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.
Listen to your horse…
“Over the years riding horses, I’d always felt like something wasn’t quite right. Despite instructors saying how? I always thought why? “More leg, more contact” was the constant message, shorter reins, wear spurs etc and it was just creating frustration and disconnection between me and my mare, Issy. She started getting tense and spooky which was out of character and I was losing confidence.
Everyone said use a stronger bit but instead – I went bitless!
I needed to change more than the bridle…
Initially I worked on my horsemanship and learned to trust her a little more and ride on a longer rein which almost instantly removed the spooking but we still had the tension. That’s when we took the bit away! I quickly realised I needed to change my riding and was surprised how much I’d relied on my reins but the tension in Issy instantly disappeared. With no previous knowledge or training we’ve had some difficult moments, it took us a few months just to learn how to turn! But we never once “lost control” like everyone assumed we would. I watched a lot of videos and read anything I could online and Phillippa Christie at Equine Partnership was super helpful with her bridle guides and was always happy to help where she could.
Stick with it…
Although we’ve had some tough times, I’m so glad we stuck with it and proud of what we’ve achieved. I actually have a conversation now with Issy playing with feel and energy, not force, to work correctly. She’s gained more self-carriage and balance and we work together as a team now.
As for people who said we’d have no control, we can cross country, show jump and now even do a whole range of lateral movements, that’s what I’d call control!
The most rewarding thing is the change in Issy and our relationship. All her tension has gone and shes so relaxed in everything she does. We’ve gone from forcing a bit through clamped teeth to her putting her bitless bridle on herself! The change in my attitude has created such a positive environment for us both to learn and play. It was always a dream to ride bitless and now we’re working on tackless riding!
The trust we’ve built on this journey is priceless. In just under a year we’ve won western novice rider high points for area and nationally – bitless, we’ve won hunter trails and ODEs – bitless, competed in dressage with scores over 66% – bitless. Although its about SO much more than the ribbons, we’re trying to show that anything you can do, we can do bitless!
I really believe any horse can go bitless with the right mindset and training, heck if we can do it, anyone can! There are so many articles and studies out now that show the negative impacts of using a bit and how much performance can be improved going bitless. Everything we do with our equine partners should be fun and exciting, what can be more exciting than going bitless?”
If you would like to follow Sereya and Izzy as they continue their bitless journey please visit their Instagram page