My horse's mouth is now a no metal zone. Max has been on his bitless bridle now for almost a month. We have done all gaits with it. He has given numerous lessons using it from adults to nine year olds. As one of them described the change in him from bit to bitless - it seems like he trots more like he likes to trot, he doesn't stop as much - ahhhhhhh, perhaps because he isn't inadvertently being "told" to stop by the bit when little kids lose their balance or shift their hands too quickly or too much?
We'll never know for certain because, of course, he cannot speak but it has been a good thing for us both.
Trust. Going bitless requires trust. Because the "experts" and the traditional riders will all tell you the value of a bit. They will go on and on about how the bit will assist in proper form, in what we call "framing", which is part of "collection", neither of which have a damn thing to do with a piece of metal between a horse's teeth.
Framing and collection refer to the manner in which a horse carries himself. Mainly, that the horse is using his hind quarters for his energy and strength. Important when jumping out of the way of snakes and mountain lions. Important also when jumping for sport and in overall muscle development. I think of framing and collection sort of like doing proper deadlifts as a human. You use your butt and legs for a proper dead, not your back. Just like when you are lifting heavy things to move them.
But, it isn't the bit that is doing the framing is my point. Yes, part of it is the manner in which a horse is holding his head, therefore neck, therefore....and all that can be achieved with the help of a bit. BUT it can also be achieved without it.
I had a friend once and we used to ride her (very young and by young I mean 2 and 3 year old) horses on trails with nothing more than those rubber "training" bits. That is all they ever knew and they were fine. People used to scoff. What if they spooked? What if? Mine did once in a field and I fell clean off. He ran to about 20 feet away and started to graze. LOL. Another time he spooked at a starting motor and I turned him in a tight circle and calmed him down. The point is - horses will do the SAME things with or without a bit. The difference is in what comes after they do those things.
Max did not go "crazy" without his bit. He didn't buck and he didn't "disrespect" his riders. Well, anymore than he normally plays with them. LOL. Max is a fun horse and will always have just a little bit of colt left in him. That is one of the fabulous things about this horse. The only difference I have noticed without a bit is that when he gets distracted by, say, our riding instructor eating donuts (one of his forbidden favorite treats) beside the fence, it is just a bit (no pun intended) more difficult to get him to not climb said fence in hopes of her sharing.
Riding cues are the same. Everything is the same. Well, except that when you DO make a mistake or are thrown off balance (as anyone who rides knows happens no matter how experienced you are) there isn't metal clanging against your horse's teeth and jaw. I worried about all this frankly mostly because Max does give lessons regularly. And, unfortunately, I am not in complete control of his life. Remember, technically I lease Max. I don't own him. I wish I did but, alas, that is not our relationship right now...
So, anything I can do to further his training, our relationship and the knowledge that he is safe and well I will do. Max has gone from a Western only horse, with a semi-harsh bit, single rider and use of spurs to a multi-discipline, multi-rider horse with no spurs and NO bit. Pretty good for a pony life upgrade in my opinion.