Welcome to #BitlessJourney Diaries
In this series, we are taking submissions from bridle makers, trainers and riders to learn about their Bitless Journeys and get to know the people and their ponies.
My First Love
My first horse was a war horse…kind of. Jack’s job was war reenactment. His main task was, when his rider said go, to gallop across the field as fast as possible. Fast forward a couple of years – enter me. Young, fresh from college, pony-mad girl taking on Jack as her first horse.
“Brakes were an issue”
The strong bit he came with made little difference. One day, both tired from galloping semi-controlled laps of the biggest, flattest field on the farm, we stood in the middle having finally stopped, both knackered, reins on the buckle and not really loving this riding thing.
I was so sad that Jack got so tense and tight when being ridden but had no idea how to help him. In my defeated, low-energy state, I looked towards home, shifted my body that way and lifted my reins off Jack’s neck, ready to ask him to head that way, but he already had. He was dawdling steadily in the direction I had gestured to with my body. Wow! I didn’t know that would happen. In my intrigue and excitement I tried to stay relaxed and ask him to change direction again with just my body. It was a slight response but there was a response!
“Light bulb moment”
And what does Hermione, ahem, I mean Sadie do when she wants to know more? To the library! I researched riding without reins. Holy heck, people actually did that! Amazing! My head full of inspiration and new knowledge, I ordered my first bitless bridle and chucked Jack’s bitted bridle and saddle in the shed.
Experiments and trials and errors continued for the next three years, until the magical day when in the same twenty acre field this had all started in, I rode Jack in a relaxed, calm canter with nothing but a rope around his neck.
“Oh my, the feeling was indescribable”
Sadly, my beautiful, old man Jack had to be put to sleep shortly after. He died at home in my arms on a warm, sunny spring day. Thankfully, Jack had a young companion to help me through this devastating time.
Then Came Bobby
Bobby was a playful, hand-reared, super confident dude who I had known since he was a yearling and was a whole different kettle of fish!
He demanded fun! Slow and steady was boring! Jack helped me satisfy his need for play but I had to be really imaginative to keep Bobby interested.
We played a lot on the ground in Bobby’s early years to form a bond and a level of communication that would make riding him safely one day possible. He loved playing with agility obstacles and at liberty.
When the time came to back him, he took it all in his stride. He was light and responsive to the bitless bridle we had been using on the ground for several years.
Naturally our ridden exploits took us down the path to bridleless. Our crowning achievement being bareback and bridleless archery.
My Sweet Girl
Who was Bobby’s new companion once my old man Jack passed away, I hear you ask. Well that would be my beautiful mare Flicker who I fell in love with one misty February morning in Surrey.
At the time I was freelancing for a month at a yard in Surrey where my good friend worked. She had asked me to go and get one of the ponies so off I trudged into the mist. I haltered the pony I was meant to be bringing back to the yard when, from across the field, I locked eyes with the then three year old Flicker. She made a bee line for me, promptly snuggled her nose onto my shoulder and dozed for a full ten minutes. I was in love. She chose me and I was happy to oblige her.
She had been very recently sat on for the first time by my friend who had trained and started her bitless from the very beginning. A beautiful, bitless, blank canvas that had chosen me as her new human.
My spirited, sweet girl was with me at home within weeks.
Considering this was a new relationship and she was still very young we focused on our ground work to build our bond and connection.
Sadie Beech Horsemanship
The same year I brought Flicker home, I decided to go self-employed and make my passion my profession. I have never looked back. This is it. This is what I want to do with the rest of my life. Starting young horses, restarting green horses, rehabbing given-up-on horses, advancing my own horses, all bitless and bridleless.
I enjoy teaching and sharing thoughts and ideas while trying to make people laugh and enjoy their horses. I consider myself quite funny and can amuse myself giggling away to my own joke, much to my husbands amusement, and I love to share this ‘laughing at yourself’ kind of attitude when it comes to humans and their horses. We are meant to be enjoying our time with our horses and trying to have them enjoy spending time with us too, laughter is needed.
What am I up to at the moment?
Seven years after that fabulous ride with Jack, I am still using all the skills he gave me and continuing to refine them through research, learning and experimentation, which have all lead me to my current, very exciting project, which is my first book collaboration with Phillippa, Bitless & Bridleless 101.
Flicker and I will be sharing the exercises and process, that I have put together through working with all the horses I have had the pleasure of spending time with over the years, to being able to safely ride your horse bridleless. We will be sharing the basic ridden exercises, taught with equine behaviour and learning theory in mind, that all riders and their horses can benefit from and, if you follow the progression of the book, progress to riding bridleless. Even if you don’t plan on riding without a bridle, this book will still be helpful to you to develop a strong connection with your horse that will lighten your aids and improve your relationship and communication.
The new book will be released in spring 2020!
It has been my pleasure to share my journey thus far. If you would like to connect with me and hear about more of my pony shenanigans, find me on Facebook.
Until then, give your pony a smooch from me 😀