Welcome to my blog. I hope to introduce you to different bitless bridles and how they work, share some transitioning and training tips as well as other useful points. I will also introduce you some of my musings on aspects of horsemanship and share my journey with my beautiful horse Ember, without whom none of this would have been possible.

Monday, 4 April 2016

Bitless should be inclusive

A short while ago I was approached by an online dressage competition organiser with an offer to be able to sponsor some of their classes.
It sounded great, plenty of promotion and exposure for the Orbitless brand, so I decided to take a look.
I viewed their classes, happy with the expectation of the bitless bridle users being included, but hold on, the bitless users have their own section, they are segregated from the regular users.
The online competition also has sections for veteran, ex racing thoroughbreds, RDA and juniors, whilst they can also compete in the other sections can bitless bridle users also compete in those sections? No they can not.
I found myself thinking that instead of offering an opportunity to be included it was paying lip service to bitless whilst recognising that there is money to made form those who struggle to find somewhere to compete, just as long as they don't want to be included in the regular classes, right!
Bitless bridle users should be allowed to compete with everyone else, it should be about inclusion, not segregation.
Whilst I would love to see more exposure of my brand, I cannot put profitability before profit, and have declined the sponsorship offer until they allow bitless bridles in the regular sections.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Time to get over it and get on with it

I don't get it. 20 years I ago I rode my pony bitless at shows and competitions and no-one batted an eyelid. Anyone who did Pony Club and BHS exams will have learnt that bitless bridles are just one of the families of bits. It was not a problem.

Nowadays we are debating the use of bitless bridles in competition. I applaud those who are taking this argument to the BEF, they are doing a fantastic and difficult job.

I have had show organisers in recent years state that it was unfair to the other competitiors ( too right, my horse is calm and relaxed and doesn't show signs of bit distress), it was down to safety ( hold on, I am going into an enclosed area doing flatwork, whereas I am allowed to go endurance, cross country, trec bitless), you cannot train correctly in it ( watch me, surely the proof is in what you see). British Dressage don't allow them, FEI don't allow them...blah, blah, blah.
Today I hear that Retraining of Racehorses are banning the use of bitless bridles, really!?!

The Revolution is coming whether organisations wish it to or not. They need to Get Over It, and Get On With It.

Until the organisations wake up to the truth please lend your support to A Bit More Choice, the campaign for bitless equality http://www.abitmorechoice.org

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Without bit nor even bridle!

I love long distance horse treks, being an avid reader of many travelogues from horseback. I also love crowdsourcing. So when a Kickstarter campaign combining both came to my attention I was very interested.
What was different though is that these women are riding 400K without bridles. Yes, that is correct, without anything on their horses heads.
The Kickstarter campaign was to enable their journey to be filmed professionally so they could create a DVD of their travels.
It is truly inspirational, proof of the trust and communication that is so important in the horse-human relationship. And most importantly getting out there and proving to the community that think horses cannot be ridden bitless that they are wrong.

I will be following their progress in a few blogs but if you want to see how they get on over the next few weeks you can follow them on their facebook page.

Friday, 3 April 2015

Groundwork - part 1

A couple of comments made over the weekend reminded me of a conversation I had several years ago with other horse owners where I kept my horse. The comments could not have been more different, one was a lady who explained how she had not been able to hold her daughters horse when bringing him in from the field, the daughter eventually had to get him and even then only in a chiffney.
The other was from a friend who had led my horse out to the field the day before. 'How was she?' I asked, 'lovely' replied my friend 'much nicer than leading the other horses'. I was pleased, I have spent a lot of time on groundwork. But why is it important and how does it relate to riding bitless?

The conversation I was reminded of started after I had returned to the yard following a session walking my horse out round the fields. 'Ooh I could never do that with my horse' was the comment. There followed a conversation between three owners which followed along the lines of the Monty Python Yorkshireman sketch, with each owner successively describing a worse behaviour that their horse would exhibit if they tried the same until the last one declared that their horse would barely step a hoof off the yard without rearing and taking off. It wasn't true of course and the conversation would have been amusing if the owners hadn't considered it a badge of honour to have such a difficult horse.
Now I been riding for a long time, have ridden a large number of different horses some of them problematic or very green and I am not a nervous rider but there is something that I will not do and that is to not get on a horse that I could not control from the ground first.

