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Changing to riding bitless

January 2010

Riding bitless means that the relationship you have with your horse will change forever as it will give you a sense of achievement and the knowledge that you are making a deeper connection with your horse.

Bitless riding changes the balance of power between horse and rider in as much as you have replaced control through the bit with “control” through an inner power base, demonstrating trust, respect and heightened awareness. It is also the first step in forming a relationship with your horse for anyone wanting a career as a Holistequine Equine Assisted Therapy Practitioner

In the transition from using a bit to going bitless each situation and each horse/rider combination will require a different approach depending on the level of discipline, training and trust that has been build up over the years or months of riding.
It has been my experience (with the many clients and students who I have taught Holistic Horsemanship to) that the preliminary bitless training and preparation for riding needs to be done with horse and rider on the ground first to build up trust, self confidence and discipline

I had been riding my gelding for about 16 years when we decided to go bitless and I must say that he adapted quicker than I did due only to one thing………. my fear factor, a fear that had been programmed into me over many years of riding
Apart from a normal fear caused by a lack of experience the reason most riders have fear is that we become unsure of our horse because we pick up signals from him/her that are beyond our normal range of perception.

Non verbal communication (body language and extra-sensory perception) is estimated to be as high as 91% of total communication. So we need to not only know the horse’s way of communicating but we must also become more aware of not sending our horse mixed messages (also via this non-verbal channel) with our own body language and emotions.

Below are some of the commonly experienced horse behavioural problems; all of which can be overcome when we take the time to re-assess OUR OWN ideas, intensions, emotions and actions.

Does your horse:

  • Walk/run away from you when you go to “catch” him/her
  • Lift up his/her feet willingly
  • Ever get aggressive or angry
  • Stand still when you need him to
  • Startle easily
  • Show any lack of confidence during groundwork or out riding
  • Not show you enough respect
  • Fearful of anything outside of his/her comfort zone

Have you ever noticed how reactive your horse is when he has a fright, how his reflex time is so much quicker than your own response time?

Holistequine Holistic Horsemanship closes this gap by gaining an understanding of yourself and your horse and establishing what we call “independent energy fields”. With practise as you “tune in” to your horse you will change your reaction time and be able to trust in all the decisions you make for the safety of yourself and your horse.

During the Holistequine bitless riding programs we replace control with the bit to having control through the Solar Plexus energy centre. The result is a relationship built on trust, heightened communication and inner strength.

The Solar Plexus chakra is our seat of personal power and self esteem; it represents the energy centre for “where we shine” so it stands to reason is a very important centre to work on both physically and energetically when we want to achieve our goals.

I have used a no-bit bridle now for about 8 years; and from my own personal experience the transition from riding with a bit to bitless riding was a breeze however I did have to overcome the fear in my mind, a program saying .....................that the bit = control, therefore no bit = no control

I had been riding my gelding with a bit for about 10 years (I started working with him as an 18 month old colt). I chose a no-bit bridle which crosses over under the jaw and gently squeezes or hugs the head.
I decided against just using a halter as I thought the connection the horse has mentally with wearing a halter is too casual or not “official” enough.

A bitless bridle becomes part of the horse’s riding “uniform” as against the casual halter he may wear in the paddock while playing etc (however this is just a personal choice)

I put the bitless bridle on for the first time while riding in the arena and was amazed at the fact there was very little difference in my horse’s responses and at first there was no change in his behaviour.
Here was just a sigh of relief and a sense of……. “At last she has got it”.

The responses to “stop” and “go” were the same and it took only about 20 minutes to get the turns right

A little later however as he became more aware of the fact there was nothing in his mouth he became a little bolder (some would say “naughty”) and realizing he was “free” he then decided to test me by wanting his own way.
This is where fear had to give way to faith; faith that the trusting relationship we had built up over the years would suffice…………. And after I bought in a little more energy from the Solar Plexus the self trust emerged and he was fine.

Training for bitless riding does take more patience; discipline and a little understanding of the psychology of the horse but like anything that one puts effort into the rewards are there in the end.

Holistic Horsemanship… horse courses prepares horse and rider for bitless riding and is also a prerequisite for a traineeship in E.A.L.C. which is a form of Equine Assisted Therapy

Equine Assisted Life Coaching (Equine Assisted Therapy)…….works with a horse facilitator in a wide range of “human conditions” from addictions to bullying, corporate leadership to relationship issues and general health concerns.
We also conduct online horse courses for Equine Assisted Life Coaching (Equine Assisted Therapy).

Equine Profiling……..provides an intuitive psychological profile of horse and rider, giving insight for any misunderstandings or behavioural problems the rider may encounter.