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Contact and connection to collection-bits, bosals, sidepulls

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  • Contact and connection to collection-bits, bosals, sidepulls

    Rather than drag up the NH threads here is a question that I think would be beneficial for NH'ers to hear a dressage perspective.

    Is a BIT necessary for correct contact? If so why?

    In other words, if the purpose of contact is to create the circle of energy and block energy from leaking out the front, can this not also be achieved with a sidepull, bosal, rope halter or even a neck rope?

    If not, why?

    What is it about an actualy bit that makes the energy blocking and recycling different (if anything at all)?

  • #2
    Those who believe that contact is defined as contact with a bit will say a bit is necessary. Those who believe contact can be established through things other than a bit will say it is possible to have contact with something other than a bit.

    And then the whole discussion will degress into an argument about whether or not it's dressage, since this IS a dressage board.

    Me? I believe it is possible to have contact and to close the circle of energy with something besides a bit, even with feel, in the absence of a physical connection. But it makes life easier if I concede that this kind of riding is not dressage.

    I will be interested to hear the "why or why not" answers.
    Last edited by monstrpony; Aug. 24, 2007, 01:22 PM.
    "One person's cowboy is another person's blooming idiot" -- katarine

    Spay and neuter. Please.

    Comment


    • #3
      Jessica Jehiel wrote a very good reply in recent issue Dressage Today. While she seems to be a 'bitless' person, and I am a 100% bit person, her explanation I can understand and I would call it a good argument for bitless.

      My arguments, there are 3:

      -- bitless work on pressure the same way as bit, same way as your leg and seat. I cannot understand why people think a bit is not as kind. However a bit is more prone to abuse by the unskilled hand... but it just points to the fact some bitless are more severe, they prevent people from abusing it it e.g. hold onto to it for balance.

      -- bit offers a huge range of aids... you can 'play' it ring finger, release and not throw away, invite the horse to chew away, right hand a little higher, outside a little firmer, 1 pound pressure, 2 pounds, 3 ounces... all up to the rider at the moment when it's needed, and according to individual horse. Unlike many bitless, it's not an 'on/off' switch. It means it is harder to use well, but there are infinite combinations.

      I have tried to use a pressure halter. Sure you can bend the horse or bend the neck, but for the love of God, I do not know how to do flexion properly, hence there is contact but laterally the horse is not supple.

      -- it is required in dressage competition. It is VERY unfair to school the horse in one type of equipment, then expect it to perform similarly in another set of equipment. Rider also need the practice. If you horse doesn't care one way or the other, it just means your horse is a versatile worker who adapts quickly.

      Now I do believe there are occasions you want to use bitless. For instance you are mostly a trail rider and do cross training, and don't compete. I say bitless is fine. For instance your horse has teeth/mouth problem, or he is reactive to a bit for unknown reason, I would also use bitless.

      Comment

      • Original Poster

        #4
        Thanks for your comments so far.

        It would REALLY be nice if this thread remains educational and does not digress.

        There is an opportunity for a polite conversation-you know like people would do in person!

        Comment


        • #5
          I would say it is not possible to have correct bit contact without a bit. Heh.

          But it's also pretty obvious that things like collection and suppleness are possible without any contact at all. Whether or not that's dressage ... I don't know. I'm just a recreational dressage rider.

          Comment


          • #6
            I could probably work a horse toward collection with a bosal. What you need is something up front to stop the shoulders from escaping the energy created in the hindquarters in order to develop longitudinal bend. The lateral bend of the horse should properly be created by the rider's weight aids. However, not many riders are that good with understanding how to use that influence. Once the horse was completely trained to the weight aids, it should be possible to ride the horse in only a prayer rein, or loop around the neck. But, notice that with that again, you are controling the shoulder points. I have seen really good riders who have trained horses to go completely without anything controling the shoulders, but that is beyond my skill level. I would not want to start a horse from scratch without a bit as I have no death wish!

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by angel View Post
              I could probably work a horse toward collection with a bosal. What you need is something up front to stop the shoulders from escaping the energy created in the hindquarters in order to develop longitudinal bend. The lateral bend of the horse should properly be created by the rider's weight aids. However, not many riders are that good with understanding how to use that influence. Once the horse was completely trained to the weight aids, it should be possible to ride the horse in only a prayer rein, or loop around the neck. But, notice that with that again, you are controling the shoulder points. I have seen really good riders who have trained horses to go completely without anything controling the shoulders, but that is beyond my skill level. I would not want to start a horse from scratch without a bit as I have no death wish!
              Ever heard of Freddie Knie?

