Articles 2002 - 2004


Bigger Bits Vs The Horse  [2004] Cathie Hatrick-Anderson.  A Bitless Bridle Instructor (the first one to be appointed) talks you through a simple way to teach your horse to stop.

Twelve Reasons Why a Cost/Benefit Analysis on The Bitless Bridle Show to be an Economic Bargin [2004] Such a title needs no introduction (Unpublished)

A Note on DDSP in the Harness Horse  [2004]   The cross-under bitless bridle is indicated for harness racing and there are good reasons why it should: Be safer than the traditional equipment Prevent dorsal displacement of the soft palate (‘choking-up’) Improve performance A prototype has been developed and awaits trial. The stewards of harness racing will not be asked to sanction the equipment until experience of its use has been gained. (Unpublished)

Going Bitless - Witless or Wise?   [2004]   By Ruth Field.   My thoroughbred mare, started late, never accepted the bit, even on a loose rein. She reefed, pulled, violently shook her head and sometimes her whole body. She struck out with her forelegs, went hollow, wouldn’t halt, refused to turn right and sometimes left. She didn’t like circles, she HATED transitions, and don’t even dare suggest a leg yield. Maybe if I’d been more consistent with strong half halts, she would have got over it, but ask me to start putting on that sort of pressure and I turn to jelly. Something inside says, "If this is what you have to do to train this mare successfully - give up. Because you don’t have what it takes." The problems disappeared in June 2002. Just like that. Gone. Literally overnight - never to return. They simply disappeared when I switched to the Bitless Bridle." (Published in Hoofbeats Australia)

Bitless Bridle in Competition   [2004]  By Claudia Garner.   Advice on how to submit a rule change proposal to the USEF. As the author indicates, the actual wording of the proposal is simple. The only change to this advice would be to insert ‘and the cross-under bitless bridle’ rather than the proprietary term mentioned. A six-word change to the rule is all that is needed. (Unpublished but made available by the author for anyone who rides in a bitless bridle)

Please discuss your opinion regarding the use of Harsh Bits, Draw Reins and Martingales/Tie-Downs  [2004]  A short question often needs a long answer, if the question is to be answered with the necessary evidence to support the opinion. This particular question was posed by a journalist preparing an article on the topic. Dr.Cook’s 3,700 word answer explains why, in his opinion, all three devices are often inhumane, unnecessary, counter-productive and contra-indicated. (Unpublished)

How Does it Work?: A two-minute demonstration  [2004]  A passer-by at a Trade Show will often pause for a moment at our booth and ask this question. Knowing that their attention span is limited, Dr.Cook developed the following spiel to accompany a hands-on demonstration of the bridle fitted to a mannequin of a horse’s head. The demonstration part of the spiel (the explanation about steering and stopping) can be accomplished in about two minutes. It is often sufficient, by itself, to change the mind of the most hard-bitten skeptic. (Unpublished)

Horseshoes Totally Indefensible  [2004]   A veterinary journal published a series of articles about the barefoot movement. Dr. Cook’s further contribution to the debate started as follows: "’All really new ideas’ said Alfred North Whitehead, ‘have a certain aspect of foolishness when they are first proposed. Similarly, an old medical adage warns, ‘Today’s nonsense is tomorrow’s common sense.’…The number of barefoot horses is going to increase, because this enlightened equestrian movement is not going to fade away. A veterinarian should be unsurprised to learn that, if horses are not imprisoned for 23 hours out of 24, and if their feet are not permanently clamped in irons, a large number of serious, common, and previously intractable problems can be solved. " … (Published in the Journal of Equine Veterinary Science. See also the earlier article by the same title, published in 2003)

A Bit on Bucking  [2004]   "Apart from bucking caused by sheer high spirits (23/24 confinement, too many oats and too little exercise) a horse that bucks is probably in pain. The pain could be in his back, feet, mouth or elsewhere. But as common things commonly occur, I would put the mouth first (from the bit), the back second (from the sadlle) and the feet third (from the shoes)"… (Unpublished)

