Dr. David Mellor, a leading animal welfare expert at Massey University in New Zealand, shared his research at the University of Guelph lecture regarding how bit use can impact equine breathing during exercise and what this means for equine welfare.
One of the first topics he covered was bit-induced pain, explaining that horses tend to open their mouths to deal with it. Especially during intense exercise, this makes it harder for them to breathe; in fact, a horse’s mouth actually needs to be closed for optimal breathing. When closed, the mouth creates a negative pressure which is maintained through swallowing and keeps the soft palate from blocking the nasopharynx. If the mouth is open and the pressure is disrupted, the soft palate blocks the pharynx and causes breathlessness which can in turn impact the horse’s performance.
Mellor also presented research on animal welfare, including the Five Freedoms and a “Life Worth Living” which is based on the concept of providing animals with opportunities to have positive experiences.
To read the rest of this article, with links to Mellor’s research, click here.