This is a collection of scientific studies on bits and bitless riding. Please contact us to submit a new study.

Horse Behavior Resources

Original Article:

Further Information On Friendship Training by Chuck

“I always recommends to prospective students a preliminary if not greater in-depth understanding of equine culture and normal herd dynamics in their natural environment that can only be gained from equine research scientists and ethologists (NOT the anecdotal musings of ‘trainers’). As you continue through the Levels, various other reading/study requirements are strongly recommended in addition to the required study curriculum. more »

Leave a response »

Man Bites Horse

Originally posted on

Paschel: Dr. Cook, some people call you “the father of bitless riding” but would it be more accurate to call you a researcher on the bit and bitless riding?

Cook: Yes. Bitless riding was first discovered by pioneers about six thousand years ago. They probably first used a noose around the neck (today’s neck strap) and then a simple halter. In time, the bitless approach led to the bosal, hackamore and sidepull; all of which are less painful methods of communication than the Bronze Age bit. The word ‘bit’ comes from the Anglo-Saxon ’bite’ but horses don’t need to be bitten to respond to a rein-aid. They can feel a fly landing on their face – touch is enough. Pain is overkill and a barrier to partnership.
My contribution to equine welfare and rider safety has been to ask the question, ‘What does a bit do to a horse?” Realizing, late in my career, that a bitted bridle was the cause of avoidable pain and accidents, I developed a more humane and safer alternative.

Paschel: As bits are depicted on old Greek vases, has man gone astray for centuries? more »

Leave a response »

Head and Neck Position’s Effects on Horse Behavior Studied

Head and Neck Position's Effects on Horse Behavior StudiedResearchers identified more behavioral signs of discomfort in horses when their heads were held behind the vertical compared to when horses carried a “normal” head and neck position.Photo: Erica Larson, News Editor

The question of whether or not certain head and neck positions make horses uncomfortable has received a lot of attention and research, but has anyone asked the horse? That’s what a team of German equitation scientists set out to do–sort of. more »

Leave a response »

Are Bits “Bronze Age” Technology?

An article by Carley Sparks, published in the June edition of Horse Sport magazine. The article as pdf can be found here:

Leave a response »

The effects of the bit

Leave a response »

Dr. Robert Cook: Damage By The Bit to the Equine Interdental Space and Second Lower Premolar [2011]

This is the pre-peer-review version of the following article: “Damage By The Bit to the Equine Interdental Space and Second Lower Premolar” published in Equine Veterinary Education, 23, 355-360, 2011.

The pdf document can be found under

Leave a response »
« Page 1 »
2 comments on “Science
  1. Lori Dullnig-Warlen says:

    My daughters and I have been riding Bareback and Bitless for nearly 8 years now. We love it. We have been looking for organizations that will “allow” us to ride/show/compete without a bit. We tried Extreme Cowboy Races (EXCA) with Craig Cameron. Craig was fine with to concept it was extreme riding and showed great horsemanship but once we qualified for the World Championships, things changed and the judges became split on their opinion on if they should allow us to ride bitless. The quote from Bill Cameron (lead judge)on their Facebook page “…it is a beautiful thing to see a hunk of metal in a horses mouth and see them preform …” He was against us riding bitless. We did not do well at World. We have since quit that organization and have found some schooling shows that will allow us to show bitless. We have been very successful placing in the top places in english, western and trail classes. The bigger shows still follow the rules which require a bit.
    What has been done to try and allow bitless as an option in shows?
    We got into an open pinto show and was DQ’d because no bit but later they made a new class for us to ride bitless. We were competing against each other then they said the insurance company would not allow them to allow bitless.
    There are a few Trail competitions that are allowing us to compete bitless. Not sure if we are being judged differently yet, but we are competing and placing.
    I would love to hear more about how we can help change the show rules and peoples fear of bitless riding.
    If someone needs a BIT to stop a 1000# horse they need to get off that horse.

  2. Jim says:

    It takes a long time to change horse people’s minds (or anyone’s for that matter). German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer said, “All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as self-evident.”

    All we can do is hang in there and keep carrying the torch forward.

    The only competition I know of that allows bitless riding is the American Horsewoman’s Challenge.

Leave a Reply