SPANA vets treat countless injuries resulting from painful bridles and bits at our centres. For such a simple piece of kit, it has the potential to create a vast array of difficulties for working animals if it isn’t right. Read about how simple bridle and bit swaps, plus better education about how to fit a bridle, change the lives of working animals all over the world.
There are dozens of types of bridles used by horse owners across the world; from the functional to the ceremonial, from the basic to the most ornate. In areas such as Central Asia and the Middle East, bridles can be a source of pride for horse owners, signifying the worth of the animal and the great deal of care it is given.
Horse bridles are made up of several individual parts, include a headstall, cheek pieces, and noseband that sit flat across the forehead, cheeks, and nose of a horse. In the UK, bridles are a common piece of equipment that come in at a range of prices – from the simple and affordable, to fancier, more expensive tack. A SPANA vet shows an owner how to fit more comfortable bits But in many countries where SPANA works, owners do not have the money to afford even basic bits, bridles, and equipment. Across SPANA’s core countries in Africa and the Middle East it can be very difficult and expensive to find bridles designed for the delicate skin of the horse’s head and bits that are gentle on the tongue and mouth.
Often the only option for owners is to make bridles and bits out of rope, plastic and even metal. Not only can the straps of these makeshift bridles rub and create irritation, but the bits can cut in to the delicate skin of the mouth, causing infection and excruciating pain. In extreme cases, sharp wire can even be embedded into skin and be very difficult to remove from the animal’s mouth.
SPANA is combating the issue with its bit exchange program, swapping owners’ rusted, painful wire bits for smoother snaffle bits and repairing or replacing old bridles with softer materials.
Such a simple change can stop a lot of serious and even potentially fatal skin infections from developing. What’s more, horses, donkeys, and mules benefit from less strain on their necks and back and a much more comfortable working life.
Baruti was brought to our Botswana centre, led by a rope halter and rusted wire bit that was starting to cut deeply in to the sides of the donkey’s mouth. His owner had done his best to treat the wounds but every time he took Baruti out with him to transport goods to market, he had no choice but to use the only equipment he had and the donkey’s wounds could not heal. SPANA vets gently applied ointment to Baruti’s sensitive skin, repaired the rope harness with softer material, and gave his owner a smooth new snaffle bit to sit comfortably in the donkey’s mouth. Now, despite the long hours spent helping his owner, Baruti is not in constant pain and distress.