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US rule-makers reviewing proposals to allow bitless dressage

A proposal to allow bitless bridles in dressage competitions in the US is being discussed by rule-makers.

The proposal was put forward on sporting fairness and welfare grounds by several riders whose horses can no longer be bitted owing to dental reasons. The call has been supported in writing by the World Bitless Association (WBA).

A WBA spokesman told H&H that it commissioned a survey in 2020, seeking feedback from equestrians with regards to rules allowing modern bitless bridles in competition, plus some welfare issues.

“The results were extremely encouraging,” said the spokesman. “Over 1,500 participants from around the world want to see significant rule changes or enforcement of the existing rules.
“In short nine out of 10 equestrians [who took part in the survey] want to see bitless [permitted] in all horse sport.”

A US Equestrian (USEF) spokesman told H&H the proposal is “moving through the review process”.
A decision is expected by the end of June, at the latest.

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“Each year USEF receives numerous proposals for rule changes submitted by members, USEF senior staff, federation committees and councils, affiliates, and the federation’s officers,” said the spokesman.

“The proposals are reviewed by members, committees, councils, and affiliates before being presented to the USEF board of directors for consideration.

“If approved by the board, the changes are incorporated into the USEF rulebook in accordance with their effective date, and the updated version of the rulebook is posted on the USEF website.

“Specifically, sport-related rule change proposals and/or revisions are submitted for board discussion and approval by the international disciplines and the national breeds and disciplines councils.

“This specific proposal is currently moving through the review process, which begins at the sport committee level.

“As the national discipline affiliate, the United States Dressage Federation is given the opportunity to provide additional feedback on the proposal.

“From the committee level, the proposal will then move to the international disciplines council for further discussion before ultimately being decided upon by the USEF board of directors in June 2021.”

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