I admit to a certain snobbishness that comes with going bitless, at least for me. I like showing up to a group trail ride and talking about it when asked. I really do! But…
I cannot communicate with my hands how I would like to. I want to pursue more than just trail riding. I want to work towards a nice headset, with my horse utilizing his back and stepping up-and-under. I want balance and a truly engaged hind end. I think the only way for me to reach this is with a bit. After the concept is taught, then I can progress back to bitless. I’m also not talking every ride, either! Just the training rides where I want to see some improvement in form. I’ll still trail ride bitless and shoot for doing every third ride bitless.
I contacted Elisa Wallace, who anyone reading this blog should know. She is an amazing up-and-coming eventer who competes regularly on her mustangs (and her Australian thoroughbred Johnny/Simple Priceless among others.) She is riding in her second Rolex this year!
Anyways, I had an idea of what bit I wanted to try and Elisa suggested the Myler Level 1 Dee. Here’s the SmartPak video on the bit:
Of course I ordered it, though I felt bad about going back to a bit. However, it should be noted that bitless options can be detrimental to communication as well. There are well-made arguments for each side. To me, it’s the hands on the reins that make the tools rough or not. If the horse is soft, I think he should be able to go bitless or with a bit with the same amount of trust and respect.
I put this bit on Cello’s hunter bridle and he took it without question. I let him hang with it for about 10 minutes, then took it out for a while, then put it back in for about 15 minutes. I then rode him bitless, put the bit back on, and rode for a few minutes. He was SOFT; he was RESPONSIVE; I actually felt him ENGAGE HIS BACK. At a walk, for a few steps. He did everything I asked and I hopped off after about 5 minutes.
It almost felt like he was a bit relieved, like the dots connected and he understood what I was asking. I am soft with my hands, very conscious of not pulling on his face or balancing at all with my hands. We seemed to communicate well from the start!
We have worked through a lot of our communication issues bitless, which has been great, but it’s time to ask for more refinement as he matures. I am not moving from a walk to a trot with a bit until the walk is correct and engaged; I am not moving from a trot to a canter until my trot is balanced. If we get super bored with the slow pace, we will go bitless and blow off some steam. The point is to teach and to learn, to move forward and avoid bracing. So far, I am a fan of the Myler!
Eric and my brother, Derek, painted some props for my freestyle this weekend. I love how the colors came out!
I also put together a poster for our stall! I can’t believe Cello leaves tomorrow, with my friend Dani, for the show! I will follow in the evening…