8.26.2010

Bitless: Why I do it...

This horse is notoriously heavy on the fore...
now successfully doing Bitless and Bridless collection
In my journey through Horsemanship and Training, I have come to look for better ways to communicate with my horse with equipment and without. The more skilled I have become the less reliant on equipment I have become.
I always used what I'd call "cheap" western Side Pulls from time to time in my training in the past but wasn't into them enough to convert completely. I hadn't found one that compared with my fine english bridle quality. I also was able to ride in halters, leather and rope, but found them a bit sloppy and imprecise for more than a fun hack around some slightly higher level work. Mechanical Hackamores were to me as aggressive if not more then some bits with bicycle chain and wire wrapped with leather in some designs.
When I found the Buckaroo Leather Side Pull and then went on to design the Padded version with John Brand, I had no idea this bridle would become my go to training piece of equipment until I had it in my hand and kept going back to no matter what type of horse I was riding.
I use it on soft horses, heavy strong horses, young horses, jumpers, dressage horses, western horses and more. I don't care if the horse is green or advanced I still use it.
Of course I still use bits because unfortunately, some competitions wont allow you not too, but hopefully that will change soon. I don't feel I need a bit at all though. Give me enough time with a horse and I can get him to ride beautifully in a Side Pull. Let me reiterate "TIME". It took me time to get the heavy pullers riding nicely in the Side Pull but I took that time as opposed to taking the easy way out and going to bigger bits and gadgets. I took the Time to teach them to be more supple, more balanced and strong through proper work and fitness.
Which leads me to another very interesting point. In my conversion of many horses to Bitless for training, I made a discovery about a common problem. Horses opening their mouths during training with the bit. I discovered that mouth opening had more to do will lack of suppleness in the Poll and being on the forehand then it had to do with the bit! How did I find this out? Well while training some known mouth openers with bits, Once I switched them to bitless guess what? When they were struggling with suppleness, unbalanced or both, They opened their mouth with NO BIT. When they were stiff in their body and poll, They opened their mouth regardless of whether they had the bit or not.
What does this mean? To me it means that the Poll and jaw are connected (not a new discovery in training) but why are we working on the jaw when the problem is originating in the Poll and body?
Hence back to why I use a Side Pull bitless bridles and Neck straps (Corderos). They allow me to talk directly to the body parts I need to without interfering with other body parts and possibly even DISTRACTING the horse from the area that needs focus. I'm not saying there are not dental problems and bitting issues that can arise from the mouth, but I am saying you can find out if you try a bitless bridle and in fact it may be the answer to horses with dental and mouth issues. Just like when I want to see if the saddle is compromising the horses desire to perform. I ride him bareback or with a bareback pad. If he rides fine, then I know the saddle is a problem. More oats for thought from yours truly and my two cents. Also, Don't miss an opportunity to get one of these beautiful bitless bridles right now in my Bridle Shop!