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.

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.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Why go Bitless?

There are many reasons why people go bitless, some due to dental or medical problems and some because their horse shows discomfort in a bit or has problems with it. But during recent years and with a growing momentum it has become a bridle of choice, horse owners are seeking a different way, a better way, questioning traditional tack and training.

So is it a better way?
If I didn't think so I wouldn't be writing this blog but lets look at some of the benefits. These are all things I have experienced myself of have observed in some of my clients horses.
  • A more relaxed horse
  • A steadier head carriage
  • Improved movement
  • Become a better rider/trainer
  • A better relationship
A more relaxed horse - I have felt and seen this countless times. On the first pony I tried bitless after 5 minutes he let out a big sigh and I could feel all his muscles relax. Because his muscular tension was so much apart of how he had been up to that point it went unnoticed. I certainly never wanted him to be like that again. On Ember going bitless was even more visible. In a bit she was upset, unsteady, argumentative, pretty dangerous really, changing to bitless she instantly stopped fighting and started listening.

A steadier head carriage - how many times to you see a horse flipping his head, or diving for the bit, snatching for the reins? Certainly I have ridden horses which do this, sometimes in a habitual way. Yet with a bitless bridle the head becomes steadier and horses can become much more settled.

Improved movement - Very often horses do not move forward, by this, I do not mean speed but with freedom of movement and impulsion. I have observed that this can be due a hesitance with the bit, they shorten their neck to avoid pressure rather than stretch forward and open up their frame. Sadly this is often mistaken for 'being on the bit' (something we will cover soon) and is encouraged, shortening the horse even more. In a bitless bridle, very often the horse has a lot more freedom of movement, can feel really open up in front and go forward properly.

Become a better rider/trainer - A bit can hide a lot of training and riding faults, it can disguise them, the horse is obeying under a veneer of control. With a bitless bridle, you become much more aware of the other aids and how to use them, the effect of weight aids, reading the horses energy and how to influence it. In order to ride bitless successfully you need a horse who is listening to you and is responsive, making you a better, more aware rider and trainer.

A better relationship - This partly comes from the reason above, by improving the communication you will find that you have a much truer, fairer relationship with you horse, a true partnership.

In these more enlightened times and increased communication between like minded groups sharing information and experiences the question shouldn't be why go bitless? But why would you want a bit?

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

How did it all start?

So first up, a little bit of background. I first went bitless back in 1992, yes 23 years ago. Back then I came across a book called Riding - the true techniques, by Lucy Rees. It is an understatement to say this book changed the relationship I had with my horse, it was an inspiration to me.

In the book there is a picture of a pony being ridden in a noseband with reins attached, the caption said 'some sensitive ponies don't need a bit'. Well in a dashing gung ho teenage way, I thought, I have a sensitive pony, I have a noseband with rings I can attach reins to, let's try it out.

The very next day with noseband and reins I set off for a ride, everything seemed perfectly normal and then 5 minutes into the ride my pony stopped and let out the largest sigh I have ever felt. He suddenly felt all relaxed and soft. But, I cried I didn't even know he was tense, after all he didn't have any tagible problems with the bit, not of the behaviours we are used to seeing. But he must have been carrying a lot of tension anyway. Bitless bridles were not really available back then, except the English Hackamore, remember when there was no internet, when we were not connected to the four corners of the world and all the knowledge it contains? So unless it was in my local tack shop, in a mail order catalogue or a magazine I could not buy it.

So I started making my own bridles, which were really just webbing nosebands I covered with fleece and attached to my bridle. I took pony to local shows, dressage, jumping and gymkhanas and I am happy to say that most of the time it went without comment. Except for once at a local riding club, one week when I arrived for the meet one of the instructors looked at my pony and asked 'where is your bit?' In true teenager cheekiness I looked at my pony, clapped my hands to my face in mock horror and exclaimed 'Oh No, it must have fallen out on the way here!' That earn't me an exasperated look and a sending to the back of the line, oh well, I know my pony was better off without a bit, is yours?