I recently found myself discussing whether the horse is capable of learning collection and high school movements entirely bitless with a relative traditionalist. After several minutes, I must have mentioned the bitless bridle, for the opposing party was suddenly surprised and conceded that yes, these things could be achieved bitless, just not bridleless.
By Philip Larkin
The eye can hardly pick them out
From the cold shade they shelter in,
Till wind distresses tail and mane;
Then one crops grass, and moves about
– The other seeming to look on –
And stands anonymous again.
Rightly or otherwise, there is a certain stigma surrounding riders who choose bitless bridles. I have heard the “three Bs” (bitless, barefoot, bareback) mentioned often in conjunction with some criticism of the hippies using them, but do all bitless advocates really come from natural horsemanship backgrounds, denounce saddles, and keep their horses completely metal-free? Here are some of my thoughts on the topic.
The rope halter is a popular transition tool for the horse or rider who is new to bitless riding. It has become the must-have accessory for most brands of natural horsemanship, both for groundwork and riding. How does it fare against other bitless bridles?
As with any tack, fit is essential when choosing a bitless bridle. A correctly fitting bridle improves comfort and ensures that the mechanism of the bitless bridle can work as intended. Many points that will be covered in this post apply as much to any bitted or bitless bridle, however these are always worth reiterating.
Any keen-eyed readers might have already spotted the Transcend double bridle in a few prominent photos on Bitless Blog. It is certainly a very photogenic piece of equipment. I hope to eventually summarise most every type of bitless bridle and their mechanisms in a more formulaic and sensible manner, however for the time being sporadic reviews will have to suffice. Of course, while I explain the mechanism of any bridle, I will need to have tried the mechanism in question in order to review it! Let us begin with the bridle I bought more than a year ago and haven’t stopped raving about since.
I have recently come to realise how important it is to have comfortable spaces to share ideas. Somewhere safe from judgement, propaganda, and ulterior motives. That space might be your car, your sofa, your bed, your phone, your laptop. It might even be your work or your relationships if you are fortunate. An excellent term for this was coined by the Rubberbandits (good for you if you know who they are, but no worries if not!). The cosy, relaxed conversation provided by their weekly podcast might be one-way, but it fills me with joy to hear thoughts about the world around us – history, comedy, science, music, literature, current affairs, psychology, art, and so on – discussed in such a way that it can be accurately described as a hug.
For years, I have been researching how to be the kindest human a horse could possibly encounter. That seems like a non-sequitur, I know. For years I have been reading books, going to demonstrations, watching TV shows and YouTube videos, speaking to friends, speaking to strangers online, and sometimes trying to articulate my own thoughts. The thing with the ‘alternative’ side of the equine industry is that everyone is striving so hard to be more natural than the last trainer or method or piece of equipment that it can become a surprisingly hostile environment. One thing we have in common, however, is the desire to improve the welfare of the horse, and oftentimes also the desire to reach the more mainstream band of equestrians and instigate change on a broader scale.
Let us focus on those goals and put them ahead of our infighting. However, let us also discuss the finer details that can divide us. Let us speak openly but positively, with compassion for one another as much as our equines. Let us make the sharing of information, discussion, and opinions as joyful and relaxing as that weekly podcast hug.