Bitless Dressage - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 35 Old 05-29-2012, 07:14 AM Thread Starter
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Bitless Dressage

Hello :)
I was unsure of where to post this, so if its in the wrong section, my apologies .
Now, something I've been thinking about is doing dressage in a bitless bridle.
I do not want this to turn into a discussion of bitless vs. Bits please :)

However, when one does higher levels of dressage (Advanced medium, advanced, etc.) one needs a certain steady contact. So, I was thinking, if one goes bitless in a Dr. Cook or what not, wont the contact be uncomfortable for the horse? My mare always seems very uncomfortable when I ask her to go in an outline in my bitless bridle (Micklem bridle, medium strength bitless- she's very sensitive about her face, which is why I don't use the 'strong' option).
So my question is- is it possible to do dressage properly in a bitless bridle? Or maybe bitless bridles were not made to do higher levels of dressage in? Or is my mare just being a... Well... Mare?:p
Thank you for reading, any input greatly appreciated :)
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post #2 of 35 Old 05-29-2012, 07:21 AM
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I think as long as you aren't pulling the horse into a frame, but simply holding the bridle out in front and encouraging the horse forward with your seat and legs, it shouldn't be uncomfortable.

Now I don't do high level dressage, I barely do any dressage as my horse is green and we're just trying to get him comfortable, but there was an occasion where I worked him in a rope halter (which is a little more bitey than I suspect a bitless bridle would be) and he kept himself nicely together without bracing or showing any signs of being uncomfortable.

It would probably take some effort but I don't think it would be impossible or painful for the horse.

Just one girl's thoughts though :P

"Strength is the ability to use a muscle without tension"

Last edited by Skyseternalangel; 05-29-2012 at 07:23 AM.
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post #3 of 35 Old 05-29-2012, 08:50 AM
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If you want to do any sort of competition I think you'll find you must use a bit. The original idea was that bits allow more subtle aids (provided they're correctly used, of course) than can be achieved with the most usual alternative, pressure on the nose. That and the fact 'dressage' started as the schooling of war horses which sometimes required more brute force than finesse to control, also easier with a bit.

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post #4 of 35 Old 05-29-2012, 09:01 AM
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Bob, I'm moving your thread into Dressage section, because you may get professional opinions there... You can also search there, because I do remember threads about bitless dressage in past.
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post #5 of 35 Old 05-29-2012, 09:14 AM
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Technically, you cannot do dressage, as a competition sport, with a bitless bridle. A proper, approved bit is a required piece of equipment at all levels.

That is not to say that you cannot ride and train using dressage principles in a bitless bridle, of course.
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post #6 of 35 Old 05-29-2012, 09:31 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks for all the replies :)
I'm thinking about bitless, not for competing in because I dont compete my mare anymore- so the bridle would only be for training purposes- something new to try out, especially because so many people swear by bitless.
Perhaps it is a bridle more suited for equine sports that do not require that much contact though :)
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post #7 of 35 Old 05-29-2012, 09:58 AM
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It sounds to me like your mare may have a sensitive poll, and thus does not appreciate the poll pressure (or "hug," if you prefer Dr. Cook's euphemism) that riding on contact brings in certain bitless bridles. IIRC, the Micklem has a similar action to the Dr. Cook's, though I am no expert on bitless bridles by any stretch of the imagination.

I think the bottom line is that some horses are very comfortable and happy in a bitless configuration (and I'm certain that some of them can even execute a respectable dressage test in a bitless bridle), and some aren't. Perhaps your mare is fine with it on a loose rein, but would prefer a different configuration if you're working her on contact. You may even be able to find a different bitless configuration that would be more to her liking.
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post #8 of 35 Old 05-29-2012, 10:57 AM
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I was actually just having this conversation with a friend! Both of us have tried bitless.
If we look at the mechanics of both a bitless and bitted bridle, we can see that with a correctly fitted snaffle, it is possible for the horse to create and comfortably carry a contact, as is required in the third step on the training scale. In a bitless, any amount of pressure in the bridle is designed to be uncomfortable, discouraging contact from the horse.
In both bridles, pulling by the rider will be uncomfortable for the horse (which is ok because the rider should not be pulling!).

So to answer your question, OP, no I do not think it is possible to correctly train a Dressage horse in a bitless. Correct contact is inherently discouraged in any design I've seen because of the pressure points which are inherently created by the horse simply carrying the bridle with correct contact. And I have ridden bitless. I find it far easier to be in a wide strapped halter on no contact than attempting to fuddle with a bitless that I've found most horses refuse to take contact on because of the negative reaction by the bridle. A correctly adjusted snaffle allows the horse to carry contact without negative pressure.
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post #9 of 35 Old 05-29-2012, 06:56 PM
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My findings are similar to anebel's. The horse will seek contact in a snaffle, double bridle, and even flat halter but will avoid it altogether in various bitless options - hackamores, bosals and so on. I found the bosal ok for trail rides, where I didn't care about contact, but useless for dressage, as the horse wasn't impressed by the contact she got from it.
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post #10 of 35 Old 06-03-2012, 04:24 PM
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Hi, I ride my horse Prix St George and train almost all the Grand prix movements in a bitless. My horse is easier to ride bitless, collects better and only with the bitless will give me Piaffe. When I ride in clinics most auditors haven’t a clue I am riding bitless. My horse even foams at the mouth. So yes you can ride all the dressage movements bitless. Some horses just do not like the bit. You need to use what your horse prefers. The Netherlands and Africa now allow bitless in completion. You can do schooling shows is the US bitless, but not recognized. But send petitions to the USEF if you would like to see that change. Check out this video, for beautiful bitless riding.
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