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!


Product Review: Horsethink Bareback pad

I am always on the lookout for great products for my own training programs. When I find them, I want to share them with you so you can make informed purchases in a sea of products.
This review is on the Horsethink.com Bareback pad. I LOVE this pad! It has all the features I wanted in bareback pad but didn't know until I found it. This pad has a non-slip rubber waffle underside which fixes the problem a lot of cheaper pads have of sliding. It has a felt inner pad which cushions you and your horse and breathes and wicks moisture. It has a quality suede top which is grippy and secure. There is a hand hold for those "uh oh" moments. And last but not least it has english billets which you can select your own dressage short girth to use with. This is Huge! I have long been frustrated by these fluffy nylon bareback pads with poor cinch and girth adjustments. It seems they only fit a certain size horse and you can't quite get them tightened properly. A safety issue. It also makes less bulk under you leg. I give this pad a 10 out of 10 even though it is a bit more money then some pads at $160.00, You get what you pay for in quality, value, safety and fun!

Yours truly bridless and bareback with my pad on Mercury



Clear Communication is a very important and often overlooked part of our relationship with our horses. When I am working with a horse young or old, I am always trying to build a conversation with him while I'm introducing a new task.
Communication to me is made up of several things. It starts with a clear idea in my head or setting my intention. Then I think carefully about my body language, verbal cues or tools I will use and the clear precise way I will use them. Another important piece is giving you and your horse time to read and respond to each other. And how much energy you are going to need. So if I make a request, I need to make sure I am clear and wait to see what my horses response will be. If he responds well, I can positively reinforce the response with praise, a release, or food, If I don't get any response, or the horse offers something other then what I requested, I can decide how I want to proceed after that. I may also make the task easier or simpler if I feel that is the problem.
A problem I often see is people moving too quickly with their cues and body language without thinking and bombarding their horse with too many signals. One of two things happens then, The horse is confused and doesn't know what to respond to first or they get desensitized to the language seeing it as "noise" or chatter.
It is important to break exercises into very small parts and build on and positively reinforce the smallest positive effort. You will engage your horse and create a willing participant who will seek out the next task with enthusiasm and interest.
Ask yourself if you have taken the time to be clear yourself before you make a request to your horse and get frustrated with his response. Also, take time before you ask for each thing and ask for them one at a time increasing the difficulty as your horse gains confidence and going back to an easier exercise if need be. Ignore any "wrong" answers as long as they are not dangerous, rude or disrespectful. Focus only on the positive reactions your horse gives. You will see you sessions together get better and better.