I got it in my head the other day that I was going to try and ride bridleless on my mare. I hopped up on her the last time we were up there with just a halter and lead, and she did fine and was sharp as a tack, so I got to thinking..."What if I didn't have the lead?"
I worked with the horse when she was very young and was owned by someone else. About a year later, she was given to me because she was just too fiery for a laid back lesson barn. I worked with her for a number of years until I had to regretfully sell her due to an unrelated brain injury. I was just about to switch her into a bosal at that point. I typically rode her in a snaffle but for the days where we were finessing, I put a bigger bit on her. She was doing pretty well when I had to sell her. No more bucking or rearing, or just being a general pain (except on the trails, she didn't like trails). She had all 3 gaits and was becoming lighter and more controllable in them. When I sold her, she sat in a pasture for 3 years and then came up for sale again, and I bought her (just a recap of some earlier threads). She's been toting my daughter around perfectly and I thought "3 years in the pasture really did her some good".
Today I went to the barn by myself for some "me" time. We did some ground work and then I put a bridle on her and wrapped a lead around her neck. I hopped on bareback and used the bridle for a bit, but also used the neck rope in conjunction. The only thing she was a bit hesitant on was the signal to stop, so I used the bridle at first to reinforce my "stop" seat/leg, and when she remembered that, transferring the idea over to the neck rope was easy for her to pick up on.
And then came the moment where I took a deep breath, gave her a pat, and reached forward to slip the bridle off her head.
We turned left. We turned right. We walked and we stopped. After a couple minutes of trying that out, I asked her for the trot. For a moment, I almost forgot I was holding a bridle in my hand and she was doing this free. She did this because she recognized what I was trying to tell her, and she said "Yes, I agree. Lets do that". Raina could never be told to do anything without a fight. You'd have to convince her that you were worthy of what you had to say, and even then, it was always "Fine, I'll do it. But I'm going to make a fuss while I do it". It wasn't until the summer before I had to sell her that I was finally getting some agreeable decisions out of her and we started working together.
So, I rode bridleless today on a horse I never expected to ever be able to do that with. It was such an amazing feeling, and very humbling. When I took the bridle off, I was completely powerless. You take away your "complete" control and its all up to the horse to either agree or disagree with what you ask. Theres nothing to tell them they *have* to do something. You're only asking at that point.
This was a brand new experience for me and I just had to share. It was a brand new feeling. I plan on continuing this with more training, using the bridle first and then the rope, and slowly weaning her off of the head gear. She'll always have a bridle for when my daughter rides, but now I have my own project to work for. It feels wonderful