              He trained with a snaffle, but he could ride a higer level dressage test correctly, without anything on the horse, no saddle, string around the neck, not anything.

              Control is in the training of the horse and using the rider's weight, seat and legs for aids.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Bluey View Post
                Control is in the training of the horse and using the rider's weight, seat and legs for aids.
                Which is why I don't think a bit should be a requirement to show, although I understand the idea and the philosophy behind it.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Okay, question:

                  If you are using a bosal or other nose pressure - how does a horse "give" to the pressure? Wouldn't you have to maintain constant pressure to maintain connection? With a bit, the horse can relax the jaw and "carry" the bit, maintaining the connection and/or the rider can "soften" the pressure without giving up the connection. Just asking.

                  Nothing wrong with riding bitless. I often do it for trail riding and used to occasonally jump my long-deceased eventer bridleless. But I didn't call any of that "dressage," even if I were requesting a leg yield or shoulder in or whatever.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Please note that the OP did not ask if this kind of riding is dressage or not, she only asked for dressage riders' perspectives on the question of contact and connection using something other than a bit.

                    (I apologize for muddying the waters by bringing up whether or not this is dressage, because it should be an interesting discussion if it doesn't get derailed)
                    "One person's cowboy is another person's blooming idiot" -- katarine

                    Spay and neuter. Please.

                    Comment

                    • Original Poster

                      #11
                      OK...first i do want to be VERY clear-I am not asking to bait some kind of dressage or not question-though I never even thought that the point could be a subpoint of discussion.

                      I am not anti-bit either-I show hunters and have used a bit for years.

                      However I do ride often in a rope halter (think same action as a bosal) and after the NH/dressage threads and contact, etc it just got me thinking-I thought this would be the best forum for a discussion.

                      OK...to Sandy...I am just talking through this based on your response so here we go...

                      Maybe this is a fine line distinction that I am still not clear on but this is my understanding.

                      Whether I use a bit or halter, I am able to feel contact (ala pressure) in the reins...it can be as light as lifting the rein or as heavy as...necessary.

                      The horse with either can 'give' vertically (or laterally for that matter) and the pressure can be released as much or little in either.

                      Of course he won't be carrying a bit when it isn't there, but I still feel a blocking of energy leaking out the front and am able to create the 'bow' i.e. lifting the back.

                      I guess what I am wondering is if there is something not releasing by not having the bit (the jaw is all I can think of)...but can he lock it if there is no bit? Or can you still get a release there?

                      I guess the waters are muddied now so here is my dumber question of the day...why couldn't it be dressage? Is the bit a requirement? I thought it was simply the connection and circle of energy?

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        If it makes anybody feel better:
                        sidepull, bosal, rope halter can circulate energy as they can block the horse.

                        but they do not allow correct contact. Contact is a connection. Like another poster says, if a horse backs away from the blocking aid, there is no connection. contact is a horse participating in this joint communication, and push himself into it as he seeks this line of communication and instruction on how to balance.

                        Comment

                        • Original Poster

                          #13
                          Originally posted by MyReality View Post
                          If it makes anybody feel better:
                          sidepull, bosal, rope halter can circulate energy as they can block the horse.

                          but they do not allow correct contact. Contact is a connection. Like another poster says, if a horse backs away from the blocking aid, there is no connection. contact is a horse participating in this joint communication, and push himself into it as he seeks this line of communication and instruction on how to balance.
                          OK this is making a little more sense I think?

                          But why can't he push into the sidepull, etc just like a bit? To me he can back off a bit there would be no connection as well?

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            If the intent is to train to eventually achieve complete selfcarriage with a rider's weight on it's back, then however you teach that may in the end be without hardly any or as much contact as you want to train with, or NONE, AS LONG AS THE GOAL IS ACHIEVED.

                            I would say if and how much contact is in what you want to call the end goal.
                            I rode one TB that was trained to compete in the olympics that could be ridden correctly without any discernible contact, he was so light on hand.
                            If in those days we would have been playing around bridleless, I expect he would have been fun to try it on and see what we could do and stay correct.

