The opinions expressed in previous entries may or may not express the current opinion of the author.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Unscientific Survey About Bits

A horsey catalog arrived in the mail the other day. These used to be Aladdin's caves of treasures to me, and I would drool and pore over them, mentally spending money I didn't possess and coveting item after item. The attraction has diminished considerably in the last couple of years, as I've come to realize that the horses really don't set any store by all this stuff. However, in a moment of idleness, I was leafing through the catalog, and it struck me that a lot of the horses who were modeling the equipment looked less than beatific.

It further struck me that it was the horses wearing bits who looked the most unhappy. So I performed the above-mentioned Unscientific, Unrepresentative Survey of the horses in this catalog.

There were 62 horses depicted whose images were large/clear enough that one could form an opinion of their state of mind.

Of the 26 wearing bits, two looked relaxed, 11 looked neutral or ambiguous, and 14 looked stressed.

Of the 36 not wearing bits, 16 looked relaxed, 19 looked neutral or ambiguous, and one looked stressed (that one was galloping).

I tried to give the benefit of the doubt in both directions. In other words, if I wasn't quite certain whether a bitted horse looked stressed, I'd call it neutral; and if I wasn't totally sure that an unbitted horse looked relaxed, I called it neutral.

The stress appeared as tension in the face and neck, and also in the eyes as a kind of introverted, sad expression.

Three of our horses are bitless. But the fourth seems to like his bit quite well. He is not a horse to put up with things, and yet he reaches for his bit. But next time I put it on him, I'll be sure to look long and hard at his facial expression.

I will perform another unscientific survey the next time a catalog arrives.

P.S. Note to any family members reading: Please do not take any of the above to signify that a gift certificate to Dover would not be entirely welcome.


  1. Very interesting, I often do the same when I watch movies with lots of horses, I count the horses that have their mouths open (a sure sign of bit related stress - a horse in a field never galops with an open mouth!) There is nothing that you can do in a bit that can't be done bitless. I would never ride a horse of mine in a bit again

    1. What's also curious is that whoever put together the catalog thought that it would be a good idea to advertise the products by means of anxious, sad-looking models. What if the girl modeling the jodhpurs was scowling, or if the blonde woman in the polo shirt had tears trickling down her cheek? It would be weird and jarring, and not good for sales. And yet a few years ago, I myself never noticed that the horse models weren't all happy.

  2. That is an interesting exercise. I find that if I am looking at an equestrian magazine, I look for horse expressions first more than I used to. (And feet of course.) I also find I am looking at u-tubes much more critically recently. Beautiful music and slow motion can present a specific picture and set a mood, whereas if I turn off the sound and imagine the action speeded up I see it quite differently.