confusion are in the author’s experience, the cause of many accidents, some of which are fatal (e.g., bolting, bucking and rearing).

First serious research of the bit pressure was carried out by Isakov, NHERC in 2006. It was found that neither age nor physical condition of the rider can be taken into consideration when bit is used. The leverage system of reins and design of bit enables everyone, a 13-year old boy as well as a 23-year old girl or even a 43-year old adult (control group), to achieve practically identical effects and identical force (Isakov, Sisoev, 2006).

Certainly, there was a slight difference, but it was not significant. It mainly depends on age and force of person using these methods and varies within 20 to 25 kg per sq cm with a jerk action, and within 5 to 8 kg with a standard rein stretch. To summarize, jerks of the first and second type of technique have been thoroughly tested and gave the most stunning results (300 kg per sq. cm of a horse’s mouth) and they are the ones which are the most frequently and widely used in Equine Sport. It was found and confirmed by scientific research protocols and expertise that horseman applies these methods from 5 to 30 times during each training session or competition (NHERC, 2006). Even if the pull/jerk was five times weaker it would still inevitably cause the most severe pain, and even at 3 times its effect on any living tissues would still be equal to ruthless pain shock.

To communicate painlessly, safely and effectively using a rod of steel in the horse’s mouth is a skill that even a master horseman can not achieve. Even at the Olympic level of equestrian sport, a rider using a bit often transmits a signal that has quite the opposite effect to the one intended. As a result of the unintentional (and needless) infliction of pain, dangerous reactions on the horse part can be precipitated. Lacking an independent seat, children and novices rarely have the skill to use a bit either safely or humanely and neither does the average horseman. Its use results too often in miscommunication, loss of control and injury to horse and rider (Cook, 2008).

5.4. Non-compliance of equestrian sport rules with the welfare and safety of horse and law

One or even two bits are mandatory for any dressage event at pony club competitions worldwide and for dressage events run by national equestrian federations. These organizations ‘follow’ but also determine the rules of the FEI. Bits are also mandatory for show hunter and hunter jumper events. Similarly, at least one bit is required for flat racing and steeplechasing. Two bits or more are considered appropriate for harness racing, together with many other restraining devices. As riders continued to experience problems with the bit, additional devices have been sanctioned by equestrian organizations. Tongue-ties are approved and widely used in all forms of racing and a variety of constricting nosebands are approved for dressage and other disciplines..

Cruelty is defined as the infliction of unnecessary (avoidable) pain or distress (Cook 2002). As the pain of a bit is now scientifically proved fact, the continued use of a bit could be construed as an act of cruelty. Under the new Animal Welfare Act (2006) in the UK, a rider who uses a bitted bridle could be vulnerable to a summons. Similarly, a veterinary surgeon who fails to recognize the clinical signs of bit-induced pain and distress could be criticized for vocational unfitness and subject to persecution. Veterinarians who serve on welfare and safety committees giving advice to equestrian organizations have an obligation to be on the side of the horse and rebel against FEI rules.

6 CONCLUSION AND RCOMMENDATIONS

The null hypothesis was refuted and predictions upheld.

Experimental horses all showed improvement in behavior being bitless, no one showed deterioration or no positive changes. These results correlate with studies of other researchers. Horsemen must not use the bit because horses suffer from it. Other reasons could be summarized under the headings of physiology, welfare, safety, ethology, ethics and even economy (Cook, 2008).

It is clear that using no bit and bridle and equine sport are incompatible. This incompatibility should rise the question of right of Equine sport and racing to exist in the 21st century. Humanism and science which we like to be proud of do not correlate with bit cruelty in equine sport. Further study in regard to bit cruelty, whips and others aids used in Equine sport should be carried out and brought to public attention in collaboration of scientists with media.

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