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Would you ride in a bitless dressage test?

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  • #41
    I think it would be fun to do as a demonstration at a show.

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    • #42
      I think a bitless class would be great. Better yet, bitless bridles should be allowed in ALL regular classes.

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      • #43
        Originally posted by netg View Post
        Bosal:
        http://bitlessriding.org/wp/wp-conte...2/11/bosal.jpg

        I can think of no way it's physically possibly to not have leverage given the fact it's essentially built as a lever.... it's basic physics.

        By comparison, the bitless in the Le Noir picture has rein rings near the headstall attachment, making pressure direct. A bosal, you pull on the reins, and the top of the nose moves down while pressure is exerted on the temple simply due to the design. It's why when good western trainers start a young horse with contact they use a snaffle and without they use either snaffle or bosal. It's also why poorly fitting bosals can leave such rubs.
        I don't think bosals are designed to work quite as you say.

        They are not "leverage" pieces of equipment in the same what that shanked bits are.

        What they do have in common with those is that they are devices that work by giving a horse a signal. The signal comes from how the piece of equipment moves on the horse's body (or in his mouth) and the rider's hands (particularly how fast he goes back to neutral) creates the signal.

        That's a very different sense of what any kind of bit or face equipment should do vis-a-vis the snaffle bit.
        The armchair saddler
        Politically Pro-Cat

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        • #44
          Personally, no I wouldn't - but I also wouldn't care if there were separate classes that allowed this and other tack options. We sometimes forget that dressage at First level and below is really just basic training that can be found in multiple disciplines, and since shows are struggling to survive in this economy I don't think it would hurt to accommodate potential cross-overs in their own separate division - especially at non-USDF shows (judged according to exactly the same criteria as other dressage classes).

          IMO, at second level and above dressage training starts to involve much more finessed use of the bit which can't be replicated by any bitless setup I've ever come across (remember Uta Graf's horses have all been trained with bits before being asked to go bitless). So I don't know that there'd be much call for a bitless division at medium levels and above.

          I would love to compete in an occasional gymkhana or le trec class without a bit - to demonstrate/confirm that good dressage schooling creates high levels of horse-rider communication, suppleness, adjustability and sensitivity - and also for the sheer fun of it for both me and my horses!
          Proud COTH lurker since 2001.

          Comment

          • Original Poster

            #45
            Thank you all for your input. I hope I can make this happen locally. It would be a test of choice to start with. I really think it would be fun to do a series of them.

            I ride all of my horses in hackamores at some point and have for years. I recently stopped eventing one of my horses and switched to jumpers. This horse is so much more relaxed without a bit and has a much longer stride!!

            I have extensive experience riding and jumping bridleless on one of my horses as well. Though I don't think the dressage world is read for that! Years ago I did a training level combined test bridleless (after checking with the organizer and judge.) I also did show jumping of an all jumping combined test bridleless as well. I used a sidepull for cross-country.

            We will have to work out exactly what kinds of bitless bridles will be allowed.

            If anyone here rides in something other than a Dr. Cooks or a common english one with a shank or a sidepull, please let me know what kind it is.

            Thanks!

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            • #46
              It would be fun and educational, too. Contact can still be shown and judged.

              My option would be his halter with reins attached.

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              • #47
                Another vote for halter with reins attached (and against Dr. Cook's).
                http://www.tunnelsendfarm.com

                Comment


                • #48
                  Another vote for halter with reins attached (and against Dr. Cook's). Personally, I'd be opposed to any instruments that use shanks, crossed straps or leverage. I like the looks of the one shown in the German video-- it looks to me like a plain halter improved for riding by allowing the noseband to connect directly with the reins THROUGH the side rings so there is no risk of pulling the cheekpieces of the halter into the horse's eye. I like it. Thanks for posting.
                  http://www.tunnelsendfarm.com

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                  • #49
                    Go for it, OP. I think a lot of horses would benefit. You may just find there's a lot more interest than you expected.

                    I ride most of mine with just a rope halter and reins (attached at throat not side). They do well on trails, in groups or alone, also flatwork. I especially like them because I have people come out to ride who don't have the best hands. I DO NOT want those people pulling on the tender mouths of my herd. Different strokes...

                    Would love to hear updates if/when you implement.

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                    • #50
                      Originally posted by Lost_at_C View Post
                      IMO, at second level and above dressage training starts to involve much more finessed use of the bit which can't be replicated by any bitless setup I've ever come across (remember Uta Graf's horses have all been trained with bits before being asked to go bitless).
                      FWIW, I taught a bitted horse to go bitless (in a side-pull like thing). It was a question of teaching him that if I pulled on the rein that touched his face rather than his mouth, he still needed to give.

                      After that, everything else and the rest of the way I rode him/the rest of his body was the same.

