Premature PS: If you're looking for a serious discussion of this topic, hop on over to Austen's blog. If you like snark, ms paint masterpieces, and have your popcorn ready, keep on reading.
There's an article going around right now about yet another petition to allow bitless dressage, which at present isn't allowed in competition by any credible organization anywhere in the world. This is fairly unusual--the only other thing people are as united against is child porn, but let's not think too hard about that.
Instead let's think about dressage. It's done by people on horses.
This is a person.
|this cool person has a top hat|
Next, a HUUUUUUUGE component of dressage is having the horse "on the bit".
|pictured: not on the bit|
Why? Because dressage isn't a series of party tricks performed in a big top tent for a paying crowd. It's an art, a dance even, where two separate entities together become something more than either one is on their own. A person doing dressage without a horse is just an idiot in a tail coat and a horse doing dressage without a person is out of control.
|and you thought i was a one-trick pony|
That's why it's not piaffe when your OTTB inverts and jigs. That's inverting and jigging. There's no connection (whaaaaaaat it works on so many levels)(all puns intended).
So let's circle back around to that first part.
There's a reason "bull in a china store" isn't a pleasant descriptor of dance or dressage. Think about it. The horse outweighs you by a factor of 10. Human biology is such that even if we can lift 10x our body weight, it's not a pleasant, graceful, melding of two entities. It's raw, Neanderthal-esque brutality.
And I'm not saying that to piss on Neanderthals--they surely serve(d?) a mighty purpose, just that purpose wasn't horse dancing.
|this chap does not have a top hat|
A bit is the Colt .45 of the old west (God didn't make all men equal--Mr Colt did. C'mon. Keep up.). Because we puny humans are exponentially smaller and weaker than our equine partners, we need a way to be in balance with them that doesn't involve sheer 1:1 force, because given the simple physics of human vs. equine size, that force is and must be unreasonable to both human and horse.
In simple fact: a bit is not a device to allow humans to muscle horses around. A bit instead permits two-way communication between two partners whose two separate balance points have become one single point.
A bit is the lifeline of communication. A bit allows us to whisper straight to the horse's mouth without all that trouble of shouting at it's face like an asshole.
|top hat doesn't make it a good idea|
Now yeah, a few of you are going to get up in my face and MY HORSE CAN BALANCE WITHOUT MY HELP JUST FINE AND I CAN BALANCE WITHOUT HIM AND THE BRIDLE IS JUST FOR STEERING YOU MEANIE PANTS BLOGGER YOU.
To which I say:
1) If you're not part of the balance, maybe you need to reconsider what the hell you're doing up there. But. Who am I to judge your very majikul konnektion and yes that was three ks figure it out.
2) The number of people who believe they don't need a bridle vs the number of people who actually don't need a bridle is a scary, scary number. Of ALL the accomplished equestrians I know across all the disciplines, I can think of 1 person who I would trust in public (you know, like at shows, which is what we're talking about) without a bridle and that person told me in no uncertain terms that in her mind, riding without a bridle is stupid because of the vast capacity for things to go wrong. You think your bridle is for steering. I think you're a dumbass. I guess that's as far as it gets.
And to clarify--I'm not hating on riding at home in a halter or hackamore or whatever scary-ass bitless leverage contraption you've strapped on your horse's head. Do whatever the hell you want. I'm just saying that at shows, your logic is invalid. The level playing field is predicated on all of us actually trying to achieve the same thing. So like. Go ahead. Be a champion of head-down-nose-tucked-in, but just don't do it at tense-inverted-jigging show if you want to win.
Ok internet. Go nuts.