We Go Bitless Baby!

Let me start by saying: This was not a voluntary experiment. After our great Dressage lesson last week, I got on her the next time, and she was just spicy. There was lots of head throwing and dramatics and our ride just got worse and worse. I finally let the reins out, and we just went for a walk. When I hopped off, I realized that she had somehow got pinched by her bit that she was worn for nearly every ride for the last 2 years. (back to the baucher? Thoughts?)

I will say, that I had adjusted the Micklem bridle a couple of weeks ago because it was rubbing against a bug bite on her cheek. I guess it is time to readjust it back. I hemmed and hawed about what to do… I had ridden May a couple of times when I first got her in a hackamore, but the idea of shelling out cash for something I will probably use 3 or 4 times seemed super unappealing. I originally thought about attaching my reins to a crank noseband I have somewhere. I figured it would work kind of like a side pull. However, I COULD NOT find the thing, since I only use the figure 8 on that bridle.

I was convinced that I couldn’t fit my reins on the right attachment on the Micklem to use it, so I brought along some options to rig SOMETHING together and hope I didn’t die. It turns out, I could just attached my reins to the Micklem. I checked to make sure the nose pieces was high enough on her face not to cause any discomfort, and I figured I would give it a try.

Yes… she was THIS ENTHUSED about the whole thing. 

Conclusion? I had really no breaks or real steering, so we stuck to the outdoor and just did trot sets. I figured a nice, no pressure ride would help both of us get used to this new way to communicating. Plus, this was only a temporary situation.

Then yesterday, I saw that it looked like the pinched spot had completely cleared up. Since I am going away next week, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to just ride the rest of this week bitless. I threw on the bitless micklem, ignored some odd stares by someone who I am pretty sure was CONVINCED I was missing SOMETHING, and I headed to the indoor. I figured the 2 beginner type riders having a lesson in the outdoor wouldn’t appreciate the addition of a large yellow wrecking ball with both questionable steering and breaks.

Instead, a teenager and her thoroughbred had to deal with me in the indoor. I figured that today, being in the indoor, I would push May a bit more forward and try to drive her into my hands. No luck. 0 luck. Possibly even negative luck. I could steer a bit better, but the Micklem did nothing to help me stop any kind of forward motion. To do a downward transition was an act of full body control and divine intervention.

I even had the crazy notion that maybe if we cantered, it would get her moving better over her back! It didn’t work. I did a 30 meter oval to the left with a terrible upward transition and a nearly nonexistent downward transition. But you can’t just do it one way! So we turned around and tried the right lead! It was equally bad. I ended up seriously wishing I had though to at least put my spurs on or grabbed my whip so I had SOME WAY to INSIST on at least one of my aids being listened to.

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At the end of the ride, I just had to laugh. No harm was done. I doubt I undid any of May’s training, and if I did,  it would be a quick fix anyway. The horse enjoyed the ride thoroughly, and I got to use some muscles that I didn’t even know I had. How about you? Ever gone bitless?

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24 thoughts on “We Go Bitless Baby!

  1. Aww poor May! I hate finding a pinch from the bit. Amber has had such success with a loose ring from her previously-pinching western D bit that I’m worried an English D or eggbutt will pinch her even though I want to try one. She’s funny tho it’s either a bit or bridleless lol. She goes okay in a rope halter (regular halters she doesn’t listen to, and she actually gets more nervous than I’d like in a hackamore) but better bridleless lol. I’m glad it healed quickly tho! May looks very enthused LOL

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    1. Yeah. I like D Rings where the joint is at the point of the D’s not where the lips are, so I think it helps a lot of horses with “fleshy” lips like May hahaha. I would love to try a HS eggbutt, but let’s just say that isn’t in the budget right now! She’ll go back to the Neue Schule baucher if anything.

