Recently in the bitless yahoo group a discussion was started by Zoe, the inventor of the Nurtural bitless bridles about an upcoming talk she has to give. She has asked us for our input.
Bitless bridles of all kinds have taken horsemanship by storm. There are so many options and people are realizing that not only is it just as easy to control your horse, it's usually easier because there's not the anxiety on the horses part as well as some physical problems. Five years ago bitless was taboo. Hardly anyone rode their horses without a bit and if they did it was in a harsh mechanical hackamore or western bosal. Those were really the only options. Now the limit is the sky and more people are trying bitless instead of turning their noses up at it. They realize not every horse bitless is well trained or ridden by a professional.
I went from having a couple readers riding bitless to many in the past three years I have had this blog open. I get e-mails weekly from people who are now riding their horses faithfully bitless because of this blog. They have seen myself and others do just about every discipline bitless. I have to say this blog would not have survived without all the great input from you readers.
Having said this lets start a discussion for those of you who ride bitless. This discussion is not brand specific, but rather talks about bitless as a whole. This is what Zoe asked:
Happy New Year!!
Can I ask your help again – with a presentation I will be doing at the Maryland Horse World Expo later this month? Can you send some quotes and photos to share?
What do you think: Are we changing the world, or will 'the non-believers' hang on to their bits forever? Will / when will the rules change? What will it take?
This is brand-neutral! Just promoting bitless in general.
Here are the specific questions:
Can you really: Stop a horse quickly; Collect a horse; Jump, Ride Crosscountry; Fox Hunt; Perform Dressage; Train young horses; Teach new riders,; Drive minis to drafts to standardbreds; Trail ride; Endurance ride; Develop & relax your competition horse; Create a closer bond; Create a winning team!
Looking forward to your thoughts!
So of course I put in some of my input as I was asked:
As a species the human race has made leaps and bounds in evolution in merely decades. However with horses we seem to stand still. The bit was effectively in use around the time Genghis Khan ruled. He was a cruel, barbaric ruler who thought very little of hurting others. This was also a time us humans believed the world was completely flat! If we have outdated things like cruel training practices, painful blistering of a horses legs to make him "sound" and even in recent times soaring why do we continue to use something that obviously at one point or another causes a horse pain and distress? I do think the rules will change and they are. When bitless was mentioned before people thought it was something a well trained horse could only be capable of. Now more and more people are training with their heads rather than brute force they realize horses are not all out to gallop away with us the second we take away a false sense of control.
This day and age it is a much better time for the horse as he is used mostly for recreation and seldom called upon to do real work. People wanting to ride bitless are those that want to understand the horse as a partner and not a tool we can force into doing what we wish. They want to better themselves as riders and their horses as members of the equine community. Riders who ride bitless find they need more seat and legs and less hand, for riding the horse should not be about tugging a rein left, right or back and having the horse follow for that only engages your arms and his front end, not both of your bodies as a whole.
I don't think people know enough about bits, rather than bitless bridles. They do not look at the anatomy of the horses head, lips, mouth, surrounding tissues and most importantly the nerves that bits can cause pain on in the horses face. The horses mouth is arguably the most sensitive part of his body. With a lip that can pick tiny blades of grass out amongst rocks and dirt the horse can feel a lot more than we know. By placing a bit as a solid, usually metal object in his mouth we are not only compromising his comfort but his health when so many riders do not look at what type of bit would be most suited to what mouth and face conformation. Teeth become eroded or even fractured, nerves are pressed upon causing pain or at the very least discomfort. It's a proven fact that a horse learns and retains a lesson better when taught by positive reinforcement rather than negative though both are very important tools of horsemanship. I think if people knew more about bits there would be less people using them.
Having said that and answered many, many questions about bitless because I have driven, ridden and trained horses ages 2 to 21 this year one of the most common questions after will my horse stop is will he go "on the bit". The riders asking this are the ones who do not understand the concept of collection. Collection is when the horse actively engages himself from his hind end, lifts his back and breaks at the poll, driving himself from his hind end forward and engaging every muscle in his body. Proper collection takes a long time to achieve with a horse because muscle and strength must be built. What most riders want is "breaking at the poll" AKA- on the bit, on the vertical or as some people wrongly believe but is not, collection. A horse that is flexing vertically (breaking at the poll) has learned to give to the pressure of the bridle, be it bit in his mouth or pressure on his nose from a bitless bridle. A horse that is flexing vertically and does not have the rest of his body engaged is usually on the forehand, not engaging his hind end with a hollow back. His other parts of the body are not engaged to properly drive him forward. Having said that being "on the bit" is merely a headset, and not true collection but can indeed be taught to give to pressure as well as with a bit, only now we have to teach him with a bitless bridle, not force him with the pain of the bit in his mouth. This is why so many riders have problems with a newly bitless horse being "on the bit".
Every person I teach rides or drives bitless if they are using my horse. Not one of them have ever had problems with control. Horses used for lessons with learning riders that may do some harsh, unforgiving things on the horses mouth are now painless, creating confused signals yes, but pain which can lead to training problems and even the condition of learned helplessness, no. I have found a bitless school horse needs far less tune ups than a bitted one, no matter how gentle the specific bit may be considered.
And as the famous Loriner (bit maker) Benjamin Latchford once said: "I frequently tell my friends that out of every twenty bits I make, nineteen are for men's heads and not more than one really for the horse's head"
So there we have it folks. Why do you ride bitless? Why not? Have you just not had the option or are you afraid your horse is not going to listen? Speak up, Zoe, the rest of us and myself would love to know. If you have pictures you would like to let Zoe use please do send the links our way or join the bitless yahoo group.
p.s- Due to comments I'm going to ad I am not anti bit by any means I just see far more horses improperly bitted than properly bitted ones. I believe a horse is only as good as it's rider and the tools only as humane as they are used. I wish to further everyones knowledge on a subject (bits and bitless) people know little about. There seems to be endless sources on how to train your horse, groom your horse, select saddles and pads but nothing on bitting.
p.p.s- Please take a gander at the post below. I think this one kind of overshadowed it. I would love to know why you own your horse.
p.p.p.s- For those of you not being able to afford a bitless bridle why not hire one to try it Bitlesshorse.com