Ban thorn bits: Protect horses - Miss Sukanya Kadian
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1. What are thorn bits?
Thorn bits are bits with many “thorns” or spikes protruding from the part of the bit that goes inside the mouth of a horse. Some thorn bits have very sharp spikes, others round. Some spikes are long, others small. Thorn bits are made of metal and often rust. They are used in Marwari, Kathiawari, Sindhi or any other breed of “desi” horses. They are manufactured in rural places of India, used rurally, sold and used at the horse fairs too.
We might guess a horse is having a thorn bit when:
The bit is having double rings on each side (typical of “desi” bits),
The horse is having foam on the mouth, pink foam (saliva mixed with blood) due to the mouth cuts inflicted by the bit or even plain blood stains in the corners of the mouth,
The horse opens widely his/her mouth when the reins are pulled (to try avoiding the pain),
The horse keeps his / her head high while ridden (to try escaping from the bit as it causes pain).
The horse is doing “rewaal chal” gait (amble) (often “rewaal chal” is achieved through pain).
2. Why are they used?
Indian and Pakistani farmers use thorn bits because they want to “control” and “dominate” the horses fast, they want immediate results in training, for which they inflict pain, instead of training the horses with patience and rewarding them. They are blind to horses’ suffering and lack equestrian knowledge. Those people are used to thorn bits since childhood, thus they do not question the cruelty of the thorn bits.
Note: After some time, the horse develops scars in the mouth, thus becoming less sensitive to the bit and the riders pulls even harder or uses a harsher bit and it goes on.
3. What damage it does?
When the rider pulls the reins, the thorns of the bit cut the horse’s lips and sometimes his / her tongue, giving great pain and injuring the horse.
As the horse lifts the head and neck in pain, he/she hollows the back and lowers the hips, which strains the backbone muscles from neck to tail and the legs causing pain and often joints/muscles issues. (The rider sitting on the loins adds even more pressure and pain).
As thorn bits are a torture instrument injuring the horse and causing him / her pain, the horse becomes scared of humans, is said to be hot-blooded, and when ridden, the horse lifts the head high making it impossible to perform equestrian disciplines like dressage, even when the thorn bit is replaced by a smooth bit. The horse has become useless for higher equestrian activities for life.
4. What do trainers in developed countries use:
Actually, India and Pakistan are the only countries using thorn bits. Everywhere else the bits are smooth, with no “thorns” or spikes protruding and injuring the mouth of a horse. Foreigner horsemen/horsewomen seeing the Indian thorn bits are horrified. They never had seen them before.
The bit is a means to communicate with the horse. If you want a calm, responsive and balanced horse, you must do not inflict pain, you should use a smooth bit or a bitless bridle. If you want subtleness, the aids applied must be subtle too. Thorn bits are cruel devices that create pain and tension in the horses.
Naresh Kadian, Rep. of OIPA in India
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