I took the bridle off - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 8 Old 12-20-2017, 01:54 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Jun 2012
Location: Pennsylvania
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I took the bridle off

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
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post #2 of 8 Old 12-20-2017, 01:59 PM
Green Broke
Join Date: Feb 2014
Location: Harrisburg, PA
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Congratulations! It sounds like a life-changing experience! I like that you also made sure you had connected your seat and legs with the cues from the reins for her, and that sounds like it was truly a key to success.

Hopefully you both will have many more adventures together and a lot of fun exploring this :)
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post #3 of 8 Old 12-20-2017, 04:22 PM
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post #4 of 8 Old 12-20-2017, 08:33 PM
Join Date: Jun 2016
Location: Montana
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I understand the feeling. I remember the first day I pulled Mirage's bridle. It felt so awesome to pilot this half-ton beast around with nothing but my voice and my seat and my legs. That sense of oneness is truly something else ... in my opinion you and your horse are never truly a team until you can ride confidently with that bridle hanging on the fence. : )

-- Kai
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post #5 of 8 Old 12-20-2017, 09:44 PM
Join Date: Apr 2015
Location: Canada
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So cool! I hope to do this someday with my mare Kodak. Right now, she's still anxious and spooky, but we have been riding in a bitless bridle for some time now, in the paddock and most recently on a trail, and she's perfectly fine.

I do think there is a level of communication and trust that needs to be acquired to do this, so I applaud that!
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post #6 of 8 Old 12-20-2017, 09:47 PM
Join Date: Jan 2015
Location: bay area, ca
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i'd love to try bridleless on my mare. sounds like such a fun bonding experience! kai, you're not even using a neck rope? wow!
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post #7 of 8 Old 12-21-2017, 01:18 AM
Join Date: Jun 2016
Location: Montana
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No I never did use a neck rope of any kind on her. 99% of the time I would use my legs to turn her so for us the next natural step was to simply remove the bridle. When my parents bought her for me Mirage had a very nice 60 days of training (yikes!) but she ended up being perfect for me, we never had an issue. So I taught her pretty much everything she knew by renting EVERY possible horse training cassette, DVD, and book from the library, spending endless hours trawling the InterWebs, and being an annoying pest to each of the 4 local horse trainers in our area lol. Eventually I took a job loping colts for cutting horse trainer Bill Hunter and I learned a heck of a lot from him. I'd trained Mirage to neck rein before I really knew what I was doing, the "idiot" way of dragging your reins across the horse's neck so that when they turn their nose is actually tipped to the outside. Even when I didn't know what I was doing I knew it looked like crap so I usually just used my legs to turn her.

Bill was the one who actually encouraged me to ride Mirage bridleless. We'd spent an afternoon working buffalo and he sat his hat on the saddle horn and stared at me a while, then said in his typically no-nonsense way, "Girl ... when you gonna take that bridle off and turn that horse loose? You been sortin cows (they were all "cows" to Bill, even the buffalo) all day and you ain't touched the reins once." I didn't think anything of it, probably because I was an invincible teenager (insert eyeroll here), so I bent Mirage's head around, slipped off her bridle, and spent a wonderful 15 minutes enjoying her lovely "power steering". By the time I sold her Mirage could be ridden bridleless in any location, in or out of an arena, and could perform any maneuver bridleless that she could with a bit.

My eventual goal with Dreams is to be able to ride bridleless, I think we're going to make a great team someday. I've forgotten how much hard work goes into a nice bridleless horse but in the end it's so worth it!! So definitely keep working at it, the end result is SOOO going to make you smile. : )

-- Kai
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post #8 of 8 Old 12-22-2017, 03:27 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Jun 2012
Location: Pennsylvania
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I put seat/leg aids on her in the beginning but its been a few years since anyone has used them. My daughter rides her, but she's 8 and not quite there yet. She's learning how to use her legs for steering in conjunction with what she already knows (steering with the reins), but hasn't really understood the "stop" leg aid yet. I was pleasantly surprised when Raina picked up on that old aid with only a few attempts. I feel like my horse really is smarter than those college kids that the bumper stickers always brag about

I didn't get to ride today on account that I broke my finger last night and it also needed stitches, and Raina had a chiro appointment. She's been sore on her shoulder. I could have ridden her afterwords but I chose to just let her rest and let the adjustment settle in. I decorated her stall for Christmas and did a lot of stretches with her. Hopefully I will get a picture the next time I'm up to ride. I can't wait!
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