Saturday, May 8, 2010

Bitless driving

I get this question all the time. Do I drive bitless? Is it even possible for a driving horse?

Of course I do and as I have said before, bitless is for every horse but not every rider/driver.

I'll let Indigo demonstrate.

Here is the second picture I ever put on my blog two years ago.
It was the spring after I taught Indigo how to drive the fall before. She took to the cart right away. It did take her forever to learn how to turn without nearly upsetting the cart and me. I had a couple times where I thought she would never figure it out and keep trying to turn her whole body and dump me out of the cart.

This is what I see every time I drive her. I drive her in an open bridle too (no blinders) because I believe a lot more horses drive better in an open bridle. You need to do more desensitizing to things because the blinders can hide things that they don't see so don't spook at. Plus I want the horse I am driving to know whats behind him and that it won't eat horses. If by chance if they haven't seen the cart and they get their bridle off you can be in big trouble.
Indigo makes a great driving horse. Shes got the trot and the woah. The other day she was so full of it at the trot. On our way home she shied at this fallen tree and started to get a little strong so I made her walk. She walked really well the mile and a half back home without trying to break gait. I had to work long and hard to get that into her mind.

This is us a year ago at a clinic. Before the clinician went to hop into the cart with me he was inspecting harness. He gets to the bridle and grabs the reins and exclaims "Oh my gosh you forgot to put the bit in your horses mouth!" Hahah, funny, funny. I explained and he apprehensively got into the cart with me thinking we might be a runaway or not be able to control her. Afterwards he complimented me for being able to not only control my horse very well but having excellent precision compared to a lot of the other horses there driving a lot longer than Indigo has.

She looks so cute all harnessed up and happy without a cold bit in her mouth when it's cold.

It's a ton of fun to go for a sleigh ride where your horse does not have to worry about the bitter cold hurting it's mouth. Though a little hot chocolate helps the driver and passengers afterwards.

There you have it. Bitless driving is very much an option as is bitless riding, any horse, any time.


Golden the Pony Girl said...

Hey there! i was searching through your archives for bitless bridle information and did not come up with a post about which types you use or have used? I am probably just a bad searcher... I was wondering if you could tell me which styles you have tried and which you recommend and why? (if you have a sec). I have tried the cooks bitless and it was good, but honestly my rope halter works just as well! I have been riding bitless for a month now and I am wondering if I should spring for something other than my halter. I would love something that had a bit more finesse but i know that mostly comes from the training! Sorry if this is an over asked question and feel free to refer me to previous posts I may have missed.

jane augenstein said...

Good post, Sydney! I was wondering about the blinders on driving horses and why they were used. I would prefer the not use them and my boys are pretty desensitized to scary things. Well, Gilly is Pokey needs more work. Pokey is the one I want to teach to pull a cart; of course we will be bitless too.

I also have question I have been meaning to ask you about driving. I know you can do a one rein stop with a riding horse if they spook but you can't do it to a horse in a cart (the shafts would get in the road of bending) so what do you use to stop a spook and runaway with a horse pulling a cart, carriage, etc?

lisa said...

I think that is pretty cool. With what I do, if you can ride bitless it is because your horse sees you as the alpha and trust you as a partner not a predator!

Susan said...

Jane, one way way to stop a runaway when driving is to let the horse(s) run. A wide open field is frequently used when first training them to drive. They learn pretty fast that it's easier to stop than keep running.

Kate said...

I have a cart much like the one in your first photo - obtained from a cartmaker in Ohio - we used it for our pony and now don't have a driving horse - I need to figure out what to do with the cart which is now in my garage.

JeniQ said...

Sydney I love the pics! I know nothing of driving, have never driven. I own a big ole draft horse and don't even have the slightest idea if she knows how, nor do I know how to figure it out.... I don't know anyone who drives (horses) either... *sigh*

Jayke said...

Sydney…this post is great! I would love to hear more about the process of teaching Indigo to drive, as it is something I would be interested in training my own horse to do at some point down the road!

Beth said...

Thanks! That is so great. I was thinking of starting my mini mare bitless, I have been looking for a driving brindle for a mini though. Which kind of bitless bridles do you use?

Sydney said...

I will be doing a post on different bitless bridle styles. I ride and sell Nurtural bitless bridles. I have tried everything from mechanical hackamores, bosals, sidepulls, rope halters/halters, dr.cooks and even amish made cross unders. The nurtural gave me the closest feel and finesse that I could get with a bit without the pain and with the stop I needed. I do not support mechanical hackamores because they are based on pain, not proper communication.

Jessie McCandless said...

I would love to teach Paula (my gray mare) how to drive! I'd love to see more about your carts, the different kinds, what to start with, etc! :)

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Loved all the pics, Sydney. What do you do with the whip? Is that for getting forward movement, helping with direction?
Also, if something terrifies your bitless driving horse and she bolts, what do do to get her to stop before she runs someone over or you both lose control, like out on a busy roadway?

I want to use my Dr. Cooks on Apache soon, but I'm not sure the Dr. Cook's gives enough immediate release of pressure. Baby Doll used to lean on it and then the nose would become tighter to the point that after rides, the nose band would leave an indentation and even hair loss on the bridge of her nose.
I'm not sure Apache is soft enough yet to use the Dr. Cook's as she becomes stiff and stubborn with flexing exercises.

What do you think?


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