                      I had a lesson in this contraption with the area's best local dressage instructor. (I think she had made one GP horse). She was skeptical of the set-up until she rode him in it. In fact, she asked to ride him before our lesson started because she didn't think the bitless would work for his training and her correct riding. According to her, it was fine.
                      The armchair saddler
                      Politically Pro-Cat

                      Comment


                      • #51
                        The contraption I built was a grooming halter tightened enough to not slide across the horse's face. I added a patch of sheepskin for the bridge of his nose.

                        I think this might be like Graef's thing-- just reins attached to points on the side of the horse's nose, relatively far down the snout.
                        The armchair saddler
                        Politically Pro-Cat

                        Comment


                        • #52
                          I may be wrong, but the bridle Uta's horse was going in looked more like Dr Cooks with the cross over straps - it has a large piece of black sheepskin which would be to protect his jaw bones.

                          I do not like the cross over straps at all. They tighten and rub, especially if the rider is using strength to slow gaits and the horse is not trained to the seat.

                          I'd be fine, and encourage it, if lower level tests were offered (as separate scores). You might be surprized at how many people come out.
                          Eventually, tho, those horses have to be trained to go in a bit if one hopes to further the horse's education, and the rider's.. One poster mentioned 'abusive' devices - nothing further from the truth. I value lightness over everything.
                          Proud member of People Who Hate to Kill Wildlife clique

                          Comment


                          • #53
                            "...acceptance of the bit..."

                            Hey, I could jump courses BRIDLELESS on my last event horse AND he went like a hunter. Should I agitate for bridleless hunter classes? Meh. Do what you like but don't have bitless and bitted in the same class(es).

                            Comment


                            • #54
                              Now is the time to talk about how signal bits/face equipment work.

                              Originally posted by Foxtrot's View Post
                              I do not like the cross over straps at all. They tighten and rub, especially if the rider is using strength to slow gaits and the horse is not trained to the seat.
                              The huge problem here (and with "Indian Hackamores") is that the release is not quick enough. It depends on how fast the straps can slide back through the rings (metal or rope) and reward the horse when the rider means to.

                              If you have a horse who has been taught to give to bit pressure (and tell him now the equivalent is pressure somewhere on his face), AND he has learned to accept constant contact and only slight releases, he'll cruise around in face equipment that doesn't offer the quick "let go" and contrast that teaches the horse.

                              If, on the other hand, you try to train a horse to a good contact between your hand and his head (somewhere) and a relationship that will get him to push into that contact, AND you choose equipment or bad riding that doesn't reward the horse very promptly, you will fail. You will also be unintentionally cruel because the horse never gets a clear answer to his question about what he just did that was right.
                              The armchair saddler
                              Politically Pro-Cat

                              Comment


                              • #55
                                Originally posted by mvp View Post
                                FWIW, I taught a bitted horse to go bitless (in a side-pull like thing). It was a question of teaching him that if I pulled on the rein that touched his face rather than his mouth, he still needed to give.

                                After that, everything else and the rest of the way I rode him/the rest of his body was the same.

                                I had a lesson in this contraption with the area's best local dressage instructor. (I think she had made one GP horse). She was skeptical of the set-up until she rode him in it. In fact, she asked to ride him before our lesson started because she didn't think the bitless would work for his training and her correct riding. According to her, it was fine.
                                MVP, this is interesting... can you tell me anything about the way your bitless setup offered varying directional pressure, and/or something comparable to bit element rotation? My understanding has always been that a bit is needed to achieve the really subtle and complex nuances of advanced communication.... but my mind is very open. (I'm speaking here of dressage at 3rd/4th level and above).
                                Proud COTH lurker since 2001.

                                Comment


                                • #56
                                  Originally posted by Lost_at_C View Post
                                  MVP, this is interesting... can you tell me anything about the way your bitless setup offered varying directional pressure, and/or something comparable to bit element rotation? My understanding has always been that a bit is needed to achieve the really subtle and complex nuances of advanced communication.... but my mind is very open. (I'm speaking here of dressage at 3rd/4th level and above).
                                  I'm not sure I understood all of your vocabulary about the different ways a snaffle can work, but that *was* my intention with the grooming halter thing: I wanted all of the distinctions and lightness from the horse in the bitless that I had with the bit.

                                  Also, I rode the horse the same way in the bitless and bitted equipment. That means:

                                  1. I used my hand the same way.

                                  Disclaimer and clue that's really important: When you first go to bitless face equipment, IME you need to step back to Colt 101 with respect to his head. If you have your horse light enough in the bit that it takes almost nothing for you to get him to turn his head, flex his pole and lower his head, you'll need to re-teach that in the bitless thing.

                                  As I conceive it, I have just changed the signal I had for "soften and give to the bridle." But the horse who hasn't been rigorously taught to give to someone pulling on his halter the way he has been taught to do that to a bit needs this explained to him as a Step One to going bitless.

                                  There's no reason he'd know to come out and give to someone pulling on the side of his face unless you taught him. That means, too, during your Colt 101 lesson, the release when he gives is very important. That contrast lets him know that "pulling on the side of your face" gets you the same reward that you earned when giving to the snaffle.