Competitions that Permit the use of Dr. Cook's Bitless Bridle  [2004]   By Jasmine Cave.   In January 2004, Jasmine reviewed the equipment rules in the listed websites. She did not review the FEI rules so it should be added that the FEI do not, as of this date (April 2007), permit the cross-under bitless bridle for any disciplines that incorporate a dressage component., i.e, Dressage itself, the dressage phase of Eventing, Para-Equestrian dressage, and all the Driving events. (Unpublished)

Get a Grip  [2003] An article to refute the suggestion that the modern horse needs shoes because selective breeding has changed the shape of the foot. "The foot of the horse is a triumph of engineering. Starting with a four-toed mammal the size of a fox terrier, its design has been shaped by 60 million years of evolution. The one-toed modern horse (equus caballus) evolved about a million years ago. Let’s put aside the first 59 million years of development and reduce the last million to a 24-hour time scale. Within this period, modern man (homo sapiens) did not evolve until about 11.10 pm. He first domesticated the horse around 11.53 pm and did not start nailing iron clamps on its toes until some time after 11.58 pm. Attempts to improve the horse by selective breeding commenced about 17 seconds before midnight. This perspective assures us that the horse’s foot today cannot be markedly different from the unshod foot of horses in the Greek and Roman armies." … (A shortened version of the article was published in the Thoroughbred Times)

Why use a Bitless Bridle?  [2003] A review of Dr. Cook’s "Metal in the Mouth: The abusive effects of bitted bridles" consisting of 30 or more selected excerpts from the book. (Published)

Bit-Induced Pain: A Cause of Fear, Flight, Fight and Facial Neuralgia in the Horse  [2003] An article in English with a summary in German. (Published in Pferdeheilkunde)

Professional Dismissiveness of Equine Barefootedness    [2003] A rebuttal to an article by veterinarians who were "somewhat dismissive regarding the research findings of Dr. Hiltrud Strasser of Germany and her advocacy of the barefoot horse." The final paragraph of Dr. Cook’s article is copied below: "In order to overcome the counter-attraction of medieval technology, the barefoot message will apparently have to be driven home with some energy. All shoes are harmful to the health of the horse. There is no right way to do a wrong thing. The phrases ‘physiological shoeing’ and ‘therapeutic shoeing’ are oxymorons. To nail an iron clamp on a horse’s toe is "murd’rous, bloody, full of blame, savage, extreme, rude, cruel, (and) not to trust." (Published in the Journal of Equine Veterinary Science)

The Bitless Bridle and Advanced Dressage  [2003]  An answer to the question "My trainer is of the opinion that I need to use a bit in order to selectively communicate with different parts of my horse’s mouth and to achieve the more advanced levels of dressage. Does The Bitless bridle provide as much sensitivity in communication as the bit?" (Unpublished)

The Effect of the Bit on the Behaviour of the Horse  [2002] Summary: In a study of behavior, a survey was carried out of 440 written reports from riders who had switched from a bitted bridle to a new design of bitless bridle. Essentially, the comparison was between an invasive and painful method of control (a bitted bridle) and a non-invasive and painless method (a bitless bridle). The unprecedented opportunity to switch a horse, overnight, from bitted to bitless control revealed many new and serious manifestations of the syndrome ‘aversion to the bit.’ The survey demonstrated that the bit is responsible for at least 50 problems. The four most frequently cited effects were to instill fear, to make the horse fight back, to trigger a flight response, and to cause facial neuralgia (headshaking). These and other behavioural effects were associated primarily with oral pain. However, the responses were not limited to the oral cavity, for they included a whole cascade of systemic effects. Predominantly, these involved the nervous system and resulted in adverse behavioral responses (58%). Musculoskeletal system effects interfered with locomotion (26%) and respiratory system effects caused dyspnoea (16%). It was concluded that a bit is harmful to the health and safety of both horse and rider, and an impediment to performance. (Unpublished)