Let just say that again 'I would not get on a horse unless I could control from the ground first' sounds simple? sounds sensible? but how many owners are dragged around by their horses who then happily hop on board and trust that the piece of metal in their horses mouth is going to keep them safe. It isn't, only trust and communication will keep them safe.
Riding bitless is about trust and communication, so if I have a horse who isn't going to listen and communicate in a headcollar or halter then he isn't going to be safe to ride.
Good communication on the ground is the foundation of good communication in the saddle.

I will cover what is good groundwork that is helpful for riding bitless and how to achieve it in later blogs. Happy Bitless Riding.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

A bit of bodywork

I love having the Chiroprator to my horse. It gives me a chance to find out if there is any soreness I hadn't detected and to know what sort of shape she is in.

So after having the winter off, it was time for a check up before we start exercising.
Many thanks to Emma Hustler who is always amazing for my horse and my dogs.

So what is the verdict?
Generally ok, but she would stay in better alignment if she was fitter (point taken, time for some exercise). Her pelvis is straight (I have had a lot of problems over the years keeping her pelvis in alignment due to an injury she had as a youngster) but she is slightly down in the right hip which was corrected. She is starting to show signs of wear and tear in her hindlegs, exercise will help but also it is time to think about a supplement. She always seems to have some soreness in her back, without being ridden. After a discussion we decided that this was due to her front feet as they were not really conditioned to be barefoot as well as they should be. So her feeling soreness was making her move in a way which was causing soreness in her back. Despite always being barefoot and following a diet that is generally good for barefoot horses there is still more that could be done to improve the condition of her feet.

So the next steps:
Review her diet and management to improve her feet.
Exercise in her boots until her feet improve.
Watch this space for more updates.....

Sidepull bridles

I am going to start the posts on what types of bitless bridles with the Sidepull.

These are the simplest of the bitless bridles. Anyone who has attached a leadrope to either side of their headcollar and ridden in it has used a sidepull.
It works only on the nose, either on the front of the nose when pressure is applied to both reins or on the side of the nose if one rein is used. It gives a direct rein aid and is considered mild as it doesn't have straps that tighten round the nose, jaw or face, nor does it have any leverage on the poll.

It can be made from a variety of materials
Rope - a rope halter halter with rings either side to attach the reins.
Synthetic materials - webbing or beta biothane available either as noseband attachments or a complete bridle.
Leather - also available as nosebands to attach to a bridle or as a complete bridle, sometimes with stabilising straps.
Sometimes they are available in leather with a very stiff rough rope noseband, either or single or double rope (often available from western shops) these nosebands can be quite harsh on the horses face so should be used with caution.

I find that the sidepull is one of the best bridles to start a youngster in, the aim in bitless is to try and achieve the lightest possible feel so starting with a simple bridle and teaching the horse to respond to that lightness will produce a responsive horse.

Thanks to Vicki of Inspirational Horsemanship for the use of her photos.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Introducing Ember

One of the things I want to do with my blog is to record the journey with my horse Ember. It might seem like I should have started that 10 years ago when she came to me but hey better late than never.

To say she hasn't been an easy horse is a bit of an understatement, but she has also been the greater teacher and the greatest inspiration and has always pushed me to be the best I can.

She came to me as a very green 6 year old. It was impossible to ride her safely, I couldn't get near her hindlegs or feet and she had had an accident when she was younger that left her with a twisted pelvis and a slightly bowed canon bone. But the biggest problem she had was emotional, she had separation anxiety and was herd bound on a dangerous scale.

So far she has taken me on an incredible journey, I have learnt so much, ad have still more to learn, I have made mistakes but there have been some amazing parts to. She has inspired me to design a bridle especially for her which then I patented and now sell. And more important she has inspired me to help others.

So why am I sharing my journey now, the first reason is that I wasn't blogging before so I have some catching up to do. The second is it that we are now going to be doing more training. Whilst emotionally she is a lot better there are still some physical issues I need to fix. Over the years she has gone pretty well but I always thought that there was still some crookedness, so this year we are focusing on straightness training and you never know, I might get that demo horse I always wanted.