All Things Horse

Forty-seven Years Of Horse Experience – At Your Service!

To Bit Or Not To Bit…

The eternal question for all riders.

I remember when I was eight, my sister, Audrey and I would ride on two large farmers horses. We would take two pieces of rope each and head for the field. Old Murk and Big George were our destinations and the pieces of rope were tied on to their halters and used for reins. What a time we’d have…. Old Murk was a black work horse, a Percheron maybe…, hey I was only eight! She had feet larger then my head, but Lordy she was beautiful in my eyes. Big George was a big red (Chestnut) Standardbred gelding who tended to be a bit spirited, near as I can remember and he was on the thin side.  No bridle or saddle for us and no helmet either.  I don’t imagine anyone knew we were there and if they did, they would have smiled and thought that the horses were keeping us out of trouble…, babysitting us, so to speak.

Since then I have had the pleasure of owning or working with 20 or so horses and until Copper, I never used a saddle.  But I always used a bridle with a bit.  Sometimes I used a curb bit, depending on the horse, mostly I used a round ringed snaffle, thinking it was the softest on my horses mouth. I never thought too much about the bits…, never even thought about the pieces of rope attached to the halter.

This summer I was brought hard to attention on the value of bitless. I had a rude awakening. Early in the summer, while scouring the internet, I came across the idea of a bitless bridle. So I did some more searching and found a good picture of a horse wearing the bridle and a description and a name…, $250.00 US. Now I put a lot of money into my horses making sure they are well fed and looked after but I can’t justify that kind of money going out for a bridle. Particularly since I have made all my horse bridles since Copper and prefer them to the expensive English leather and before you ask, I do have the expensive leather bridles but I don’t use them longer then it takes to make a new horse a bridle. I macrame all my bridles.

After seeing this bitless bridle, I decided to make one for my young filly, Frilly. I adore her and anything I can do to make life easier for her I do.  Of course, I do that for all my “beasties” but I feel it is special for her. Anyway, I finished the bridle about mid August but not the reins and I wanted to try it out.  Where Frilly is green, I decided to try it on Willow with the western saddle, in case she caused trouble and two lead ropes with hooks on them.  Willow went forward like I expected, like a tank…. Willow Breeze is not an easy mare to ride at the worst timesWillow Breeze (Minority).  She is stubborn, balks, rears and is an all together pain in the butt.  She didn’t like the way it tightened on and around her head, that much was certain.  I’ve tried several different bits on her, to little success.  For almost a year, she has had a copper roller, stainless steel Tom Thumb bit.  Not my preferred mouth piece for any horse, but she wouldn’t work with a snaffle.  After about fifteen minutes, I guess, she decided she wasn’t getting away with anything, so she started to walk, trot, canter, to the left, to the right, change leads and was all out impressive.

A friend came to the field and asked if her daughter could get on Willow to get her picture taken.  I said sure, but explained that I had no bit in her mouth and I didn’t know the mare’s reaction to being ridden.  However, just sitting there would be fine.  So after a hundred or so pictures were taken, Amy asked if she could ride. “Try her,” I said and explained once again about the new bridle.  Well Willow was perfect.  Amy went forward, left, right, in a circle and returned after a bit.  I removed the tack and brushed Willow down, praising her to the hilt.

A couple days late, a group of young people wanted to ride all the horses in the field which was ok except not Frilly. I’m possessive of my Frilly, I afraid.  Each and every person who got on Willow expressed the same thing, “She won’t turn right!” After an afternoon of listening to frustrations, I got up on the mare…, and sure enough, I’d pull her head around until her mouth chewed my toes but she would not move. I got scared! Her teeth must be bad! I called the vet andWoodmere Frilifili (Frilly) down he came. He was a new vet, just temporary, but he knew his horses. He checked her teeth, her legs, her feet, her heart, lungs, ears eyes, nose, stools, urine and everything else.  He didn’t find anything wrong. We got to talking about Willow’s work habits when she started to act up. That was when the new bitless bridle came out. We tried it on her and lo and behold, she work like a charm. I would never have expected it. If there is going to be a horse that makes a fool out of me, it will be Willow.

By the first week in September, I had a bitless bridle made for Willow Breeze, to her specifications, trying her in between each new adjustment.  Willow’s was made of brown twisted nylon fishing twine. It is much easier to work with. The poll strap was wider then Frilly’s black bitless and longer, bringing the forelock strap lower on the head away from the ears. I think it is a bit low on her face so I will eventually make another slightly shorter poll strap, and incorporate a chin-strap. The brow band is also wider. The nose band was higher and softer and the under-cross straps slip loose a lot easier.  All in all, I have a happier, nicer Willow. She isn’t perfect and although she hasn’t had any stubborn spells while being ridden, I figure it is only a matter of time before she finds something else to disrupt the fun.

In the meantime, Frilly started using her bitless bridle.  This picture was taken the day Willow refused to turn right, in August. Since then, I’ve made a few adjustments to the bridle. The main adjustment is that I raised the nose band on this bridle. When she first used it while actually being ridden in September, her initial reaction was that of confusion but she tried very hard to understand what I tried to communicate to her. She is good with leg signals so teaching her the bitless bridle wasn’t all that difficult. The strange thing though is that she neck reins with it, and she does it very well. But I have never taught her to western neck rein. I wanted her to be my English pleasure riding horse.

December 3, 2008 Posted by | tack | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment