How To Go Bitless
Going bitless is relatively straightforward and is no more difficult then getting used to wearing a new pair of shoes. Having said that we are all different and even this seemingly simple task will be tackled in a diverse set of ways.
Some of us will be so excited, pull the shoes out of the box, put them on straightaway and think nothing more of it. Others will plunge straight in, put them on, ignore any initial warning signs of impending discomfort and go out all day.
They will return home with aching feet, covered in blisters. Whilst sitting with feet in a bowl of warm soothing water, they will immediately blame the shoes. In a moment of anger and frustration, these will then be consigned to the back of a cupboard, probably never to be worn again.
Then there are those of us, who choose to take our time and get used to the shoes gradually. We wear them about the house initially for short periods. We increase the time period we wear them as confidence and comfort grows each day. We pre-empt any soreness by applying blister busters on strategic places on our feet. If the process does not go well initially, either because we wore them for that little bit longer, or dared to go barefoot, we will leave them for a while. We know they are comfortable but we just moved too quickly.
Instead of shoes we have our new bridle. Do I plunge straight in” or “Do I go at a steady pace” This is entirely up to you. If you have confidence in yourself and your horse you can put the bridle on and ride with it straight away.
Most horses take to Bitless Bridle™ quite readily; that is virtually immediately and on the very first day. They do not require weeks of adjustment. In fact, it is often remarked that, for the horse, there is no such thing as a learning curve. Some riders report that, at first, the horse feels a little heavier in the hand than with a bit but this impression passes. In effect, the horse becomes lighter on the forehand and most riders soon sense that the horse becomes more collected in the Bitless Bridle™.
For those of us who feel apprehensive and the thought of hacking out, using a bitless bridle is so scary. Rest assured, just take your time and progress at a pace which is comfortable for you and your horse, afterwards you’ll wonder what on earth you were worried about.
How fast you progress does depend on how confident you feel and some riders prefer to introduce the horse to the feel of the Bitless Bridle™ in stages. Initially the horse could be lunged in the bridle. A period of groundwork is beneficial and recommended. For lunging the bridle should be fitted in the prescribed way and the reins attached to a surcingle or saddle by means of a couple of bungee cords. This will simulate a little pressure from the ride’s hands. the lunge line is attached to the ‘O’ rings on the noseband of the bridle in the usual way.
During the period where you still so not trust the effectiveness of the Bitless Bridle™ completely, a second pair of reins can be run to a second bridle fitted with the usual bit you ride your horse in, or, you can use a slip head over the top of the Bitless Bridle™ In this way for a short period of time, you can gain confidence knowing you have your usual bit on standby. Under these conditions the rein attached to the bit would be kept slack during normal usage.
Mechanism of Action
The design of the bridle is based on a simple but subtle system of two loops, one over the poll and one over the nose. This figure of eight configuration embraces the whole of the head and can be thought of as providing the rider with a benevolent headlock on the horse. It enables a gentle squeeze to be given to either one or both sides of a horse’s head. Although an extension of each rein crosses to the opposite side of the head, under the horse’s chin, the hand aids are the same as for traditional English riding. Neck reining is also possible.
Steering: Pressure on one rein pushes inoffensively but persuasively on the opposite half of the head. Horses respond better to being pushed than pulled and where the head goes the horse follows. Unlike the mechanics of a bit, that tends to twist a horse’s head, the head stays upright and the turn is more natural and physiologically correct. By comparison with either bits or the other bitless bridles, more effective steering is one of the first benefits that riders notice.
Slowing and stopping: Pressure on both reins or quick alternative pressure on each rein applies a gentle squeeze to the whole of the head and triggers a ‘submit’ response. The mechanics of the braking effect may be attributable, in part, to the initiation of a proprioceptive or balancing reflex at the poll and/or to the stimulation of acupressure points in the same region. Whatever the mechanism, the “brakes” are more reliable than those provided by the bit. First, bit-induced pain causes many a horse to bolt rather than brake. Secondly, at no time can the horse block the rider’s ability to communicate by placing the bit between its teeth or under its tongue and so deprive the rider of all means of control (or, as summarized by Shakespeare, allow the horse to control that by which it was controlled). Unlike the mechanics of the bit, Hackamore, bosal or sidepull, braking is not dependent on pain across the bridge of the nose, or poll flexion and obstruction of the airway.
If you are having difficulties, before you blame the bridle and consign it to the bottom of your tack box. STOP, you are not alone. Coming soon suggestions and advice for some of the common difficulties which some new users encounter.