Don’t you love all those lovely pictures and videos that you see of people riding their beautifully trained horses with nothing at all on their heads – no bridle, not even a halter?
Here’s a cute (but very old) photo of Bobby and I riding around Nar Nar Gon Pony Club cross country course bareback and bridle-less. Hmmm, very old indeed. I’ve put on a lot of weight and I don’t ride bareback any more – the ground is too hard! Even in our old age, we both still enjoy bridle-less though.
So how can you do this too?
First of all, you do NOT jump on your horse without a bridle and ride off into the sunset. You do NOT even put a piece of rope around your horse’s neck and ride around – not even in the really confined space of a round yard! Not unless either you or your horse or both want to end up in your “oh shit I’m dead zones”!
Do I need to repeat that again?
The “oh shit I’m dead zone” is explained in detail in the completely free gift lessons The 9 Keys to Happiness with Your Horse . You can register for those awesome insights in that bright yellow box right next to this article.
Preparation to riding bridle-less is the key.
There are a bunch of things that have to be VERY solid before you throw your bridle or halter or whatever over the fence for the first time.
And here they are – in baby steps for your comfort zone:
1. While you are on the ground, get your back up soft and reliable from just a gentle lift of one rein (no pulling!)
2. Still on the ground, stop from a walk and back up preferably in a halter, from just a gentle lift of one rein (stand beside them) and have THAT absolutely reliable.
3. On your horse now, back up first, then stop and back up from just a gentle lift of one rein at a time, and have that absolutely reliable at walk, trot and canter.
4. Stop and back up from your seat alone and have that absolutely reliable at walk, trot and canter – with your rein as a back up if it doesn’t happen from seat alone.
5. On the ground again… Stop and back up from a piece of rope around your horse’s neck, simulating how you will do it when you are in the saddle and have that absolutely reliable. You want this absolutely reliable because this will become your back up, emergency brakes if all else fails for some reason.
6. Back on your horse and still with your bridle or halter on… get back up and then stop and back up from just the string around the neck, using the bridle or halter if you can’t get it with the string (to explain what you are looking for with your horse)
7. On your horse and still with a bridle on… Once you have the stop button set in cement, you can start playing with left and right turns without using any reins.
8. Imagine that you have “eyes” on the front of your shoulders, on the front of your hips, on the front of your knees, on the tips of your toes and turn all your eyes in the direction that you want to go at the same time – no forcing it, just turn them all gently where you want them to go. Go and sit on a kitchen chair now and play with that. See what happens to those lovely flat, sliding sitting bones when you “strain” and try to force the turn further than your horse will go. If your horse doesn’t turn with you easily, give him/her a little encouragement/explanation of reaching forwards and kind of waving at him/her rhythmically to “drive” him / her into that direction, then you can pick up the rein and “explain” what it was that you were looking for.
9. When you can walk, trot and canter, stop, back-up and turn left and right without touching the reins (that you have have just sitting there) and when you can stop, back up, turn left and turn right with just using the string around the neck if your horse doesn’t get it, then you are ready to have a go at chucking the head gear away and just riding in a string around the neck.
Some people with large comfort zones with their horse, might try a confined space like a round yard before everything is abolutely reliable, but this solid progression is a safer way to go about it.
And if each step is in your AND your horse’s comfort zone before moving on to the next step, you can progress quite fast to throwing the head gear away. And safety is what is in MY comfort zone! Don’t worry that we’ll turn you all into cowboys riding woth nothing on their heads by exploring this. If your horse is in his comfort zone, with his back elevated, and in self carriage, you will be in a great place to move on with your advanced dressage teacher, cos the best of dressage is done with mostly body and very little rein! Have fun with this!
Remember at all times to have a fall back position, a plan for what you will do THAT WORKS if something goes wrong. And keep yourself safe! That’s the secret for happy riding.
But have even more fun with “Bobby’s Diaries – Straight From the Horse’s Mouth to You” and Zen Connection with Horses. You could be reading the secrets of the great horsemen that even some of them don’t know that they know! If you haven’t read these books, you’re missing something incredibly special. “Love this book or get your money back” – my personal guarantee. Click here to get it now and make up your own mind.
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