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Corporal 10-11-2012 05:13 PM

About riding bitless...
I've been offline for a week--on vacation in CO--so I missed the beginning of the infamous thread that TinyLiny said ran through it's spool. (That's a sewing joke.) Here are my two cent's worths of MHO's. I believe that when we've lived through/learned stuff from many decades, we OWE it to others new to horseowners to tell them truths.
FIRST, bits are not cruel. Hands and riders can, but usually don't, destroy mouths and faces with bits, bosals AND bitless bridles. USUALLY it's a combination of poor or no training, arrogance and a bad temper, like this girl who would punch her Arabian in the face when she left the show ring minus a ribbon. She didn't even need equipment to do THAT. =/
SECOND, I believe that know a lot, but I just eat up the threads here and ALL of the online and TV trainers that I can watch and books I can read bc I never know what I've missed. For instance, I recently learned that horses with short backs need to be cued closer to the girth, and horses with long backs won't respond well unless you cue further back. SEEMS obvious, but I never thought about it until an expert brought it up. I've got Julie Goodnight's book on different methods of reining on my Christmas list, too, even though I already rein in several different ways to communicate with my horses.
THIRD, we should use the equipment that our teachers have used for thousands of years successfully, until and unless something better comes along. Europeans rode without stirrups until they saw them used by the Asian invaders, so they adopted them. Bits have been used the whole time, and some peoples used a halter of sorts, or, as in the Plains Indians, a loop of rope through the mouth and under the jaw--the bitless bridle ISN'T new. Like Rookie said, most horses change hands many times throughout their lives, so it short-changes them for YOU to eliminate training that jeapardizes the possibility of a new, GOOD home when you sell that horse. That means your horse should be able to be ridden with at LEAST a snaffle bit, broken or straight mouthed. Even better to sell a horse that direct reins on a snaffle, neck reins and stops with a leather "chain", as well as a metal curb chain.
FEW horses have a FOREVER HOME, which is yet another horse/dog/cat/ferret/goldfish ???--PET fad. If you can train your horse to behave obediently without a bit, and behave like "Rugged Lark", WOW!! he's worth a lot of $ IMO!!!
FOURTH, it's not fair to newbies to push bitless on them. TOO MANY don't think about how powerful their horses are and TOO MANY already get hurt just trying to ride their new mounts--I refuse to encourage anybody to "fly" before they can walk. "Rugged Lark" had who-knows-how-many-hours of expert training by Lynn Palm before she did those 10 years of demos. Just like ballerinas aren't allowed to learn pointe before their muscles and training are ready, our horses shouldn't be even Tried bitless before THEIR training is ready. Most of us eke out our riding/training time as it is.
FIFTH, most of us want our horses to enjoy the things we do with them. We don't thoughtlessly slam the saddle on their backs or crack their teeth with the bit while bridling. I walk my dogs with choke chains but I had one dog who pulled you up the street without the collar with the pegs in it--all 30 pounds of her! We select what's best and we get online here to ask opinions on our choices bc we DO care. Even so, NOBODY wants to ride a horse out of control, and that little bit of metal makes a BIG difference in control. God even made a space for it in the horse's mouth.

FINALLY, with WWAAAAAAYYYY too many unwanted horses and way too many homeless horses, we do the best we can with what we have. MY horses are lucky enough to have pasture 1/2 the year and 4 acres of turnout AND company AND a nice stall when the weather is icy and nasty AND they all 3 work a whole lot less than I do AND I have enough food for them in this DEPRESSION. I just ask for an hour once in awhile. I expect my horses to enjoy their training time with me, and when they stop grazing to walk over to me in the pasture to visit,and when I walk out with the halter and they come to ME, and when there's no nervousness when tacking and riding, I KNOW that we have a good relationship. I own many bits and at least 6 different types and I've used them all on over 30 horses over the years, successfully. I've never bloodied a horse's mouth, but I have had a mouth rubbed by a bit--you ride and train long enough and it happens--and I changed bits when that has happened. Do you change bitless bridles when they rub?

