Friday, September 18, 2009

Trying Bitless and Rodeo Moments

Maisie and I tried out the Dr. Cook's bitless bridle some more today. We worked on lateral flexions, backing, and walk/trot/halt combinations. I'd have to say she did pretty well with it, although there were some fussy moments where she wasn't sure what I was asking her to do. Backing, speed regulation and transitions were good, turning less so. She's used to a bit - either a Rockin' S snaffle or a full cheek snaffle, that puts pressure directly on the side of her face when I use one rein, and the bitless must feel quite different to her. I did prove that her tendency to get a bit too forward after working for a while isn't about the bit, as she did it in the bitless as well - but I didn't try sitting the trot to see if that would help her calm down. We didn't do too much, as her rear feet are still a bit sore from her trim. We'll keep trying the bitless from time to time, and I think she'd do fine on the trail in it.

Today Dawn and I worked on the ground pole to start. She was distracted and seemed "up", and it took a while to get her attention focussed on the task. We then did some lunging in the halter, with the objective to continue to work on her doing transitions from my body language, and with secondary voice cues as needed. Well, the moment we started she wanted to go - partly just a high energy level and partly because she's still getting used to the idea that it's not necessary to tear around on the lunge (this was the way she was taught to act on the lunge in the old days by us and others) but that you can do different things and not zone out. She decided to have a few "rodeo moments" involving some pretty impressive bucks from time to time - glad I wasn't aboard for those (I wouldn't have been aboard for long!). At one point I took her back into the barn to put on some front Sports Medicine boots - I was worried she would injure herself with her acrobatics. But then she decided to calm down and start paying attention, and we were able to do some really good transition work. She's really getting the idea of the voice commands, and I'm using my body language as well. I'm happy that the "whoa" is getting really good, and that she looks at me for guidance on what's coming next. Getting Dawn to actively look at me is a big achievement and a good foundation for things to come. I was very pleased with where we ended up.


  1. Tried a Dr. Cook's bitless on Tucker and he didn't like it at all. Tossed his head all about and felt dangerous.

    I used to ride my other horses in a simple jumping hackamore and sometimes just in a halter with lead ropes. Makes for a nice break.

    Again, I haven't tried that with Tuck, but it might be fun.

    Wonder if the sports medicine boots have magical powers to calm Dawn down. *G* Could be, though, she connected them with doing serious work and changed her mind about the rodeo routine.

  2. Kate, I tried out some bitless alternatives this spring as you know.

    What I was looking for was an alternative which I could do dressage riding with, and something that hopefully wouldn't give any disadvantages compared to riding on a snaffle.

    I was looking for a solution that would:
    - give a good "feel" i.e. function well with small signals, and also have a good release
    - lateral signals should also work well
    - the horse should be able to take a contact, and in that position it should be comfortable to the horse.

    I was not satisfied with the Dr. Cook alternative. The release did not work well enough and Fame got chafed under her chin from the crossing straps. In general I found the signals becoming a bit "blurred"

    I also have a mechanical hackamore that I have used some over the years, mainly when out trail riding. To me this is not the optimum solution either as the lateral signals doesn't work well, and it is not easy to ride with a contact as the horse easily comes behind the vertical.

    So what I ended with was a sidepull, where to me the differences compared to riding on snaffle felt very small. It had a good release function, sideways signals and contact worked well too.

    But I believe it is a bit different from horse to horse and from rider to rider what functions best.

  3. I tried Sam in a bitless bridle and he really played up and rejected it. SHook his head violently and started to dance around a lot yet I can ride him in a rope halter at all three paces with no problems. Keep trying - it is always fun to try new things!!!!!

  4. I also didn't like the Dr Cook bitless as none of my horses really took to the 'twisting' effect of it. I can ride my jumper in a regular english hackamore and he's fine. I do use a leather rolled one the is fairly stiff across the nose but very flexible from the sides down. And it cost about a tenth of what the biothane Dr Cook cost me. I must say, though, I got almost the 'new' price on ebay for it. Much luck!

  5. Interesting about the Dr Cook's bridle. I've been looking at it for a while..i use a myler kimberwicke and seems to be good for us. He has a very soft mouth and I keep soft hands on him but also (depending on day of course) can hack around in just a halter and roping reins with great response.
    The fall weather here in Michigan (I'm sure same in IL) makes them act a bit goofy too some days.

  6. Great post. I'm glad that your work with Dawn is moving along so well.
    I appreciate the reports on your time spent using the Bitless Bridle on Maisie, too.



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