Friday, 1 June 2012

Gandalf's journey to bitless....

When I first rode the boy, back in December 2005, I used a borrowed snaffle bridle. He was very wound up about being taken away from the other horses (he'd not been there long) and kept trying to get back to the safety of the herd. In fact, he nearly pulled my arms off!

Over the next few weeks I came and rode him out, I was lucky enough to be able to really "try before you buy". I quickly realised that he preferred to have his mouth left completely alone, I knew he had been driven in his previous life so maybe he'd been pulled about a bit. The chap who had him for sale had tried him in harness and used a butterfly pelham.

So in my ignorance, I decided he needed a pelham for riding too, as he really didn't have any brakes in the snaffle if we were heading home.

I found him a single jointed elbow pelham and used that for the next couple of years with roundings.

But I knew he wasn't really happy with it, most of the time he was on a totally loose rein, but when I did need to take up a contact he would lean on my hands and whenever we stopped his head would go down to force the reins loose, something I've seen a lot of horses do since. So I started spending hours online researching bits and decided to try a Waterford mouthpiece as these apparently discourage leaning, with a universal gag.

I think he appreciated not having a single jointed mouthpiece any more.....I had read somewhere that you should put your horse's bit on the inside of your elbow and get someone to pull on the reins to feel something of what they would feel, and that single jointed pelham really pinched......but he still wasn't terribly keen on any contact.

So next up, an American gag with a copper roller mouthpiece

This seemed to suit him better, but when he wanted to ignore it, he did! So back to the research, and I came across Myler bits. Not a cheap option, but a lot of thought has gone into their design to make communication very precise with the horse and with comfort in mind. So I got him a long shank combination with a comfort snaffle mouthpiece.......

This seemed to suit him best of all. It's a bit but also has a noseband that works like a hackamore. The slightest touch would get the message across so I could be really light and he didn't lean on my hands any more. So we stuck with this until quite recently when I took another look at what I was doing. He didn't seem to mind the Myler but the noseband made him very itchy all the time and he was constantly trying to rub his nose. Some friends of mine were using bitless bridles with their horses, so I went back to the research and ended up buying an Indian Bosal to try.

He really seemed to appreciate not having a bit, yes his nose still gets itchy, but it's not tight all the time like the Myler has to be, and most importantly, he can graze! I have also bought him a Lightrider bitless bridle, as it's a headcollar too, so perfect for TREC
So there we are. Not so much fine control as with the Myler, which is far and away the best bit we have ever had, but as most of the time we are hacking out, not doing dressage tests, the bitless bridles are fine.

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