Calm, Forward, Straight

Calm, Forward, Straight

Saturday, March 5, 2011

In the Arena #59 - You could have knocked me over with a feather...

The plan was to give Val a few days off from riding so his mouth could heal up, in case there are hurts inside which the bit could affect, that I haven't been able to see. But something came over me at the barn this evening. On a total whim I hooked some reins onto a halter and hopped on, slip on shoes and jeans, with not even the bareback pad. What the heck got into me?

It's not that I didn't believe my trainer who has repeatedly told me that you don't need a bit for control. We discussed bit choices when I first got Val. He was previously ridden in a slow twist. I was worried about switching. I think her exact words were - "A horse can run through a bit made from barbed wire if that's what they want to do." A french link egg butt snaffle has worked out well for us.

It's not that I didn't believe my fellow bloggers who ride bitless primarily - Kacy from All Horse Stuff,  Juliette from honeysuckle faire, Golden the Pony Girl and Kate from A Year with Horses all have great success riding their horses without bits. I have admired them for this choice - I know it must be nicer for our horses not to have a piece of metal in their mouths.

So tonight I took the plunge. And I had steering and brakes from the get go. We wove through the cones and did some turns on the forehand in each direction. It didn't feel any different from riding with a bit actually. The only uncomfortable part was Val's withers without a bareback pad giving me a wither wedgie ;)

I have worked hard to develop soft following hands, and imagine it could take the rest of my riding career to perfect them. However, I also think I need to really get a feel for correct contact with a bit, before spending tons of time riding bitless, especially as far as dressage is concerned. Tonight was mainly about going out of my comfort zone, and getting perspective on what control is and where it comes from. It was super fun - I giggled the entire time.

A note to my trainer - yep, you can still have inside rein-itis without a bit :)


  1. Good for you for going outside your comfort zone even if you did get a "wither wedgie"! That's funny, I'll have to remember that.

    I've never ridden bitless but my daughter has in certain situations. I'm chicken enough not to take a chance. I know they can run through any bit if they want to but for me it's my comfort zone to use a bit. I use a very mild bit with following hands and I don't feel I'm hurting them at all. They don't seem to mind and I feel more secure in sticking to what I'm used to. But good for you for giving it a try.

  2. YOU ROCK!
    Loved the reins on the halter under Vals too-cool-white-hairs-over-dark mane! AWESOME! thanks for the mention too. The box 's lines are becoming open and soft to the eye! Val is such a great one, I am sure he enjoyed that too...sorry for the wedgie poo.

    I have such a traditional sister when it comes to tack..I mean, I have been using the straight bar, mullen mouth, with half spoon for a whole month...( to her glee)I ride bitless yesterday and was so happy with the mare! I told her how she rounded under me as I asked for collection and connnection....
    I just pause at the pommel slightly,apply leg and she is On the bit and under me all the way!(without the bit!)My sister argues that it is a loose jaw thing with a bit, that makes the saying"on the bit". I am begging to differ she is way more "in my hands , and under herself-bitless than with the bit.

    Awesome for your new skill and confidence! Keep it up it is so much fun to read about~

  3. Spur of the moment anything is good :) Obviously your training is paying off and Val is coming along beautifully. Sounds like tons of fun too. A great way to spend time together until you're sure his mouth is healed.

  4. That's so great! Looking back at my rides with Miles, bitted vs. not, he has been so much more relaxed and "safe" bitless. The one time I fell off him (because he was ignoring all my aids) I wonder if it would have been different if he was bitless. Ah well, anyway, glad you had a great ride! Val sounds like such a gem.

  5. Sounds like a lot of fun! I love how our horses and the pony go without the bit. I have gotten in the habit with Keil Bay of alternating between two different bridles with two different bits (one his old eggbutt snaffle, one a loose ring double jointed snaffle with no cavesson) and his bitless bridle. If he doesn't put his head into one, I try another. He seems to like having the choice. :)

    You might also try removing the cavesson from the bridle. That one thing got the biggest reaction from Keil Bay - and I felt the biggest positive change in our riding together.

  6. How cool and fun! you have perked my interest in bitless.

  7. So proud of you and Val! I'm coming around myself and hopefully I'm not too far behind you...

  8. Great job on trying something new! I absolutely agree with your trainer in what they said about the bit could be barbed wire and they can still get away from you if they wanted to.

    I break my horses out in halters and get grief for it all the time from other riders. They always ask, "What are you going to do if that horse gets away from you?" I tell them, if the horse can't be handled in a halter, then I have no business being on them in the first place. If I've done all my groundwork properly and not rushed things, I don't have a single problem riding them in a halter, even on their very first ride :)

  9. Good for you for just going for it. I love moments like that. Am I mistaken or is that a tiny little smile on Val's lips in the last photo?

    My Pie is a nice bareback Sovey is not - Ouch.

  10. Your trainer is right. A bit (despite what all the "experts" at my barn tell me--"just use a twisted wire, that'll control that crazy Thoroughbred") won't do it. They will pick it up in their teeth and run off with you no matter what you toss in their mouth. Of that I'm convinced.

    Bar is actually better behaved when I ride him in just a halter, or at most, the smoothest, gentlest bit I own.

    Why on earth would I give him any more reason to argue with me, right? :)


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