Using a bitless bridle really taught me to ride

I was a nineteen year old, just out of school and had returned from a trip to Canada where I had spent some time on a horse ranch, and read a book by Joe Camp, called ‘The Soul of a Horse’. This book is all about a couple who enter the world of horses with little knowledge, so go to all the ‘experts’ and ‘professionals’ for help, but start to question why things were done in certain ways. They enter into their own research of how horses would have lived in the wild, and gradually change every way they keep their horses to be as natural as possible. This sparked an interest for me, but it was not until a few months later when my own horse had the dentist out, who informed me that he had a cracked tooth, (possibly caused by the bit,) and if it were to get worse or infected, he would need sedation, x-rays, and possible tooth removal. This was a near twenty year old ex-racehorse, who had already given me so much, and I did not want to put him through the trauma, or the expense of it all on me. It was at that moment I knew I had to try bitless riding.

What was there to lose? My answer – Almost nothing!

After only a small amount of research, I found the bridle I wanted to try, and it came with a one month money back guarantee trial, but there was no way I was handing it back! I guess I never really saw riding with it as any different to a bit: so many seem scared at the thought of not having a bit in their horses mouth, fear of loss of control or lack of steering, but I got on like he had had it his whole life, and that was the reaction I got from him – like he had had it his whole life. So relaxed, calm, he still turned and stopped. I took him straight out onto the grass track and he slowed as and when I asked him to.

This then led me to be horrified by the pain I had put him through for all those years before. A bit causes so much trauma to the mouth, even with a rider with soft hands. I could see in all old photos, a face of pain. Now his lip droops so low in a relaxed state, he could slap his own face with it! Using a bitless bridle really taught me to ride from my seat and legs, using my hands only as a guide, not the main port of call. It has given me full trust in my horse, and I find that to be extremely important when in the saddle and around horses.

There was unfortunately a price I had to pay for being kinder to my horse. I have been unable to enter dressage and showing classes, and I would never put a bit back in just for my own privilege of competing. It is with that state of mind that I managed to enter some low key dressage competitions in my bitless bridle, winning four out of eight, and two second places, one particular second place was at a reputable competition arena, where I lost my way so gained penalties, yet still came second out of eighteen, probably could have won the class without the penalties, and wouldn’t it be great if together, my horse and I could show the rest of the world by allowing bitless riding in all competitions?

It has been three and a half years now, and never again will I have a horse that has to have a bit in its mouth, just for fashion and tradition, when my horse, an ex-racehorse of all breeds, happily can do it just as well without.

Visit Rea Trotman's website here

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