Equestrians Should Stop The Bit Vs. Bitless Debate

Can We PLEASE Stop The Bit Vs. Bitless Fight?

Debating is more than OK, but calling your fellow equestrians cruel or stupid for using basic equipment isn't civil or even close to participating in a fair debate.

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A fair debate isn't free of emotion.

It is more than OK to be passionate about whatever subject you defend or try to prove, but I have found with this particular "debate" is that it isn't a debate at all. It's a straight-up fight to the death that rarely ends in more educated opinions.

Instead, it more often is a fight that ends in leaving the victim who is "called-out" with a feeling of inadequacy as an equestrian.

I am not talking about the equestrians who jerk harshly on the bit or bitless bridle for more control, I am talking about the equestrians who are genuinely riding humanely but are called cruel and abusive for merely using a bit even though their horse is obviously plopping along content and listening well enough to their rider and handler.

Since these offenders do not have the brass to say such rude things in real life this bullying often happens online, but even though many adults know these offenders are not worth the time, it is the young and impressionable riders that already train under a professional who are the real victims of this fight. Young and impressionable riders who are doing just fine the way they are, but are bombarded by both popular social media accounts making videos and posts ridiculing either side of the debate and also the fans of these accounts.

And as someone who is an advocate for both bitless and bitted training, I see the fault on both sides of the argument.

I not only see fault on both sides, but I also see very uneducated opinions, quick accusations and over-the-top guilt tripping. It is to the point where it is overly excessive and causing equestrians to feel afraid to post about their riding on social media, even though they are honestly doing quite well for their skill level.

I understand completely, that if you are going to post your riding on social media, you need to be prepared for critique whether you are a beginner or an expert. There will always be someone that will not be satisfied by someone else's skills when they're watching it from a distance through a computer screen without fear of real consequences from the things they say.

However, as I said, it is excessive how much fighting there is about this subject online. It is never necessary to call someone a bad person just because they are using a bit, which seems to happen more and more frequently.

Again, I am an advocate for both, but I see riders who use bitless bridles religiously starting these fights and often using the fact the horse is bitted as a reason for things such as bucking, rearing, bolting, etc. When these riders tell them, no, that is not a reason their horse has problem areas, these riders are then called cruel and abusive even when they are using something as simple as a smooth snaffle while having soft hands.

And like I said earlier, the fault is not solely placed on the bitless side of the fight. I also see good equestrians who prefer bitless genuinely asking people online why they use the bits that they use out of pure curiosity but are attacked unprompted by whomever they are asking.

Like it or not — no matter what side you are on — bitless bridles and bits both have a place in training, and both types of equipment have a full spectrum of how much control the equipment is asking from the horse.

Yes, even bitless options ask for control from the horse, and if your reason for hating people you don't know simply for using a bit because "bitless isn't controlling over a horse's free will." I have some really bad news for you. No matter what type of equipment you use to ride a horse, riding in and of itself is asking for control over a horse. Even a horse's social hierarchy with their herdmates asks for control over each other.

A lot of the fight is about which one is better, and usually, people use studies done on bits versus bitless to back up their claims on both sides. However, the very few scientific studies that have been done, use incredibly small sample sizes. Most of these studies do not exceed over twenty horses, a study done by W. R. Cook and D. S. Mills only used four horses in their study. To give some perspective on how inaccurate of a study that is, normal case studies use sample sizes made up of thousands of individuals coming from multiple backgrounds.

The magnitude of the sample size determines the amount of information the study produces, which brings up another important point. Not every professional produces accurate results.

So do your research and be critical of the people that produce that research. Do not depend on large social media accounts to influence everything you believe you know, especially when certain social media accounts make it their goal to ridicule people for using basic equipment. Use common sense and be kind.

Educate yourself and learn about who you are taking in information from.

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Why An Athlete Is Not Defined By Their Level

Pressure can drive athletes crazy.
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With tryout season among us, it is so important that this be addressed before the teams for this upcoming year are formed. So many athletes that tryout, don't make the team they want and either quit to "take a year off" or jump ship to a gym that promises them to place the athlete on a higher level. I know that every athlete wants to be on level 5 team, the division is the most prestigious of all of them, especially because going to worlds is the end game for most athletes. The problem these days in the cheerleading world, is that our athletes are trying to level up at a rate that is just not quite realistic. If an athlete is on a level 1 team the chances of her being on level 4 next year is slim. It is necessary for athletes to experience each level for at least a year to learn all of the fundamentals of the level and build on them for their foundation as an athlete to be more concrete. This produces the best athlete possible.

