Tag Archives: bridleless

Hey Stacy, I was wondering, is 21 too old to teach some of the stuff in your videos?

“Hey Stacy, I was wondering, is 21 too old to teach some of the stuff in your videos? As I have a 21 year-old I’d love to do more work with. Thanks.” -Lydia S.

One of my refrigerator magnets.

One of my refrigerator magnets.

I was asked this question years ago by a young girl around the age of 13. She owned a  20+ year old horse. I told her that how much she accomplish would depend on her persistence and consistency and some on her horses willingness. She watched my demos at the expo and before it was over she bought my Bridleless riding DVD.

Several months later I received an email from her.  She sent me a link to a video where she was riding her horse bridleless! The horse was clearly a 4H type horse so her pattern looked more like a horsemanship pattern and her ‘rollbacks’ were simple pivots…but it was AWESOME! One young persistent girl and one older horse. I wish I still had that video link but all of this happened back in 2006 and the computer it was on died. I didn’t have anything backed up so it took all the info with it 😦

I can’t say exactly how far the stuff will take you…but I will tell you that it IS VERY POSSIBLE!


Posted by on May 8, 2015 in Members Question, Training


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Will us (fans) ever see you doing another bridleless/bareback routine?

“Will us (fans) ever see you doing another bridleless/bareback routine??…. I remember seeing a video someone posted on youtube (you/Roxy/Maggie) … Templeton Thompson was singing your song…… but then Roxy died and then Vaquero and I guess Maggie is retired…. so I was wondering if you have given up on that dream… or have you even thought about at all?”-Lesia Lowe

I am a big believer that when the time is right, things will happen. My job is to be prepared. I don’t know if another bareback/bridleless routine will happen again or not. As you saw in the video with Roxy and Maggie (below) I was experimenting with this as a possibility. I wasn’t sure if I could ever get it to a show level…but Maggie never recovered from a suspensory injury that she sustained running in the pasture and we turned her into a broodmare. Did you realize that Maggie is Newt’s mom?

I work my horses and give them opportunities but they get to make choices too. Maybe it will happen, maybe it won’t. I don’t lose sleep over it but I don’t sit on the couch thinking it will ‘just happen’ either. I work and then let the chips fall where they may…thats the mystery of life. I’m starting Newt’s two year old half sister right now (another Maggie baby) and I have plans to ride more of Roxy’s granddaughters.

I don’t know where life will lead…two years ago if you told me I would be living full time in a motor home I would have laughed at you…but I did leave the door open 🙂


Posted by on May 7, 2015 in Inspiring, Members Question


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Stacy Westfall’s first time riding bridleless on Newt

Yippy! Newt is giving bridleless riding a try!

This is a video of the first time I took the bridle off Newt and rode him around. Newt is six years old in this video and I started his under saddle training as a two year old.  I had been practicing the cue system during his entire training. For several months before this I had also been tying the reins up and focusing on riding with only my body, leg and voice cues. I chose to ride with a neck rope (one of my reins removed from my bridle) because Newt liked the familiar feeling of the neck rein cues and was more relaxed and confident.

Please realize that many, many hours of training have happened prior to this and you should not try riding bridleless unless you are confident that you have a clear communication system with your horse that doesn’t rely on the bridle in case of an emergency. The prior sentence is not meant to be reversed to imply that the bridle should be your emergency system…but the reality is that for many people the bridle is their strongest form of communication with their horse in an emergency.

If I sound a bit concerned it is because I know that other videos of me riding bridleless have inspired many people to give it a try. Many have had success but there have been a few that have been injured because they (either horse or rider or both) were not properly prepared. Just last year I met a trainer who said one of his youth girls broke her leg while trying to imitate my ride.

Clear communication through consistent training is the key…I’m just saying don’t just pull the bridle off and hope for the best as it isn’t fair to either you or your horse 🙂

This was videoed in February 2015 while we were in California. You may also find it interesting that I have only ridden him bridleless a handful of times between then and now as I am still continuing to advance his ‘in the bridle’ training.


Posted by on May 6, 2015 in Thought provoking, Training, Video


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Video: Bridleless Freestyle Mustang Makeover

130 days of training.

She hopes to train horses full time after she graduates from Purdue.

I don’t think she will have trouble getting customers, lol.

The young ladies name is Madison Shambaugh and her horse is the mustang Terk. This video is from the VA Extreme Mustang Makeover 2015. The team was awarded Overall Reserve Champion, Fan Favorite, Rookie award, & Young Guns (18-21 yr old) award.


Posted by on March 31, 2015 in Video


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Video: 1988 Bridleless Grand Prix Dressage

After seeing this video from 1988 I had to know more. The video is of Andrew Sałacki, a Polish rider, demonstrating Grand Prix dressage on his mare without a bridle. His ride led to numerous demonstrations around the world for more than three years including performing for the Queen.

I translated the following from this website (that I cannot read) and learned the following:

As reported by the service well known and respected in the equestrian environment not only Polish, 58-year-old Andrew Sałacki is one of the greatest riders in the history of Polish dressage.
In his credits include 12 Polish Championship medals in dressage as well as participation in the World Cup Final struggle in this competition.
Undeniably the maturing permanently in the memory of his demonstration rides were GP class Font mares during the “Horse of the Year show,” which took place at London’s famous Wembley Stadium in 1988.
Polish rider sensation show was the fact that the whole program of the competition he performed GP Fonts walking in deprived bridle.
This has led to so much recognition that Andrew Sałacki was invited to present his show in front of Queen Elizabeth II.
No less impressive looks Sałackiego Andrew coaching achievements. Levada successful club players with sufficient Zakrzow are the showcase. In the years 2000 – 2004 he was the coach of the National Team FEI dressage. He also worked as a training consultant in its crown discipline of dressage (formerly practiced equestrian vaulting and eventing) in Germany and the USA.

