Last summer I had an epiphany the size of Saturn. Seriously, it was huge.
It was June and I had been riding a mare called Little Love since the previous fall. I only rode her once or twice a week then, but I also gave lessons to her owner on a weekly basis. Things had been going very well, both rider and horse had made progress, but every time I rode the horse, I had this nagging feeling that something was not quite right.
Actually, in all honesty, the feeling was more like inadequacy. I felt like a failure every time I rode Little Love. For some unknown reason, I was unable to get the mare to truly relax while riding. She is a very fearful horse by nature and therefore often tense, but not only that, I always had a feeling we were in a fight. Even when I tried not to consent to an argument, she did her best to pull me in. Needless to say, I was starting to get frustrated.
I tried to understand what I was doing wrong; because I knew it had to be something I was doing wrong. (Note from author: At this point I already knew enough to realize that horses tend to react rather than act.) But whatever I tried, didn’t work. I was stumped.
Then, one beautifully sunny and warm day, D___, another student of mine came to the barn with a Dr. Cook Bitless Bridle. She had the bridle on loan for the day and was planning to try it on her horse who was uncomfortbale with contact and would toss his head.
The second I saw that bridle, I knew this was something I had to try on Little Love as well. I think my brain already had leapt way ahead of me, making the correct connections before I was aware of it myself.
The rest is history. When I got off Little Love after a twenty minute ride with the bitless bridle, I fell to my knees and cried like a baby. And just for the record, I don’t usually cry in public (or anywhere else). Then, I apologized to Little Love for not figuring it out earlier. After that I made a promise to NEVER put another bit in her mouth. And I haven’t to this day. She goes beautifully without.
And so do all the other horses I ride.
PS. Actually, I am starting to think we should probably not even use bridles. But that is something I’m still working towards on a personal level so for the time being, I promote bitless riding for everyone and their horses. We all have to start somewhere!
PS # 2 My friend D__’s horse also loved the bridle and she, too has been bitless since!
PS #3. I’m working on the crying as I do think it is good for me to be able to cry whenever I feel like it :-)
If you are interested in learning more about what a bit does to a horse, go to http://www.bitlessbridle.com/ There are also plenty of other websites that promote this concept, you just have to find them.