Bitless Riding has become something of a trend recently so we decided we wanted to learn a bit more about it. We’re not sure Dante & Coco are the best horses to test it out on so we got our good friend Heather from “Freya The Connemara” to talk us through her experience and answer a few questions we had on the subject!
Meet Freya, our “Riding Bitless” Guinea Pig!
She’s a 6 year old 15.2 grey Connie cross, who Heather has had since she was a yearling and bought her from a stud that had a foster mare programme.
“She was the most difficult horse I’ve ever broken, a big bag of nerves and really marish (So nappy & spooky), we got there in the end with only a few hiccups and I’ve a premptive spooking tic. Freya is quite hot and forward so I need to constantly change what we’re doing during our flatwork sessions or else she gets bored and explodes or spooks. She also has the dreaded Connie wanderlust, she likes to escape and wander around & unfortunately over the summer this led to an injury which took her out of commission for a while but we’re getting back on track thanks to the wonderful care she received on my yard!
We’ve gone a little backwards in behaviour but that’s to be expected with lengthy box rest. I make her sound awful but I wouldn’t have her any other way she’s a quirky superstar, keeps me on my toes and has taught me alot. What more could I ask for! “
Keep up with Heather & Freya on Instagram
Tell us about your bitless riding Journey
It’s been interesting and actually taught me a lot about Freya and my own tension. I tend to live in our spooky past rather than our less spooky present and that travels through the reins fast causing more stress on us both which leads to more spooks. Spooking hasn’t been an issue at all bitless only my unnecessary flinching at birds and the wind. It’s her kind of boring in the fact It’s improved us rather than caused some exciting crazy moments but that’s good in my eyes. Uneventful is good. It’s been and still is a very interesting experience for me and hopefully for her too.
What, in your opinion should you avoid doing whilst riding bitless?
Thinking you need to be stronger with your hands! The complete opposite is true it’s all voice and legs. Bitless can be as severe as bitted in the wrong hands as it applies nose and poll pressure directly. Also be confident, your horse might surprise you mine certainly did.
Why did you decide to go bitless?
I first decided to go bitless because Freya needed her teeth done(Not in bad need but enough for her to not seek contact as well as usual) The dentist I used wasn’t available for over a week and after her box rest not riding wasn’t an option as she gets stressed with too much time off and goes slightly crazy. So I said f**k it I’ll ride her sans bit and if I die so be it.
What type of bitless bridle do you use, or what ones did you try before finding the right one for your horse?
I tried the rope halter first a I had it handy. Worked really well she was chilledand responded to all aids! Then the sidepull which I didn’t find nearly as effective and she mostly ignored it and ran around with all my steering gone out the window. Lastly the English Hackamore, I had more control but the same chill factor as the rope halter. She goes really well in it especially jumping so I’ll be keeping her in it where I can.
Do you find it hard to gain control riding bitless?
Freya’s really hot particularly jumping so got a few see you at your funeral the first few times but she surprised me. She responds really well to the voice so control isn’t too much of a problem unless we’re in the field, to which she gets a little overexcited, but not more out of control than usual.
What advice would you give to anyone looking to ride bitless!
Know your horse, trust your horse and start them in an enclosed space. I sat up in the lunge ring first to make sure I had breaks! Do a little research and don’t ride any differently to how you normally would. If you’re keen but unsure try get a lesson with someone who’s ridden bitless to help you.
Do you find it difficult changing from riding bitless to riding with a bit, what way does it affect your horse?
A little because the pressure come from somewhere else so it’s a work in progress, she disliked having the bit back jumping and charged everywhere so I switched to bitless again and she was much happier. Its trial & error at the minute until she gets used to things.
Do you find it difficult to get your horse to engage properly whilst riding, and what exercises benefit you most whilst riding bitless.
In the classical sense of an outline yes but no worse then bitted. She tends to over-bend bitted and bitless she stretches down a little more so I prefer her being chilled. Poles and circles to be honest, the same as with a bit. i’m also doing groundwork to teach her to soften on release, as I said she’s hot so hopefully bitless will encourage her to relax more. She tracks up in the canter better bitless as well which is probably because I’m riding more from the leg then always having to hold her back. Again she’s young and working on a new pressure release aid, which will take time. I remain optimistic.
Have you had any bad experiences riding bitless?
Not yet thank God, it’s always in the back of my mind that I’m screwed if she takes a notion but then again if she wanted me off she’d have me off regardless of whether I had a bit or not. That acceptance has actually made me just get on with it.
What are your future plans with bitless riding?
I’ll definitely be keeping the Hackamore for jumping only as the sidepull and rope halter aren’t competition legal. I’m hoping to do a little more dressage so will have to be bitted for that. I think I’ll just keep doing whatever makes us more relaxed. So I’ll definitely still use the rope halter for the fun days and Trec.
If you have any questions you’d like to ask Heather about riding bitless, feel free to message her on instagram @freyatheconnemara or leave a comment and we’ll get her feedback.
We hope you enjoyed meeting Heather & Freya. We’re sure this won’t be the last time you hear from them!
Darielle & Orla