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Owners of horses and ponies ridden in bitless showing bridles will have the opportunity to compete for £500 in their very own classes this summer, as show Equifest (8-12 August) becomes the first UK championships to provide bitless-only flat and working hunter classes.

Sheffield-based Rachel Stock, owner and found of Bitless Showing UK, has been in talks with several showing societies about the possibility of allowing bitless competitors and is delighted that Equifest has agreed to add two bitless ridden classes to their 2018 schedule.

Rachel’s own bitless journey began several years ago, when she had a string of horses who were unable to take a bit.

“I had an Arab who developed a benign lump on his tongue which meant he couldn’t be bitted, so I decided to try a bitless bridle and it solved our problem,” she said. “We then had a hack who had bad teeth, and also preferred the bitless approach.

“We had managed to get permissions from smaller shows and in 2014, we approached Equifest to see if we could take compete our hack there, and they agreed.”

“In 2015, I started Bitless Showing UK and ever since I’ve been working with show societies to try and get bitless combinations the necessary permissions to compete — it’s been a struggle as it’s hard to cement the thinking that we’re not about hackamores or rope halters at all — it’s traditional showing, just with no bit.

“We use traditional leather bridles, which from a distance, look like normal cavessons and blend in with the rest of the tack.”

The classes will run on the Friday (10 August) at the annual show, on the East of England showground and each winner will receive £500. Both are to be judged like normal open showing classes, and will be run under the Bitless Showing UK rules, as below:

  • No English or German hackamores
  • No Bosals
  • No rope halters/rope bridles
  • No chains, spikes, or pulley systems
  • No crank nosebands
  • No long shanks
  • No bridles with rings on the front of the noseband
  • No Micklems (for 2018)
  • No bulky leather/synthetic treeless saddles that aren’t intended for showing
  • Thorn, Zoe Snape etc pads acceptable as are other traditional-looking treeless saddles
  • No hoof boots. Either barefoot or shod
  • No remedial shoes
  • The same tack to be used in the class as used in the warm-up
  • No training aids or gadgets to be used on the showground
  • Traditional turnout of horse and rider, to breed or type
  • Traditional looking tack only

Rachel added: “We’ve had to provide good prize money and sashes to try and drum up the interest — we want top quality show horses to come forward and compete.

“The reason behind these classes is to provide an outlet for show horses who don’t like a bit — lots of super horses end up turned away if they can’t go in one, but sponsorship will hopefully get some established show riders and top-class horses on board, who will compete bitless for the prizes. We hope this will prove we’re not about hoof boots, treeless saddles and clunky tack.”

Betsy Branyan, Equifest’s show director said: “I was approached by Rachel asking if we could consider hosting bitless classes, and as Equifest is keen to put on new events, we decided to trial it this year. Bitless brides are growing in popularity and with all the new bits and gadgets on the market today, we thought it would be interesting to go the other way, and see if riders would give it a go — perhaps they may find that it can all be done without a strong bit.

“It’s early days, but the reception on social media has been really positive, so we’re excited to see how it goes.”

For more information visit the Equifest website.

For all the latest equestrian news and reports, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday.

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