                            Those of you riding today may try it and come back to us.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              The problem that most people have in thinking about bits, is that it is the bit, itself, or the horse's mouth with which you need to establish "connection." This is just not so. The connection does not need to be mouth-centric. Yes, dressage definitions given in the hand book do specify the use of a bit, so a bit must be used if you are going to show "regulation" dressage. But, if you are not doing "regulation" dressage, anything that will limit the horse's shoulder points, and specifically control the diagonal path of energy from the shoulder point to the diagonal hind leg, is sufficient to establish "contact."

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Sandy...I forgot to answer your question about the bosal. The bosal works sort of like a mix between a snaffle bit, and a side pull. You definitely do not want constant pressure across the nose or you will numb the nose to the point the horse just runs through. The use of the bosal is definitely a give and release sort of training, just as your snaffle should be. The knot under the chin should just keep the nosepiece resting on the bridge of the horse's nose...without hardly any pressure...just like the caveson of the regular snaffle bridle. You can take contact in both mecate reins at the same time, which acts on the bridge of the nose and the horse's poll just as a curb bit would work. When you are first starting, you can also use just one rein side at a time. When you take a rein...let's say the left rein...the pressure is along the right side of the nose, asking the horse to turn left. So you can put pressure on either side of the face, or put pressure on top of the nose, along with some poll pressure, just as you would do with any bitted bridle.

                                Traditionally, the horse was started in the snaffle as a 2-3 year old. But, when the second teeth began erupting, the horse was put in a bosal so the mouth would not be involved. After all the new teeth were in, then the trainer would go to a curb bit of some kind...many ultimately made a spade bit horse. This was considered the highest form of the art of vaquero riding.

                                The bosal is made of braided rawhide. I had to wrap mine in chamois because my horse was so thin-skinned the roughness of the rawhide would put marks just hanging there. The chamois worked very well.

                                Comment

                                • Original Poster

                                  #17
                                  angel...'the connection does not have to be mouth-centric'-THAT is the essence of my question.

                                  Also thanks for the background on bosal to the spade bit. Interesting!

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by angel View Post
                                    Sandy...I forgot to answer your question about the bosal. The bosal works sort of like a mix between a snaffle bit, and a side pull. You definitely do not want constant pressure across the nose or you will numb the nose to the point the horse just runs through. The use of the bosal is definitely a give and release sort of training, just as your snaffle should be. The knot under the chin should just keep the nosepiece resting on the bridge of the horse's nose...without hardly any pressure...just like the caveson of the regular snaffle bridle. You can take contact in both mecate reins at the same time, which acts on the bridge of the nose and the horse's poll just as a curb bit would work. When you are first starting, you can also use just one rein side at a time. When you take a rein...let's say the left rein...the pressure is along the right side of the nose, asking the horse to turn left. So you can put pressure on either side of the face, or put pressure on top of the nose, along with some poll pressure, just as you would do with any bitted bridle.

                                    Traditionally, the horse was started in the snaffle as a 2-3 year old. But, when the second teeth began erupting, the horse was put in a bosal so the mouth would not be involved. After all the new teeth were in, then the trainer would go to a curb bit of some kind...many ultimately made a spade bit horse. This was considered the highest form of the art of vaquero riding.

                                    The bosal is made of braided rawhide. I had to wrap mine in chamois because my horse was so thin-skinned the roughness of the rawhide would put marks just hanging there. The chamois worked very well.

                                    I know how a bosal works and have used them. Used to trail ride my event horse in one all the time. He had a pretty good "rein" on him for a nearly 17 hand horse, too. LOL But to me, pressure/release means "lost connection" or even, heaven forbid, "behind the vertical" ergo, not dressage. Or am I misconstruing the question?

                                    Comment

                                    • Original Poster

                                      #19
                                      Now we are back to my point of confusion...
                                      One can have a lost connection with a bit so why can't one have a connection with a halter, etc.

                                      Obviously many have already answered...but this is the core of my question.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        The lost connection has more to do with the incorrect weight aids of the rider and/or the loss of balance by the horse...no matter what the vehicle used to stop the shoulder points. A horse behind vertical or with its nose in the air is never in balance. The bit hanger, or the bosal hanger should be vertical with the ground when the horse is in the correct position. By the same token, a horse totally lacking a headstall should have its head such that the line drawn from the poll to the corners of the mouth is vertical. Such a position puts the horse's nose just a hair in front of what we perceive as vertical.

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