March 22, 2014

Had a go at something different today, bitless driving.

I've been involved in a heated debates in regards to bitless driving, is it dangerous as you have less control over the horse, or is it a kinder alternative to bits.

I used to ride bitless, but always thought that you 100% need a bit for driving. But I have seen people driving quite happily bitless and also seen photos of teams of 4 in hands being driven bitless in Europe.

I borrowed a noseband from the 'Bitless Bridle Bank' set up by Bitless Inc. This particular noseband is made by Lightrider Bitless Bridles here in Australia, and meant I could attach the noseband to my standard Ziclo Bridle (with winkers). Bitless and Winkerless in one day would not be a good idea !

I decided to use Bobby for the project, as Bobby does not enjoy being bridled or unbridled, and he is very stiff on one side and evades the bit. Now I will just add that all the ponies had a visit from the dentist yesterday, so if he had tooth problems that should be fixed now, but decided he was my test subject.

The noseband is lovely thick padded biothane, and it has a soft strap that goes under the jaw (like a curb chain on the bridle). The reins attach to that strap. The idea is (to steal from the Light Rider website)

Unique Chinstrap: The purpose of the soft webbing chin strap is to help the noseband stay in place when pressure is applied to the reins - this stops the noseband twisting around resulting in lighter communication.
The chinstrap becomes snug, does not over-tighten and provides release when the rein is loose for the ultimate comfort of your horse

Noseband on, we did some long reining, and the long reining was pretty ordinary (lots of spinning around to face me), but long reining Bobby is ordinary at the best of times and al least now when he did the spinning around I wasn't pulling on his mouth.

He seemed to have no problems with the noseband, so knowing I was not covered by my ACDS insurance (the reason doing this is that I wanted to see if this is safe and should be under the ACDS umbrella!), and warning the person that I agist with that I was off to do something potentially very silly, I put Bobby in the sulky and off we went.

The first 2 minutes were a bit 'buttock clenching' as Bobby and I worked out the new system of aids, but after that we both relaxed and had a good drive. He walked, trotted and cantered nicely. Downward transitions were fantastic, upward transitions he was sluggish on. I think I need to work on giving more release there, I felt at times I was 'putting my foot on the accelerator with the handbrake still on'.

2 big improvements - he was able to do anticlockwise circles without falling in at the shoulder like he as been doing, and he reined back without throwing his head up and gaping.

I felt safer driving him bitless ! I will add a caveat though that Bobby is a pony I know very well, and responds well to verbal queues. I certainly would not go out and just try this willy-nilly.

I still have my other 3 ponies to try this on, and two of those I would do very carefully and cautiously, but in the case of Bobby, a pony I know has bitting issues, I see that noseband as a viable alternative to a bit, and would delay love that one day I could drive at ACDS events in one. Of course until such a time I would alway obey the ACDS rules and drive with bits at all club outings and events, but for schooling Bobby in the paddock (knowing I'm not covered by insurance), then yes, I'll probably drive bitless to work on his flexion and rein backs, and for general exercise.

So I stand by my stance that Bitless should be considered as a 'bitting option'. I can see it of being of particular value to minis horses and ponies who due to having tiny heads full of big teeth often have real problems with finding a suitable bitting option.

Posted by Amanda on March 22, 2014 03:57 PM