FEI: Allow both bitted and bitless horses to compete in British Dressage

FEI: Allow both bitted and bitless horses to compete in British Dressage

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Narni Brooke-Adil started this petition to Fédération Equestre Internationale and

I'm starting this petition because I have a lovely young mare who I hope to compete to her full potential. My mare just happens to much prefer bitless bridles and works beautifully and quietly without a bit. She works well with a bit too, but shows a lot of tension which comes out as teeth grinding, opening her mouth a lot, head tossing etc. All I want to be able to do is take her to a dressage test and be able to ride it bitless, not HC, as an actual competitor. Why should I have to choose between listening to what my horse is happiest with and compromising our goals? Don't our governing bodies want us to put the welfare and happiness of our horses first?

Under the FEI dressage rule book:

The object of Dressage is the development of the horse into a happy Athlete through harmonious education. As a result, it makes the horse calm, supple, loose and flexible, but also confident, attentive and keen, thus achieving perfect understanding with the athlete.
These qualities are demonstrated by:
• The freedom and regularity of the paces.
• The harmony, lightness and ease of the movements.
• The lightness of the forehand and the engagement of the hindquarters, originating from a lively impulsion.
• The acceptance of the bit, with submissiveness/throughness (Durchlässigkeit) without any tension or resistance.

'A Horse is said to be “on the bit” when the neck is more or less raised and arched according to the stage of training and the extension or collection of the pace, accepting the bridle with a light and consistent soft submissive contact. The head should remain in a steady position, as a rule slightly in front of the vertical, with a supple poll as the highest point of the neck, and no resistance should be offered to the Athlete.'

All of the above can be achieved, if we alter the wording 'acceptance of the bit' to acceptance of the bridle', without putting a bit in the horses mouth.

Bitted horses are currently allowed to compete with flash nose bands and other tack that forces their mouths closed, thus hiding whether they are holding any tension there and whether they are truly in a soft, submissive contact or in a hard, forced one. They are also allowed to compete in bridles that combine both mouth pressure and nose pressure, so the concept of using nose pressure alone in a bitless bridle cannot be used as an excuse as to why they are not allowed. 

Our sport should be governed on one leading principle, the welfare and happiness of our horses. Some horses respond much better to bitless riding and so should be given the chance to fulfil their potential just as much as any bitted horse. By excluding bitless horses and riders from British Dressage competitions you are making the sport inaccessible to hundreds of riders who would otherwise love to be out competing and progressing with their horses. 

Obviously bitless bridles would have to be controlled just as bits are, to avoid overly harsh tack being used. Also, riders that ride bitless are not all extreme anti-bit people, I ride my gelding in a bit because he prefers it, but I believe all horses are different and should be given the option. 

Please update your rules, FEI, so that British Dressage can also broaden its community to bitless riders. We are allowed to compete both BSJA and BE without a bit, riders in other countries such as The Netherlands are allowed to compete without a bit, countless riders have shown that they have control, collection and harmony with their horses without a bit, and we have no objection to competing against bitted horses...so what are you waiting for?!

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