I've been meaning to ride Brena without a bit for a while now. Gin set the thought in my mind last September. When we met and she took me riding on one of her horses, she asked whether I preferred to ride with a bit, or without. No-one had ever asked me that question, and it set me thinking. I did take a bit to ride Gin's mare, and the choice came down to my insecurity. I was wrong, and I should have set out without a bit.
Anyway, last week I decided to try riding Brena in a simple pressure halter. After all, she respects the halter when being led on the ground, and is generally sensitive to pressure. So, after a few minutes in the arena, I took Brena out for an hour on Friday evening. That ride was totally uneventful, so today I took Brena out for the afternoon equipped with a pressure halter rather than a bridle.
I was delighted with today's ride. Brena carried me nicely throughout, and I felt confident all the way. There was no time when I felt unable to communicate. In part that is a sign of the many miles that she and I have travelled together. But there's more to it than that. I have renounced the assumption that a horse can only be controlled by a piece of metal in its mouth.
Here Brena is grazing at our mid-ride pause, with nothing in her mouth. She certainly enjoys the lush summer grass.
On the ride I found that a slightly more open rein was needed for some direction cues, however neck reining works too. I ride on a loose rein anyway, so there were no issues concerning not having a contact to balance on (!) which is a worryingly common way of riding in Britain.
Many years ago, when I was learning to ride, my instructor announced that trail riders should maintain a contact so that their horses would go forward in a 'correct outline'. 'For hours on end?' I asked. 'Yes,' I was told. I didn't believe it, and rode lightly. But it took a few more years, and the intervention of a proper Western rider - Kelli - to learn to ride on a totally loose rein.
The trails are getting overgrown at this time of year. Thick vegetation brushed my boots, and harboured birds, hares and deer. A couple of times deer started away, roe deep with their spotted coats, crashing through the crop beyond. A while back I wouldn't have thought of coming here without the 'control' offered by a bit. Then I reflected on what a careful, sensible horse I have. And we've moved on.