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This is a discussion on Bitless within the Horse Training forums, part of the Training Horses category

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    04-21-2011, 01:33 PM

I rode bitless with my mare few times last year, but then winter came and I stopped. It's been the second day today when I'm using the bitless bridle. In the orchard (which is some kind of round pen for me), she is good. Excellent in fact, there are no changes from bit bridle.
But when we're on a trail she starts troting without me asking her. I have to use some pressure to stop her (I don't need to do that with bit and also she never starts troting by herself).
I've been only on short, very familiar trails for now. She also "suggests" that she doesn't like this route very much (she wants to turn back to home). I spend some time then, to convince her to go where I want. I doubt I would be able to get her on totally new, far from home trail.

Should I ride bitless only in my "round pen" and use a bit on the trails, or will it become better in time?

It's silly, because I can do whatever I want without using reins-if she has a bit (doesn't matter if I don't use it). And I want to be bitless because Candy is more comfortable and relaxed without it.

What were yours first rides bitless and does it get better in time?
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    04-22-2011, 03:48 AM
What sort of bitless bridle are you using?

If she's a broke horse--and it sounds like she is--it really shouldn't be a safety issue to take her out on trails at all. You can get her stopped no matter what, correct?

If you aren't already, you need to get more accustomed to cueing her with seat, leg, and to an extent vocal cues. For example, when I'm asking one of my horses to stop, the first thing I do is take my legs off them, sit deeply in the saddle, say whoa, and pull on the reins, in that order, and all in less than a second time span. But rarely do I have to pull on the reins because the horse is already transitioning to a halt. It's the same principle for any command.

I think perhaps you may be using your bit as a crutch, even though you aren't harsh with it. You may be less confident without its presence, and your nervousness causes your mare to be less responsive to the same subtle body cues you always give.

When riding bitless, pretend you are riding with a bit. Give the same seat cues. If she does not respond as she should, don't be afraid to tug on the bitless bridle in an appropriate manner, rewarding her compliance with a release, as usual. Teach her that it's the same sort of thing, and she must respect it and listen to you all the same.
    04-23-2011, 08:03 AM
Thanks for the advice :)
I'm using sidepull, I tried dr. Cook bridle too, but I prefer sidepull.
I always give her commands with legs and weight transition, and I did almost everything with vocal cues, but I'm trying to stop doing that.
Candy is a little bit hyper sometimes and I was nervous on that first trail without a bit, so this could be reason.
    04-23-2011, 11:45 AM
Well, for what it's worth, sidepulls are known for having very poor stopping power.
Can you ride her in a rope halter? Do you have access to a jumping hackamore to try?
    04-23-2011, 11:47 AM
My mare likes bitless. She gets worked up over every bit I've tried to date.

My gelding can be ridden bitless, but he doesn't like it very much. He likes to know exactly what is expected of him, and a sidepull rope halter doesn't give him confidence. He'll obey, but it is obvious he is worrying.

In an arena, I can turn and stop him with leg and seat. On a trail...I wouldn't want to rely on it. The bit helps him to relax and feel calm.

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