Bitless riding options
(By Avis Senior
BHSAI (Regd) Animal Communication Practitioner, Equine Reiki Master Practitioner, Author of ‘Horse Riding Choose Your
I will begin this
piece by asking the following question:
you know that the ‘bars' (the gaps between the incisors and the molars in the pony's mouth) were not created to accommodate
ANY type of bit?
‘bars' are a result of equine evolution. They were a part of the horse's anatomy long before humans ever thought of
dominating this beautiful animal by jumping on his back. The ‘bars' are extremely sensitive and can become very sore
and swollen when exposed to any kind of trauma such as a dental problem, a knock to the gums, a scratch from a sharp foreign
body while grazing, and even a bit. Have you ever had a sore mouth, an ulcer perhaps on your gums, a cold sore on your lip,
and found it very difficult to eat or drink. At least, at these times, you were able to tell your parents, your peers, your
doctor how much pain you felt and how miserable it made you feel.
No matter how well a bit ‘appears' to fit, it will always bear down on the tongue, the gums, and other areas
of the pony's mouth with some level of discomfort and pain. All bits have the potential to cause excruciating
pain, more so when combined with an already sore mouth.
|Avis Senior riding Amber in a bitless bridle
The pony's reaction
A pony will initially try to conceal his discomfort because he won't want to appear weak in
front of his rider. A sore mouth, a wolf tooth invisible to the naked eye lurking under the surface of the gum, constantly
bombarded by the pressure of the bit will eventually cause the pony to present behaviours and body language in particular
ways, to alert his rider to his pain that is now becoming intolerable.
If the rider doesn't recognise the signs he is desperately trying to convey, he will use his ‘fight or flight'
instinct. The ‘fight' instinct, in my opinion is incorrect; the pony would never wish to fight with his rider. We merely
interpret his negative behaviours as ‘fighting' us, when in fact he is literally fighting for his life!
He may, on the other hand, use his ‘flight' instinct, at which point he
is fleeing for his life! We are taught to interpret this behaviour as ‘the pony being too strong or hard in the mouth
or evading the bit'. At this point a stronger bit or the tightening of the noseband may be wrongly advised. Of course, the
rider may also be told to pull on the reins to slow the pony down. Pulling on the reins will make the pony speed up as
he makes an even more desperate attempt to flee the enemy.
The myth of perceived danger
to be a myth that riding a ‘strong' pony or a pony that ‘pulls' would be a dangerous pastime without the security
of a strong bit. However, if the culprit causing the pain (the bit), was removed, the pony wouldn't feel the need to feel
strong, pull, or speed up.
Very simple changes, lots of praise,
patience and understanding in the direction of the pony, and coaching by a person who takes into account the absolute wellbeing
of the pony as well as the rider's own wellbeing, will transform their riding, the enjoyment of both rider and the pony,
and most importantly the relationship between the two!
of my good friends - Brenda and Elinor have kindly agreed to write down their own experiences of riding bitless. Their stories
are enlightening and life changing.
Avis Senior's book Horse Riding Choose Your Weapons
is available on Kindle.
|Brenda Pullan competing in a hackmore bridle