Whilst we are advocates for the use of “bitless” bridles we have been given a very strong, clear message on the subject from one of our herd.
Bob who was our first gypsy cob came to us at a very young age already trained for driving.
He arrived at Horse Haven fully shod and pulling a cart. We quickly realized that he was much younger than we first thought so we made the decision to remove his shoes and turn him out to be a horse, no more work just play for a while.
When we brought him back into work he was keen to drive. Bob loves driving and is really good at the job. We felt quite happy for a novice to take the reins as he had always proved himself to be sensible and safe.
We tried him without a bit or blinkers but he was very confused and unhappy.
We then tried a Dr. Cook bitless bridle with blinkers, slightly better but needed lots of contact and was very strong. He became agitated and quite honestly unsafe to drive on the road even with a most experienced driver.
We then used a snaffle bit with blinkers and he was perfect, didn’t need much contact, basically just voice commands. In this scenario Bob knew his job and seemed confident, happy and safe.
Very interesting and this forced us to re-evaluate any fixed beliefs we had about bitless driving.
No two horses are the same.
Saffia, our fjord mare has only ever been ridden bitless and often bareback, even bridleless with just a cordeo, no problem.
She was trained to cart with a simple snaffle bit, which she accepted immediately.
Saffi can now be ridden and driven with or without a bit, no problem and no difference either way.
Dr. Cook bitless driving bridle with blinkers is fine for Saffi but she cannot be driven safely on the road without blinkers. The whole blinkers idea for driving seems to give her security.
Herbie, another of our driving horses came to us already driving and was used to bit and blinkers. Over time we tried him bitless and once again he is quite happy either way. Will go nicely without blinkers also. Breeze on the other hand is more comfortable with the traditional bit and blinkers.
I guess it’s “Horses for Courses”. Not one size fits all.
All our horses can be ridden bitless and all except Bob are happy to be ridden bareback without any problems at all. Bob cannot stand being ridden bareback. Once he has a saddle on he is as close to bombproof as you can get but no saddle, no ride.
WHAT TO DO?
Listen to your horse and decide what is safe and what is not.
Always go with safety and what your horse is confident and happy with.
In the Winter at Horse Haven Uk we train horses to drive.
We always start with just a head collar for long lining. We then move on, getting them used to pulling things and then the training cart all in a head collar so no bits and no blinkers.
All the horses we train start off without bits and blinkers but we then train to a snaffle bit and blinkers as most people want their horses trained the traditional way.
If you do decide to go bitless be sure to check with your insurance that you are covered on the road as not all insurance companies will cover this.
From all at Horse Haven Uk we wish you happy riding and driving. Bitless or not, listen to your horse.