                                  2. I use my body the same way. I never pick up a hand without adding leg first. That didn't change. Also, if I don't get the flexion I want from my hand, I often add pressure from my leg to fix that. And that convention didn't change, either.

                                  So really, I didn't change much for the horse except the particular signal I gave his head to mean the same thing.

                                  3. You can then use the bit less thing however you want-- a big fat opening rein as for a young horse, or a subtle half-halt on the inside that only involves tightening the muscles in your forearm. IMO, this depends on how responsive you teach your horse to be. You can get that with thinner face equipment (or a bit), or you can get that with very good, precise pressure and release.

                                  Just as with the snaffle, once your horse knows that pressure on one side means "soften and give.... flex your poll (and yeah, if you feel like it, relax your jaw..... but really that comes with flexing the poll and I'm not talking to your jaw, so who cares, it's your jaw, do what you like with it)", you can use both reins in the more subtle combinations you like. Yes, you can use an indirect rein with a bitless contraption as I see it. But remember that I never chose anything with leverage, straps that don't release promptly, nor did I choose a bosal where signals come from many bumps and quick releases.
                                  The armchair saddler
                                  Politically Pro-Cat

                                  Comment


                                  • #57
                                    One more thought.

                                    Riding bitless will make you more communicative with your seat and leg and also more "honest" about how much of your riding comes from your hand.

                                    The best way to explain this is un-PC, with what you'd do with a horse who was very, very dull to the bit. Most of us would be tempted to choose a thinner, less stable bit and, while still using our legs, let that more painful piece of equipment convince the 2 x 4 horse to try something other than ignoring the bit or bracing against it. He might get lucky and try dropping his head and if we are any good, we let of of that rein and praise him profusely.

                                    With the bitless bridle, you can't make it more uncomfortable than it is, except by pulling his face all the way around to your knee. (You don't want to hold a horse here with a bit or a bitless thing if you don't have a plan for how he'll earn a reward. You can make the already dull horse exceptionally dull if you teach him to just stay there while you pull).

                                    So the inability to cause enough pain to his mouth that he has to do *something* means the only option you have for turning up the pressure on a horse who doesn't give is more leg.

                                    And to make this work, you'll actually be giving (letting go of the reins and going forward) *not* when the horse turns his neck far, but when he steps under with his hind leg and drops his head a little bit. So this way of riding will also make you use whatever reward you give involving the head to really relate to what the horse is doing with his body and hind end.

                                    I hope I have explained this well.
                                    The armchair saddler
                                    Politically Pro-Cat

                                    Comment


                                    • #58
                                      Originally posted by sevensprings View Post
                                      I especially like them because I have people come out to ride who don't have the best hands. I DO NOT want those people pulling on the tender mouths of my herd. Different strokes...

                                      .
                                      Yes!! I found the same thing. Green riders who wanted to pull on the reins got along much better with some horses and ponies if I had them ride with halter and lead rope instead of bits. One of my clients also found this worked well when her daughter brought home friends who wanted to try riding for the first time in their lives.
                                      http://www.tunnelsendfarm.com

                                      Comment


                                      • #59
                                        Originally posted by Wayside View Post
                                        I've known a few who really did need to go bitless because of mouth conformation issues. One of my co-boarders had a mare that was suffered a pretty bad head injury. She recovered, but her head was all sorts of misshapen and crooked afterwards. Like, to the point that it made visitors to the barn get all bug-eyed when they saw her. She went fine bitless, though.

                                        But I do agree that the vast majority of horses do go just fine in a bit.
                                        I didn't mean to suggest that specific horses don't go well in a bit. I haven't met one, but I know they are out there. I would never press a horse truly unhappy in a bit into a bit. Thanks for your input, I should have put this in my original post and your reply reminded me that I should have done that. Thanks again.
                                        Proud member of the Colbert Dressage Nation

                                        Comment


                                        • #60
                                          When I started playing with the idea of riding bitless, I attached my reins to my halter at first. This only pulled his noseband up his face and the crownpiece was halfway down his neck.

                                          Then I tried this: http://www.doversaddlery.com/hackamo...FQ6a4AodFxcADQ It worked well, but seemed a bit stiff. My bridle also had to be adjusted to the smallest fit, which never seemed small enough.

                                          Then I bought this: http://www.mossrockendurance.com/vie...D=1&prod_ID=12 I LOVE it and so does he! Fits great on his tiny Arab head, easy to care for, looks like leather, and doesn't shift at all. I ordered it with a wider noseband and headband.

                                          Some days we just fool around, riding on a loose rein, with me using my weight and legs to stop and steer. When I want contact, he goes just as well as in his regular bridle (I used a Myler ported bit, no noseband). Haven't used his bridle since I bought the sidepull. No more frozen bit in the winter!

                                          I'd rather see a rider with unsecure seat and insensitive hands pulling on a sidepull than a bit. At a fun schooling show, there's always a few of those at the lower levels. Maybe make the class a "Bitless challenge" class to get riders interested.

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