A recent study in to the benefits of bitless versus bitted bridles has caused a lot of controversy.
Mainly due to the methodology of the study, it seems to be the result of people filling in questionnaires about their horses behaviour before and after switching to a bitless bridle.
This is the article – https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/eve.12916
Anecdotal experiences are often useful in sociological research but are they useful in this type of research?
The replies to the questionnaires were implying a correlation between bits and the behavioural problems – it is not proof that the bit was the cause.
Other factors are that we don’t know how the horses transitioned to going bitless, were they ridden differently, did the training method change e.g from using negative reinforcement to using positive reinforcement?
Did some horses have some other underlying problems unrelated to being ridden in a bitted bridle that changed coincidentally at the same time they were transitioned to bitless?
It says 53 had fear of the bit – so the rest did not, was there a difference in the fearful horses reactions to bitless to that of the fear free horses?
There is research about the damage caused by harsh bit use so I am not suggesting bits are needed or that they don’t cause some problems with incorrect use, but neither am I suggesting that bitless bridles are the answers to behavioural problems.
Also problematic is the use of only one type of bitless bridle. I know from personal experience that my pony didn’t like this particular bridle type – but that is not saying it is detrimental to all horses as my cob loved his.
Another thought is that correlation is not the same as causation.