Bit-Induced Asphyxia in the Horse: Elevation and dorsal displacement of the soft palate at exercise [2002] A response to the paper by Dr. Normand Ducharme of Cornell University on "Functional Relationship of Anatomy and DDSP" presented at the World Equine Veterinary Congress and published in J Equine Vet Sci, 2001; 21: 529-530. In outlining a number of possible causes of this problem, Ducharme postulated that DDSP was some sort of disease, as yet unknown. Dr. Cook’s paper pointed out that DDSP is a perfectly normal occurrence in the horse when eating and, though it is abnormal at exercise, it only occurs because a horse in a bitted bridle has a foreign body in its mouth. (Published in the Journal of Equine Veterinary Science)

The Horse's Bit: A Bronze Age anachronism and cause of many an idiopathic problem [2002] An 8000 word paper submitted to the Program Committee of the American Association of Equine Practitioners for the 2002 Convention. The ‘Take Home Message’ was as follows: "A physiological critique of the bit method of control revealed that it was painful, contraindicated, counterproductive, inefficient and unsafe. The traditional bitless methods of control all have their limitations and disadvantages but a new method of bitless control provided a painless, physiologically acceptable, and safer alternative." (Unpublished)

Strasser Hoofcare [2002] A letter to the editor of Equine Journal in response to an article entitled "Professional Farrier Organization: Warning to Horse Owners" (Equine Journal, August 2002, p 32) which provided what appeared to be an endorsement of a press release from Henry Heymering, President of the Guild of Professional Farriers, unfairly criticizing the pioneering research of Dr. Hiltrud Strasser. (Unpublished)

Fear in the Horse  [2002] A letter to the editor of Equus in response to an article on the treatment of fear in the horse. Dr. Cook’s letter was to emphasize the importance of prevention rather than treatment. Riders frighten horses by using bits. In turn, frightened horses frighten riders. Horses ridden in a cross-under bitless bridle become calm and confident and such horses have the same effect on their riders. Riders (Unpublished).

Leave Nothing but Footprints  [2002] "Trail riders might strengthen their case for maintaining their right of access to public lands if they could show that horses are beneficial to such lands rather than harmful"…which they can by going barefoot. (Published in Trail Blazer)

On 'Mouth Irons', 'Hoof Cramps', and the Dawn of the Metal-Free Horse  [2002] A 3000 word article triggered by a book in the rare book collection at the National Sporting Library, Middleburg, VA by a pioneering veterinarian Bracy Clark (1771-1860) who was highly critical of shoes and bits. Dr. Cook’s article is illustrated with drawings by another veterinarian concerned about the welfare of the horse, Edward Mayhew (1813-1868). The article commences: "In one respect, it’s a pity that a horse is not like a pig. When hurt or even when only mildly upset, a pig will let out an ear piercing protest that is impossible to ignore. Unfortunately, horses don’t scream. They suffer in silence and mostly without retaliating. It is only by reading their body language that the suffering can be seen. But if we haven’t learnt their language we remain unaware. Bits and shoes cause pain. In general, the bit causes acute and immediate pain, whereas the shoe causes chronic and delayed pain"… (Published in Natural Horse)

Rule Change  [2002] An early answer to the question, how can the cross-under bitless bridle be used for the dressage phase of eventing? An example of a rule change proposal that was actually submitted is part of the answer. Sadly, the proposal was denied but further proposals should be made, relentlessly. (Unpublished)

Strasser Nomination  [2002] A nomination was also submitted the previous year (see below). Neither of the nominations was successful. (Unpublished)

The 6 F's in Bit  [2002]

Not Snoring but Suffocating   [2002] A letter to the editor of the Thoroughbred Times, in response to an article announcing the development of yet another piece of surgery to cure soft palate problems ("Snoring treatment aids horses"). Dr. Cook’s message can be summarized from the text of his letter. "The evidence shows that this is not a disease but a management problem. To put it bluntly, it is a mismanagement problem and one for which man is responsible. The soft palate is healthy and there is no indication for surgery. The soft palate is not the problem, it’s the bit." (Unpublished)

NoBit is Best  [2002] A letter to the editor following an article about the 16 different bits used in racing. (Published in the Thoroughbred Times)

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