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?