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Bits and Bridling

First thing is first, I believe horses are like snowflakes; all are similar, but no two are exactly the same. And second, I'm "non denominational" so to speak, I don't get stuck in using only a certain category or set of tools because of a certain discipline or belief system. Why you might ask?...because wherever I go, I'm the "fixer," the problem horse person...I'm the one fixing horses that have found trouble because they have been stuck in discipline specific situations; from performance to natural horsemanship. I orient my horse training program from what the horse needs, so he can understand what I am asking easier...that is why I am good with young horses, and "problem" horses...I adjust to them, not the other way around.

Let's dial it in a little to some specifics. Some horses love tongue pressure, maybe because they can hold the bit off their bars. Some hate tongue pressure, maybe because it's too restricting. Some take advantage of it, maybe because they can hold the bit and push back against it easier. No one category or grouping of bits, is perfect for every it dressage, vaquero, Western, combination bridles, bitless bridles, etc. What AIMS us towards perfect communication (where there's no fear and there's no dominance muddying the waters) is #1 good training, and #2 using a combination of what the horse needs to be respectful yet unafraid, and taking into account the riders abilities...THAT is best for the horse.

Another very important piece to keep in mind when looking at bits and bridling, is the timeliness of the horse's response in said piece of equipment. Just because you can get eventually get a horse stopped or turned in something, doesn't mean you can get it stopped in time before something bad happens. I see it SO often is scary, more so in the recreational sector of the horse community; people are using ineffective aids with their horse. The horses are overly confident (dominating the human) and without respect, and there is NO way that person could effectively control their horse if something out of the ordinary were to a bag blowing, a deer jumping out, a dog moving quickly, etc. All because of 3 things that I know of that are stifling the progress of people's thinking and understanding of horses: Non reality based ideals, Judgment passed by others that intimidates experimentation, and the Closed Mentality to only using certain tools that disciplines can many times create.

And for those of you who are thinking, "yes that's all fine, but my horse works off my seat and voice cues so I don't even need a bridle etc" well, this is my answer to that....horses are prey animals, period. Prey animals have drive lines and flight distances, and operate instinctively from a flight/fight mentality. Instinctively when you are behind that drive line, the prey animal will go forward, and when you are in front of it you will stop or turn them (you can experiment with this next time you see a deer, try getting behind it and causing it to stop or turn...not going to happen. When we ride a horse........WE ARE SITTING BEHIND THE DRIVE LINE, and if they get scared and take flight, you can cue with your voice and seat till your face turns blue, but since you are behind the driveline, you may only add fuel to the fire. It's your training and the effectiveness of your equipment IN FRONT of the driveline that will help bring the situation under control.

In the end I always encourage a balanced way of thinking when it comes to everything involving training and communicating with the horse. Horses are very sensitive and very tough...they can feel a fly land, yet they can bite and kick each other with hundreds of pounds of pressure tearing hair and hide just for fun. For us to have safe and effective control, to high level cues and communication, we have to look at bits and bridling from what the horse needs first...that will dictate to us what is best for the situation, NOT orientation from a human concept or ideal.


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