A Simple Snaffle

When this picture ran across Face Book as a wild fire, I thought “awesome. We need more awareness that riding your horse, without teaching it to endure pain, is not allowed in professional riding.” Which is, of course, completely insane.


But, then I read the comments, and to my surprise, most people- riders, horse-people that is,- felt that it was only bleeding heart activists who thought that all horses could be ridden in a cordeo. In fact, most seems to be of the opinion that not all horses can be ridden in a snaffle bit.

I am truly saddened by that. The ignorance it displays, when someone who should know and understand horses, thinks that some horses are just too strong for an ordinary snaffle… I am lacking words, really.

I know. Some horses has been taught to ignore the bit. Take school horses, for instance. They have been ridden 4 hours a day, having kids hang on to the reins to not fall off. They have been taught to endure pain, and ignore it, and riding them and getting a good response on a snaffle, can be really hard. Maybe even impossible, if the abuse has been going on for long enough.

Is that the kind of horses we want to see in the world elite? Is that how we want our professional riders to ride? Teaching the horses to endure pain?

That is what the federations wants, I have that in writing, from the Danish Equestrian Federation.

My horse is a stress induced headshaker, and the noseband bothers him more than it does other horses. Let us be clear here, the noseband bothers all horses, tight or lose, but some of the more sensitive ones, find it nearly unbearable. I asked for permission to show my horse, in a dressage competition, without the noseband, thereby avoiding forcing him to endure unnecessary pain, which should always be the goal, according to the federations own guide lines.

I was told that if my horse can’t wear a noseband, he is not fit to compete.

I was told too, that the noseband serves no purpose, the only reason why he has to wear it, is because it is tradition.

I have that in writing.

Now, I believe that most of us know where the noseband origins from. Still, for those of you who doesn’t, here goes. It was created for the hunters, because it is such a wild sport, and when horses fall on their faces, they tend to open their mouths, taking the blow to their teeth, thereby breaking their jaw. To solve that problem, the noseband was invented, to prevent the horse from opening his mouth when he fell on his face, thus saving him from breaking his jaw.

And now, it’s tradition.

One could argue that a sport that has a problem like horses, falling on their faces, needs revising, not just extra equipment, but sadly, that is how most problems are solved within the federations.

We all know how the noseband is used these days, though. Even though it says so in the federations guidelines, (which is why they have to tell me that it serves no purpose,) that the noseband has to be loose enough for two fingers to fit under it, most nosebands are tied so hard that the horse cannot open his mouth. One could ask why a dressage horse would need that? Is there a chance that he will fall on his face, and break his jaw, while doing a pirouette? And if so, is he really well trained enough to compete in dressage at all?

Or could it be, that without the noseband, the double bit would be hard to use? Without the noseband, the horses would open their mouths when they felt pain. It would be obvious to everyone, the judges, the audience, even those who doesn’t know anything about horses, that the horse was being tortured by the bit.

I know, this post wasn’t about my crusade against nosebands. But it could easily fix most of the problems in the sport, if the noseband was banned, and since the federations themselves claims that it is only there because of tradition, it would hardly be a problem, would it?

Add to that, ban the double bits. Make all horses go on a snaffle. Those who can’t, are simply not well trained enough to compete. Somewhere, somehow, along the line of those horses education, someone has gone wrong. I will agree, a horse like this one, so well trained in the art of ignoring and enduring pain; he probably can’t go on a snaffle anymore.


But really, he doesn’t belong in the sport. This is not sport. This is not the art of riding, of training your animal to perform for you. This is torture, plain and simple, and you don’t even need to remove the noseband for this horse to tell you. Just look at the blue shade of his tongue.

This is not, or it should not be, world elite riding. This should be shamed and forbidden by law, not left up to the federations to judge.

Imagine treating an elephant in the circus like this. Think the audience would cheer?  Or a dog? How fast would you be hauled to court for animal abuse, if you did this to any other animal?


So no, not all horses can go on a snaffle bit. But those who can’t, are truly not fit to compete.

Unless the competition is not in show jumping, not in dressage, not in showing a well trained horse. If the true competition is teaching your horse to work while suffering, then sure. But that is a very different competition, if you ask me, one that should be legislated against.

Any well trained horse should be able to perform in both show jumping and dressage, without the noseband and on an ordinary snaffle bit. That should be the goal for the sport. And yes, we should allow those wanting to train their horses even better, and lose the bridle altogether. The only reason why we don’t, is because it makes it too obvious how badly most horses are ridden and trained. If everyone has to wear the same amount of torture devices, it will leave out people who wants to do better, and it will make it easier for the judges to award those who torture their horses the most, without having to compare them to actually well ridden horses.

The FEI even states that if the horses are not wearing a bit, they cannot show submission, and  therefore they cannot be allowed to compete, because how can the judges judge that?

That sentence is just as wrong as when horse-people try to state that not all horses can go on a snaffle bit.

I don’t know, when my horse is not wearing a bit, he shows “submission” or love, if you will, by not running off and killing me, when he has every chance to do so, if he wanted to. He displays his training and our relationship.

(I am not a perfect rider, please don’t get me wrong, but these pictures sure is quite a contrast.) 


So does these horses. Quite clearly. Display their training and their relationship with their riders.



This is our world elite.



Submissive? Oh yes. Congratulations.



Let me just say it one more time. The only reasons why some horses can’t go on a simple snaffle, is because their training is lacking, or has at some point, been abusive. In an ideal world elite, showing only the best of the best riders, it should be easily possible to ban the noseband and any other bit than the snaffle.

Then the competition would go back to being about understanding and caring for the animal, not teaching it to endure and work through as much pain as possible.

Thumbs up to Switzerland though, for banning the drawrein. Fingers crossed that every other country will dare to follow. That was long, long overdue.


About Starstone

-Owned by horses. Writer, Photographer, Director, Musician.
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5 Responses to A Simple Snaffle

  1. saraannon says:

    Reblogged this on sara annon and commented:
    For those who may not understand why I am pushing riders to self-educate themselves, here is a window into whats wrong with the horse industry today

  2. saraannon says:

    just read a study on crank nosebands that measured increased temperatures in the horse’s eyes as well as elevated levels of cortisol indicating stress. All those horses with wrinkles and sweat over their eyes… they are measurably overheating the actual eyeball.

  3. Starstone says:

    Well, people are setting up studies to prove or disprove if race horses feel pain when beaten…. Clearly, compassion, empathy and simple reason is not for everyone. Some people needs the obvious proven, I guess…

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