Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: Washington, USA.
Yes, I can ride both my horses [20 year old Paint mare and 4 year old QH filly] in a flat nylon halter and lead rope. I don't do this often though, because I feel using a bit allows me to give a more subtle and refined cue. Bits are useful tools. They can be abused, certainly, but it is ridiculous to assume that everyone riding in a bit doesn't have the same relationship or training with their animal as you do or that they aren't a real horseman. And I will say this loudly, BITS ARE ONLY AS HARSH AND PAINFUL AS THE RIDER USING IT.
I ride my little one in a French link D ring. Maybe it's possible to train all the things I want in her with a halter, but that would require a VERY experienced horseman and that's way over my [already high] experience level. I don't yank on her face. I can ask her to bend by squeezing with my ring finger, it applies a slight tickle to the side of her mouth. I can give and take and increase the pressure until she responds. In my opinion, by having a lead rope tied to the sides of the halter as reins doesn't allow your horse the opportunity to respond to a lighter cue. Yes, your horse can eventually be trained to respond to leg and seat aids, but you can't get on a horse for the first time and expect it to turn by applying leg.
I ride my older mare in a Kimberwick. I tried many bits, a French link, a single-jointed snaffle, a solid rubber snaffle, and finally my Kimberwick. She loves it. In this bit, I can refine our cues to ever so slight touches and pressure. She rides beautifully in it, floats underneath me, lifting her back, engaging her hindquarters, it's marvelous.
Bits are used to improve COMMUNICATION. We only speak so much "horse," we NEED something to help create a language we both can understand. I use my bits to fine tune and refine. Just because I have a bit doesn't mean I'm hanging on their mouth and causing them pain.
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