Corporal 10-11-2012 05:14 PM

I wanted to respond to some of the excellent points posted on that...other...thread.

Punkstank, I agree that rope halters are NOT designed for riding in, and inexperienced riders will lose control of their horses.

Sorrel Horse, I KNOW how much work it has taken for you to ride your mare bridleless and LISTENING--thanks for the photo (in the infamous other thread) to back it up.

Saddlebag, isn't it great that we can communicate (by changing bits) the "game" we're playing with our horses by the tack?

SpeedRacer, agreed with bitless bridles hurting the face. I've seen mechanical hackamores, the "bitless bridle" of it's day, rub the hide off of horses, hence, not gentle. I wonder, too, about the Mylar contraptions that connect with the poll, too. I prefer to use a pulley system ONLY with a bitting rig, while I am on the ground, training. (That's a pun on "ground training," ha, ha)

bsms, you are right--every horse is an individual, and some will listen well without a bit, and some won't. I would NEVER ride Corporal without a bit. He LOVED to run, even in his old age, and couldn't be trusted without at least a snaffle in his mouth.

BlueSpark, you are SOOOOO right about the stupid horse fads, like the Bitless Bridle one. I'M sick of them, too.

BobtheBuilder, I HAVE seen the wrong of my ways. This happens a LOT to me bc I read posts here and study trainer's methods. Everything IS cruel when used incorrectly.

Highstepperlove, IDK know why, either--owned TWH'ers or crosses since 1986--but my KMH mare rides at the amble or lope best when she lightly leans on the bit. Must help with balance or something.

Corporal 10-11-2012 05:14 PM

Just a little "bit" of advice if you want to argue online. We LOVE riding and working with horses and our other animals bc you can never know it all. What a wonderful time we live in where we can get quick answers to training problems that elude us, JUST by getting online, like this forum. When I don't agree with an opinion, I prefer to agree to disagree OR just not post.--I don't get to argue with my DH, an atty, bc he says I have to pay for one, like everybody else.

One, more thing...
COWCHICK, WHERE did you get that new Avatar picture?!?! TOTALLY ROFL!!!!

xxxxxxxxSocalgirl 10-13-2012 11:58 PM

I think any horse can be safely controlled with a bosal, or well knotted rope hackamore. A regular rope halter would simply not do the same. Especially with a hot, or green horse. In my opinion they do not rub at all (unless you're hanging on the horses face). So yes horrible hands make bloody mouths and rub marks, but with a green rider I'd prefer them to hurt the horse less and use something they can't bully the horse they're riding with.

While I don't think bits are abuse, I do believe many people use them simply for the sake of showing. The ribbon winners, and such are so well trained they could easily be ridden without any tack but people use pain bits because... they want to compete. I just don't think this is just. but... it will always be that way sadly.

ps just agreeing to disagree here, not starting a debate. (need more posts to do more things here)

bsms 10-14-2012 12:28 AM


Originally Posted by Corporal (Post 1715620)
...bsms, you are right--every horse is an individual, and some will listen well without a bit, and some won't. I would NEVER ride Corporal without a bit. He LOVED to run, even in his old age, and couldn't be trusted without at least a snaffle in his mouth...

Mia & I were out today with Trooper & my daughter. The weather has cleared a section of trail near me about 1/3 mile long so that it has no significant gullies and no big rocks. My daughter wanted to try a canter, so I put Mia in front, told Mia she was a ham-hoofed POS who probably couldn't trot - that being our normal signal that a canter is imminent - then asked her to go. She went. Leaped into a canter, and about 5 strides after that switched into a gallop.

In her defense, based on what I can piece together, it is likely she hadn't ever galloped in the open before (apart from bolting). Her life has been filled with corrals and small arenas. With a trail opening up ahead and a rider who wanted something faster than a trot...well, she delivered.

