I sometimes hear the phrase, ‘It’s amazing that you ride bitless’. Then; your horses must be very quiet, you must be a great rider, you must be an experienced horse trainer and then; how do you stop your horse?, I could never do that my horse is way too hot/forward/fast/naughty, isn’t it dangerous?, I’d love to go bitless but I could never control my horse without a bit and other well-meaning comments. Some people think that to ride a horse without a bit is something only for the elite few, for extremely experienced horse people with perfect horses.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m not an Olympic rider and my horses are far from perfect. The truth is that going bitless is very easy. Here’s an example, recently my husband and I were in Colombia. We were staying with family and went to the family farm high up in the Andes. The only way to get there was by horseback. It involved a 3 hour ride on some of the most adventurous mountain trails I’ve ever seen. My husband loves horses but is not an experienced rider. We were to ride horses that had only been ridden with bits. I’d taken some bitless bridles with me and put one on my husband’s horse. I asked her to yield to the side twice then my inexperienced and slightly scared husband climbed on board and rode her up the mountain. She didn’t put a hoof wrong. She climbed, trotted and cantered with full responses to the rein aids by an inexperienced rider.
In the above example the situation was safer with a bitless than a bit because if he’d inadvertently jabbed her in the mouth with a bit, it may have caused her to lose her balance. Some of those tracks were on the edge of cliffs! It is much safer for beginner and inexperienced riders to use a bitless bridle. The full control is there and the horse is calm.
Another example is a green broke brumby I used to ride at work. He would react to things in the environment, and because I was working I had to correct him instantly. Every time this happened he would then be toey and hot for the rest of the ride. I started riding him in the bitless, to which he transferred instantly. He still reacted to things and I still had to correct him, but he would be calm and easy to ride straight after. The effect was amazing; this was one of the many experiences that convinced me about the safety of the bitless bridle.
The above two examples both result in a safer ride but for different reasons. With the first it was a lack of rider skill that made the bitless safer and in the second example the lack of horse skill. These are two situations where many people think you must have a bit, but I now believe the total opposite. If the rider or the horse is inexperienced, then a bitless bridle is a much safer option that a bit.
In my years of introducing the bitless bridle to numerous horses, I have learnt a few things. One is that most horses transition to the bitless bridle instantly and effortlessly. The other is that the riders take a bit longer. The horses seem able to embrace the change instantly, while the riders hang on to the old idea that you need a bit to control a horse. This has been shown to be incorrect over and over but it is still engrained into the minds of children when they are learning to ride. After years and years of hearing this it becomes difficult to dislodge.
One way it's been described is with the phrase, ‘You have a better horse than you think'. Without the bit the horse relaxes and listens. This makes every horse easier to ride. It’s not amazing, it’s easy!
Suzy Maloney B.Eq.Sc.
Happy Horses Bitless
Lismore, NSW, Australia
Ph: 0401 249 263
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