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    1. That’s basically where I was at… every time we passed an open gate, I had to try to pull her head around and pony kick with the outside leg to keep us from exiting into the great unknown! hahaha

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  2. I ride Henry in a plain leather sidepull at least once or twice a week usually. Granted, we jump in a hackamore (although sometimes I jump in the sidepull, and I used to show him in the jumpers in it – which got A LOT of skeptical looks lol). It took me a little while to really get him “broke” to the bitless concept, but now he goes really well in it. Sometimes for fun I do a bareback ride with the sidepull and run through shoulder-in, haunches-in, half pass, etc. All the buttons still work! Really though I had to retrain myself a lot on using my leg and seat more effectively, and then train him to be more responsive to those things. It was not a success right off the bat. For us I think it’s been really instrumental in his training (and mine)… but there is definitely a learning curve.

    Showing in his sidepull: https://scontent-dfw5-1.xx.fbcdn.net/v/t1.0-9/10277137_10154046925185641_6690490957864621954_n.jpg?_nc_cat=0&_nc_eui2=AeEalFw4U3iEJiCqfy-Eobv9pMJ6IbY-YzrjuPzGMV6fuLHATVZ_DvGimC-BuF_IJQc7cSe0l8zL7gdC4kC3dd4-3uy2cBvB_bpum29fK8gqLg&oh=19ebb05477abb332ba84bdeb96ad0c06&oe=5BA3FAEB

    And a better look at it: https://scontent-dfw5-1.xx.fbcdn.net/v/t1.0-9/10153932_10154046925415641_6330135488047400330_n.jpg?_nc_cat=0&_nc_eui2=AeFNTBd42ERy-998dAvulQuDqb1I-s9BRJHz3rIBwcRVQI66O4i8kMsDXUk6ISjFNdILQeNoq28B-aouB6iZloEFcaD1lklEyaq1VdidUccHiQ&oh=b1739f5e3598783ba21ad07f9b569a17&oe=5BA2C939

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    1. Maybe I won’t give up on the idea altogether… I do like having a bitless option for trot sets and hacking out. After all, May does like grabbing a snack every now and then hahaha

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  3. oh man, i ride in my hackamore constantly haha. tho obvi it has a curb strap and leverage action so it’s a little different. when i was first getting ready to try charlie in it tho, i went through a couple rides where we warmed up basically without the reins – testing the whoa and go in all of my aids without needing to rely on the reins. he’s not 100% there and i definitely would not run him full out without any actual brakes, whether bit or curb chain. but it’s good practice every now and then anyway!

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    1. Yeah, I’ve ridden her in a hack when I first got her and we were figuring out the teeth situation. At that point, turning was questionable WITH a bit and non-existent in a hack. Now, I think we could probably jump around quite comfortably in a regular hackamore, but can barely canter with just the regular Micklem hahaha

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  4. I know EXACTLY what you went through! Duke had to have a molar removed and for two weeks I rode him bitless with a Micklem just like this. Started with no steering and very little whoa. He never got to the point of actually going into the ‘contact’ but we did get good and stop/go/turn without a bit and he got to just go long and stretchy on a basically loose rein for two weeks. No harm done – in fact, when we came back to the regular bit, we made some pretty big breakthroughs fairly quickly! I think that occasionally switching up the routine can do a lot of good.

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  5. I tried Duke in a Zilco flower hackamore once, thinking we could address some of his mouth and tongue issues. I felt like I was riding s wheelbarrow he was so low and heavy up front and my instructor about busted a gut from laughing at his big ole lips just flopping in the breeze. It was a fun experiment but not a useful tool for us.

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    1. Yeah it’s fun and maybe something I’ll use for the occasional hack around the property. But May definitely finds it too easy to blow me off like this.

      PS I hope you both are having a great season!

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  6. Hey it was worth a shot! I’ve never actually thought to attach my reins to a crank noseband! may have to try that, altho I would probably end up plowing down the beginner lesson kids too!

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  7. The same thing happened to me about a month ago and I was stuck riding P in a halter for 4 days. Luckily he was a superstar, but if he had decided to not humor me, I would’ve had zero brakes or steering. I want to try him in a real bitless bridle or a hackamore sometime, but they’re sorta expensive considering how little I’d use it.

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