Equagility – riding without a bridle.
By Vanessa Bee
If anyone had said to me thirty years ago that I would one day be able to ride without a bridle I would have laughed – bridles are for stopping horses, aren’t they? The brakes are in the bit… aren’t they?
Then one day someone took my bridle away. Yes, I still had the halter with two reins for emergencies but suddenly I seemed to have no control, NO BRAKES.
It was the best thing that ever happened to me because I started to really ride!
What a revelation. My legs, my seat my feelings for the horse suddenly started to mean something. Instead of pulling the left rein to go left, the right rein to go right and on both to stop (which had not always been effective!) I had to use my body to do those things.
It was chaos to start with I can tell you.
Luckily, I was in a small arena, the horse was so used to being pulled around she had no idea what I wanted. Remember most of us are not just training ourselves, we’re retraining the horse who has come to rely on those reins however badly they were used!
There’s a good little mantra to remember when you start:
LOOK, TURN BODY, USE LEGS, REIN.
So, to make a turn to the right for example:
- .Look right, wait, if the horse doesn’t turn…
- Turn your body to the right, wait, if he still doesn’t turn…
- Use your legs (to go right you put your left leg forward and your right leg back) wait, if he still doesn’t go right then…
- Use the rein, because this is what the horse already understands. You will turn right, reward the horse.
- The wait part is to give the horse time to answer.
You may need to do this A LOT before the horse begins to see that there is a sequence of events. He will begin to realise that the look leads to the body then to the legs then the rein and he will ‘back chain’ and learn that where you look is where you want him to go. This will not happen overnight, you need to be consistent and patient. Keep the sessions short and positive, always ending on a good note.
But how can this help us in our riding? Well for some people it will show them that they need a bit to ride safely. For others it will train them to use the bit less because they won’t need to and the fact that the bit is being used lightly will only benefit the horse I think.