A lot of athletes think that all that they need to jump levels is tumbling and that is just not the case. When teams are formed, coaches take a look at many different things, these qualities include but are not limited to: mental toughness, dedication, tumbling, stunting abilities, pace of learning, dance and attitude. Contrary to popular belief, there are so many factors that go into forming a team. This team not only has to be suitable for individual athletes but putting a team together is like a puzzle and as coaches we have to put a team together that will work well and have all the necessary percentages of skills to be competitive in their division.

We are concerned about building well-rounded athletes, not an athlete that is only capable in one facet of cheerleading. Some athletes are great level 4 tumblers, but have level 2 stunt ability and those two will not equal a level 4 athlete until we boost the stunting ability of said athlete. Putting an athlete on a team to just tumble is doing a disservice to not just the team, but also the athletes themselves. If this athlete joins a level 4 team to just tumble all year, when their tumbling progresses to that of a level 5 athlete, they will still have level 2 stunting skills and won't be put to good use when they are level 5 eligible. A well-rounded athlete is the kind of athlete that wins worlds.

SEE ALSO: To The Coach That Took My Confidence Away

When athletes take their time and learn their level, they are not just learning completely new skills each year, but building on them. If done correctly, each year an athlete should improve on all points of cheerleading and not just one. The rules in each level lead to progressions for the level that it directly follows, so that athletes can safely learn skills by going up the ladder one step at a time. What most don't realize is that skipping steps is such an unnecessary practice. If Susie stays on level 2 for an extra year, she is not "learning nothing", she is improving on the skills that she didn't quite execute completely the year before, this will perfect her performance in this level and give a more solid foundation for her to build on when she is on a level 3 team.

Pressure can drive athletes crazy. Parents, your athletes have so many years ahead of them to be on a level 5 team and go to worlds, so pushing for a 10 year old, that is just not ready, to be on a level 4 team is unreasonable. Let your 10-year-old learn maturity and mental toughness at a level that is more appropriate, when your athlete is pushing herself too hard it takes the fun out of the tryout process and creates unnecessary stress on the athletes. Lastly, please be sure to support whatever decision your coaches make for your athlete's placement, they know your child and they are not trying to hurt their pride, but build them up so they can accomplish all of their goals as an athlete. Know that the level your kid makes this year doesn't define him or her as an athlete, but helps them grow into the cheerleader they have the ability to become!

Cover Image Credit: National Cheerleaders Association

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Tiger Is Back And 2019 Is Starting To Look Up

Tiger Woods might now have the greatest comeback story in sports history.

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It's no secret that Tiger Woods means a lot to the game of golf. I wrote about his influence back in September when he achieved his one and only tournament win in 2018, first since 2013. I did, however, celebrate his win with a caveat of sorts: I wouldn't say he was back.

In golf, no one cares about how big your prize purse is, how many endorsements you've got or even how many tournaments you win. A golfer's career is measured by how many Majors they win. So for me, I couldn't claim Tiger was back until he secured at least one more Major victory before he decided to hang up the clubs for good.

But now, with a Masters championship under his belt and another green jacket to hang in the closet, I can safely say without a doubt in my mind that Tiger is back.

The biggest question with Tiger was whether or not he could carry the momentum from his Tour Championship into the Masters. Tiger has gotten our hopes up before, but things felt different the moment Tiger claimed that first tournament win in what felt like forever.

And honestly, there's no better way for the world's biggest golfer than in the world's biggest tournament. The "Tiger Effect" is very real, and the numbers are there to prove it. Despite having to tee off early for the final round with threesomes instead of duos to avoid storms, the Masters still delivered incredibly high TV ratings as Tiger played his way into contention the past few days. According to CBS, the final round of the Masters delivered a 7.7 rating which is the highest it's been in 34 years. I'll never forget where I was when Tiger won his fifth green jacket, and I'm certainly not alone in saying that.

So what does this mean for Tiger's legacy? For one, the argument of "can Tiger win another major before he retires" can finally be put to rest. I'm not a huge fan of the talking heads in the sports industry, but watching this video of the slue of bad Tiger takes just brings a smile to my face. It also resurfaces the Jack Nicklaus debate as the greatest golfer of all time. Having now secured his 15th Major win, breaking Nicklaus' record at 18 Major wins seems entirely possible. Statistically, Tiger winning another Major is not outside of the realm of possibility. Julius Boros was the oldest player to win a Major at 48, so Tiger at 43 theoretically gives him another five years. One thing's for sure, the entire sports world will be watching.

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