How interesting! I wondered what inspired him to do this in 1988? Did he ever try again with another horse? Either way it is a video worth watching.


Posted by on March 8, 2015 in Video


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Why not skip the bridle and just start with a halter if you want to ride bridleless in the end? Jac Review Week

“Hi Stacy! In Episode 13 you start Jac in a bridle, I’m curious to why you start in a bridle instead if a rope halter, I remember something about how Jac isn’t your personal horse, so I’m wondering if you were starting a horse with the intent to do tackles riding, would you still start with a bit and bridle or just a rope halter and why? A rope halter makes sense to me because there would be less steps to tackles. What do you think?”-Jessica C

I can see where the idea of ‘less’ would appear to be a quicker transition to completely bridleless. There are several ways to view this question. First I will start with what I have done in the past. All of my bridleless reining horses have been very well trained in bits. As the horses have progressed through the stages of training I have always used the tools that helped make the ‘correct answer’ the easiest for the horse to find. For example, snaffle bits are excellent for teaching a horse to bend side to side and shanked bits tend to encourage breaking at the poll. These statements may sound like my opinions, and they are, but they have been built on observing many horses.

Your question has one huge variable; ‘starting a horse with the intent to do tackles riding.’ This could mean riding around in a round pen, or pasture, or competing in reining…and those more specific end goals change the answer.

My goals have been to show at the highest levels of reining without a bridle. A variety of bits, as referenced above, are part of the training process I use with my reining horses. This is one of the reasons I started Jac with a bit.

Having said that, I am also sure that there are horses that could be trained in a rope halter and reach a safe level of general riding…possibly even tackless. I just haven’t tried this route because I have always started with reining in mind and general riding naturally came with it.

I believe that bits can be comfortable for horses as well as an asset to many training programs. You may also be interested in reading these other blogs I have written on using bits.

What bit should I use with my horse? Why don’t you always use a snaffle bit? Doesn’t a bit hurt a horse?

Teaching a horse to accept contact with the bit, teaching collection and headset; Jac Review week

Stacy’s Video Diary: Jac Review – Teaching a horse to accept the bit


In this episode I show all of the things a horse must know before I switch to a bit with a shank.


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Does using your legs a lot make a horse dull to leg pressure? Jac Review Week

“Stacy in Episode #23 I notice when you are teaching the shoulder exercises as you are walking your legs are always bumping him is this to keep him in forward motion, does that make him dull to the leg pressure?” Sandra P

This is one of the top three ‘most asked questions’ I receive when I am riding my horse…when they are not fully trained. Once my horses are fully trained, the cues are more subtle and the question doesn’t come up as much even though I am still using my legs in the same way.

I think the reason that my leg movements draw so much attention is that people are not accustom to seeing people use their legs and body cues in an exaggerated way. In the training stages with my horses I exaggerate many cues with my horses. You will notice that I exaggerate my hand positions; during counter bending for example my hands are often held twice as wide as my body…even though in the end I will show my horses one handed and will neck rein. I am exaggerating to make the learning easier for the horse.

I use my legs in an exaggerated manner so my horses will notice and learn the cues. As my horses become more in tune with my legs I will be able to use my hands, the bit and bridle, less and less. Eventually my horses ride ‘bridleless’ or without the need for cues from the bridle because I have moved them all to my legs.

Many people assume that using my legs more will cause the horse to be dull. If you picture a dressage horse or a horse showing in the new AQHA Ranch Horse class being ridden with rein contact then by this same thinking, these horses should be dull to the rein cues. But they are not. Why?

It is widely accepted that horses can learn to accept steady contact on the reins and can ‘feel’ the subtle opening and closing of the riders fingers. Advanced horses can interpret the smallest changes in the steady hand that is guiding them. I believe that the same thing can be done with the riders legs. It is how I trained Roxy, Jac’s mother, to read my body so well.

Just as the upper level dressage horse was taught early on with more exaggerated hand positions and eventually learned to ‘feel’ the subtle cues of the riders finger movements, my horses are taught with exaggerated leg movements that eventually become invisible.

The reason my horses don’t get dull to the cues is the same reason they don’t get dull to my bridle cues: I don’t allow it. I want them to accept my leg movement but if they try getting dull to my legs I correct them. I am willing to ‘wave’ my legs to match their motion.  Lets say that a ‘wave’ is a gentle bounce of my leg that equals 4 ounces of pressure. If the horse gets dull and trys to ignore the 4 ounces of pressure, then I correct them. The horse would become dull if he were allowed to make me carry 4 ounces, then 8 ounces, then 4 pounds…but I won’t allow it. Did you notice that I was frequently carrying dressage whips with me? I use the dressage whips to hold the horses accountable if they try to make me use more than 4 ounces of pressure.

A more direct answer to your question would be: Incorrect use of leg pressure could make a horse dull, the same way incorrect use of rein pressure can make a horse dull. The reward is in the release.

Another thing to keep in mind is that my horses are very well balanced when it comes to my leg cues. I meet many horses at clinics that are either very dull to leg cues or overly sensitive to leg cues. Again, it isn’t the cue that is the problem, it is a feel for the timing of the release.

Watch the following short video that clearly shows how Jac is reading my leg cues. Then take a look again at Roxy’s bridleless ride…can you see my subtle leg cues?


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