She loved it! You could see the light bulb go on above her head. "I'm a horse, and I'm strong, and I can go fast!"

However, the trail takes a sharp 90 deg bend at its end, and Mia isn't known for graceful turns. Slowing her down was a challenge. It took about 50 yards to get her down to a canter, and another 50 to get her down to a trot.

Then she behaved like a lady. Trot, walk, jog - anything you want, bsms! So we went back to the beginning and tried again. And...

"I'm a horse, and I'm strong, and I can go fast!"

In fairness to her, I gave her her head most of the way. But near the end, my thighs went against the Aussie-style poleys and I WORKED to get her to calm down!

And again, after we stopped she was a lady. "Anything you want, bsms!"

When we got home, I asked her for a canter around the arena, and she picked up a relaxed, controlled canter. But I think she discovered that "I'm a horse, and I'm strong, and I can go fast!"

FWIW, she had a full cheek snaffle today. I have no idea if she would have responded to a bitless bridle, but I wouldn't bet on it. And yes, it is a training issue. We've had training issues for 4 years, and they are not over. But Mia may end up like Corporal...running today, I could feel the joy in her body. She was as nice and as willing as could be today, after we slowed down. But when asked to speed it up with an open trail ahead of her...she was happy. Very happy.

Oh...and Trooper? My daughter lost her stirrups both times, and Trooper slowed to a trot the moment she asked him to, even with Mia out ahead opening up the gap. Trooper is still "just a little trooper", as the saying goes that gave him his name. Thank God not all horses are like Mia, but I admit to being thankful that Mia IS like Mia. Whatever else she is, she isn't dull...

From June:

SorrelHorse 10-14-2012 12:56 AM

Thank you for the compliment on my mare. :) She came to me with a wonderful foundation but a major attitude so we had to work hard to find our balance and communication between me and her.

This is an excellent post, I'm glad you put it up for us to read. :)

SorrelHorse 10-14-2012 01:03 AM

Also I have an older gelding who was a kids horse who is virtually ruined in the face. I tried so hard to get him back into a french link snaffle but there was no way. I got him to the point where I COULD go in a snaffle should I need to, and I can walk/trot around in a rope halter in a pinch, but I would never think of doing much without our Billy Allen shank bit. It's a soft curb bit, but still a curb bit. He is 20 years old and for 16 of those years he was ridden by idiots who yanked on his face, bloodied him, and brought him to the point where I believe he doesn't even feel bits like other horses do anymore.

I no longer try to change him to fit bitless; He is a wonderful, wonderful horse who I trust with my life. He has been helping me pull around the young horses, calves, little kids on sleds, and various other things as well as still giving me the pleasure of flying down a trail in the mountains at full speed and swimming in the lake, and he's even gone to a few shows and done alright. Just last summer he won an endurance ride at age 19.

I don't want to try and change him. He's happy with the bit he has. No reason to bit down, no reason to bit up. He's solid, even if he is hard in the face. As wonderful as he is I wouldn't trust him flying full speed down the track with nothing but a neck rope like I would Selena.

Muppetgirl 10-14-2012 01:07 AM

I hear the twilight zone music playing......or is this déjà vu:shock:

Flickie 10-14-2012 02:55 AM

Bitless works on their pressure points so their not nicer than bites, some bites can be cruel, but if you dont gerk, and sore their mouth with them its fine, i have nothing against either, only some cruel bites.

christopher 10-14-2012 03:49 AM


Originally Posted by Corporal (Post 1715619)
most horses change hands many times throughout their lives, so it short-changes them for YOU to eliminate training that jeapardizes the possibility of a new, GOOD home when you sell that horse.

this is a good point (and the reason i don't ride bitless often), but has nothing to do with facts and everything to do with industry standards. and this being a nearly entirely unresearched matter, standards can't be trusted as true.

also does anyone have anything non-circumstantial to add?

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