Use of Bosals in 4-h shows

Asked May 8, 2019, 10:27 AM EDT

My niece is showing her horse. He is 18 years old & has always been ridden in a bosal, but since the Iowa 4-h guidelines don't allow bosals to be used in shows at his age, we now must either get him to use a bit or not show him in the performance classes. Is it really worth taking him out of the bosal, which he listens to & respects? I feel that forcing horses to use a bit when they respond better without them, is unfair to the horse & the 4-h exhibitor. Especially if forcing a bit makes the horse unsafe or less comfortable. We will try to find a bit that will work for him, but is there anything that can be done now or in the future to change this rule? Thank you

Wright County Iowa

2 Responses

I am not the assigned expert but I noticed you have not yet been sent a reply.
The Florida 4H State Horse Show rules also require horses older than 5 years old to be shown in a curb, half breed or spade bit. The reasoning is that a hackamore (bosal) is a training device and is appropriate for a young horse. As the horse moves forward in its level of training, advancing to a bit is a logical, natural progression. If the horse respects the bosal, it should be a fairly easy transition to a bit. "Forcing" is not really the concept but rather training to submit to a bit. No matter what is in the horse's mouth or on his nose, proper use of hands is key to the horse remaining supple, compliant, and non-resentful.

Though the competitive nature of horse showing may require this progression, there are many ways your niece can use and enjoy riding her horse in a bosal outside the show ring.

Appreciate that you are investing in your niece and her interest in developing her horsemanship skills.

Saundra is correct in the reasons behind the requirement for a bit in a senior horse. The only classes a horse that age can show in a bosal would be games - poles, barrels etc. For 4-H rules we follow the national AQHA rules in Iowa. If you have further questions email me at