Three comments left after my blog on ‘bridling questions’ got me thinking. Here are the comments;
1) Best tip for our horses ever was “go bitless”. So many issues solved with just that little statement.
2) I agree, Why use a bit, if you don’t have to?
3) Would be altogether better for the horse if we banished this archaic form of torture once and for all.
These comments lead me to wonder; Am I the only one with a ‘bitless gone bad’ story?
Teenaged Stacy Westfall and the horse that ran away with her when ridden in a halter. Stacy decided to focus on barrel racing instead.
My story: When I was a teen I decided to try bitless riding for the first time. Actually, I decided to start working toward riding bridleless and I thought that bitless would be a great first choice.
I had owned my horse for several years and I knew her pretty well (or so I thought). On a day to day basis I was pretty sure I could do anything with her that I wanted. I could swim her in the lake, ride down the side of busy roads, dress her in costumes, ride in parades, and we trail rode almost everyday. I had never felt out of control while riding her on a trail ride.
It was a summer day and I mounted up riding in a thin leather halter, a similar diameter to the current rope halters. Before I left home I rode her around the pasture, up and down the driveway and performed all gaits and transitions.
For several miles all went well. Until I met another rider.
At first this didn’t seem to be a problem. The only thing I could see being a problem were if we ran and my horse thought we were racing. Sometimes my friends and I would race and I knew my horse was hard to hold back at those times.
As you can probably guess, there came a point where we were trotting together down the dirt road…then we were loping…then we were running.
I tried pulling.
I tried a sawing motion-left-right-left-right.
I tried pulling as hard as I physically could, then releasing and repeating.
I couldn’t circle because the sides of the road had deep ditches. Based on the fact that she didn’t steer AT ALL when I was sawing left-right-left-right, I doubt I could have turned her anyway. I considered jumping but was the odds were good that I would break something so I ended up just clinging on until she slowed and then I jumped off at the trot and lead my mare home.
I have always believed that this woman, an acquaintance my mother knew, was just wondering if her horse was faster. I don’t think she knew this would put me in danger…although I had yelled several times for her to slow down as things were escalating.
* * *
The above story was a story from my youth. It was told to give you a glimpse into the mind of a teenager who made a bad decision. The interesting part of the story is that I lacked the ability to know it was a bad decision at the time. My horse and I obviously didn’t have great training and I didn’t see even know I could really get in trouble.
This early experience, along with the knowledge I have now, leads me to believe that not all horses are bitless candidates. Bits are motivators, horses are individuals and situations vary.
Did you ever try bitless and have a loss of control or know someone who did?
P.S.-added an hour after posting. It has been brought up that mechanical hackmores are being considered part of the bitless group of bridles by many who are commenting. I agree it has no mouthpiece…but oddly enough I had never considered it as one of the ‘bitless’ options. I did ride the above mare in a mechanical hackmore successfully…does that mean she was my first bitless horse? That might have to be a whole other blog:)
Follow up: I am not against bridleless riding. After much more education I have trained many horses to the highest levels of bridleless riding. Here are a couple of blog that are related:
Stacy Westfall’s first time riding bridleless on Newt
Stacy Westfall & Vaquero 2011 All American Quarter Horse Congress Freestyle Championship Bridleless
I won over $17,000 showing Roxy in my original wedding dress!