Horsemanship has evolved over many millennia. Every decade brings new tools and skills but horsemanship is also steeped in tradition and sometimes stifled by it.
Use of the bit, for example, dates back at least 4000 years to the early days of the horse's domestication. Its introduction was driven by primitive man's fear of the horse and the assumption that he needed to master the beast by brute force. We should be constantly on the lookout for the arrival of new ideas that stimulate us to reappraise our attitude to traditional practices "inherited" from distant ancestors.
One new idea, founded on an understanding of equine physiology rather than on primitive man's fear of a wild beast, is the Bitless Bridle. It is not a hackamore, bosal or sidepull. According to its manufacturer, it is applicable to all breeds, all ages of horse and rider, all grades of rider skill, and all disciplines, including driving.
Here's how it works:
For steering, the crossover bitless bridle nudges half the head and for stopping it hugs the whole of the head.
Steering: Gentle pressure on one rein (yellow arrow in the figure) pushes painlessly but persuasively on the opposite half of the head (red arrows). Horses steer better when pushed painlessly (over a large and relatively insensitive surface area) than when pulled painfully by a bit (with highly-focused pressure on the sensitive tissues of the mouth). Unlike the bit, that tends to twist a horse's head, the head stays upright, which is physiologically correct. More effective steering is one of the first benefits that riders notice. The design 'works' for both direct and neck reining.
Slowing & stopping: Brief pressure on both reins applies a gentle squeeze to the whole of the head and triggers a 'submit' response. Braking is probably attributable to a combination of the calming effect of a whole-head-hug; to initiation of a balancing reflex at the poll; to the stimulation of pressure points behind the ears; and to painless pressure across the bridge of the nose. The "brakes" are more reliable than those provided by the bit.
Ideally, the rein aids should be back-up, as required, to the more important aids provided by body-weight, balance and breathing.
Dr. Robert Cook, a research veterinarian, developed the Bitless Bridle after decades of research. For more information on the Bitless Bridle, visit www.bitlessbridle.com
Holistic Horse wants to know: Have You Tried This? Send us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us your opinion of the Bitless Bridle.