Thursday, July 30, 2009

Playing bitless

Well it was such a shame that Moo was poorly when Claire arrived as she had kindly brought her Heather Moffett saddle and Dr Cook's bitless bridle for me to play with. Those who read me regularly will know the problems I have had in accepting what is possible when riding bitless. I'm currently using a hackamore and really like the effect it gives in my hand and when Di visited we played at feeling where the pressure of the Dr C's BB and the hackamore acted on the horses head. Amidst lots of giggles I think it was easy to feel (human wearing the bridles!!) where the pressure was acting. Feeling the bridles on the horse and using flexions made it even more obvious to me that the hackamore has a more precise action; perhaps not unlike the comparison between a straight bar mullen mouth and a curb bit.

Any way, I digress, today I worked Moo in-hand in the BB which Claire has kindly left me to try. Interestingly he was hard on my hands :-( but I did like the straightness that I could maintain in his neck and head. Alas though no great possibility of getting flexions to the side as I can with the hackamore.
I shall video in both bitless options and see what it all looks like. Claire says I over analyse but I guess I can't just accept stuff so here I go analysing again, lol.

I now have all the stretches to do with Moo after he has worked so I'll keep you posted on how we go.


HorseOfCourse said...

Every horse and rider is different, so I find it very sensible to use some time and try out what suits you best :)

I have intermittently been riding bitless on my horses, and tried different solutions.
I think what works best is depending on what setting you are using it (apart from personal preferences of course).
If you go out hacking, you have different need compared to riding dressage etc.

So, if I may give some personal comments from a dressage point of view?
I haven’t read all your posts Trudi, but do I understand you correctly that you earlier have had issues with him accepting the bit with a steady contact?
And that you feel that it is now working better with the hackamore?
If so, I can understand that as the hackamore helps you to set a “frame”.
Personally I also feel that I have a better release function with a hackamore than what I experience with Dr Cook type bridles. Like you, I also feel that the horse gets a bit heavy in my hands with the cross-under type bridles.

What I feel is a disadvantage with a hackamore though (again, just my personal experience) is that when the frame is set, you will probably be looking for more impulsion in your horse.
Riding with a normal snaffle bridle, you would get that nice suction feeling in your hands from increased hind leg activity.
Here I feel that riding with the hackamore might give problems.
It is a bit too severe for the horse to invite him to take the necessary contact. Often they end up slightly behind the vertical. If you run into problems here, I would try out a padded sidepull – or go back to snaffle and check if you still have problems with it. It might be that some time off with the hackamore has solved your earlier problems.
Personally I also feel that the flexion/bending signals work better with the sidepull compared to the two others.

But again – not two horses are alike, and not us riders either!
Listen to your horse, and whatever he is comfortable in is the right choice for you.

Claire said...

well, I think i said the only person i've seen able to get a good "frame" with the BB is Peaches on EE, lovely (and molly goes nicely in it longlining, but not nearly so well ridden .... which i reckon shows some rider error)

While I think on, do you have my address?

and reminds me to set to with putting some vid on disc...

trudi said...

HofC thank you so much for such a detailed response. I need to find time to read up on your blog about your bitless experiences.

It's not really that he doesn't accept the bit but more that he doesn't cope with pressure. Now that used to be ANY pressure whether physical or emotional. The bit is probably more evasive and so the bitless seems better at the moment, although as with all horses, that could change!! He doesn't like to feel 'held' or 'trapped' and when ridden in new exercises he will exhibit more extreme manifestations of this fear of pressure. For example tossing his head about; when dismounted he will actually rear if he feels frightened but never this extreme when ridden (thank goodness).

He has a reasonable 'frame' that nature gave him, my problem is trying to get him relaxed enough to be able to work within it. All my current work is about relaxing him enough to work in a good rhythm so that we can take the next step.
Yes impulsion is on the list but then the list isn't set in steel, lol. I'm not sure of the feeling of suction in my hands? Perhaps you could explain a little for me? I try ultimately to have the horse lighter and lighter in my hand and the thought of it sucking the rein back from me isn't where I was hoping to head but maybe I'm confusing your thoughts? I do know (and indeed a few times even with Moo) that when his back is up and working in a relaxed manner then my hands become able to give just the lightest 'sparks' of information and no doubt for me the Dr Cook's doesn't begin to give this possibility.

In today's modern dressage world I increasingly see the 'fixed' head/neck carriage and whilst I'm looking for an improvement in his carriage, no way would I want to edge too close to that fixed, joyless picture I see so much of today. Observing a horse in nature there is rarely one moment when he is fixed, indeed for me his beauty comes from the freedom of his neck and head.

Sorry, off on one there!!

Thanks again HofC, let me know about the suction :-)

Oh Claire, Yes addie please!!

HorseOfCourse said...

Oh no Trudi, it is quite the opposite!
When your horse is working over a supple back and with active hindlegs, the horse is seeking contact himself on the bit. This is what is called "riding the horse from back to front" (instead of fixing the head/neck with the hands=riding the horse from the front).
You get a kind of suction feeling in your hands, and the contact gets steady, but not heavy. You can also sometimes hear it described as "connecting the hindlegs to the hand". It is a wonderful feeling!

trudi said...

Ahhh, contact!! I've always preferred the word 'connection' only a slightly different nuance I know, I can't get the suction aspect but that's probably just semantics (by the way your English is superb!!)but I have many times felt an active hind leg but try always to let that energy recycle and not 'rest' in my hands. I too abhor 'hand riding' and it's extreme form, rollkur. I do think though that if we fail to see the head/neck as a portal that we can access and influence then we are leaving half our riding tools in the tool kit all the time. This is communication, not riding from front to back and it's an area where german versus french practitioners seem truly to misunderstand eachother. Sometimes I feel to the detriment of our wonderful art of dressage :-)

Thanks for the explanation, happy riding, Trudi

HorseOfCourse said...

Here we have a saying: "a dear child has many names".
Riding is not always easy to explain, and adding different languages in that pot doesn't make it easier, lol!
Trudi, I believe you have to help me out, because I did not quite understand your comment. How does the French and German practise differ? Or rather, what is the cause of the misunderstandings?

trudi said...

Hof C that is an excellent saying!
Agreed, riding is never easy to explain…we all ‘feel’ such different things. .
French equitation, historically, believes in balance before motion and German equitation believes balance is achieved through motion. That is a very simplistic view but it’s good as a start point. Most competition riders today would be Germanic whereas Oliveira was more French (being truthful one should say Latin) and Philippe Karl is decidedly French as is Anja Beran (in my opinion).
The problems arise because the ‘German’ fundamentalists believe that the French system kills the paces and addresses only the front end. Vice versa the French proponents believe that the Germanic stylists rely on too much forwards and activity from behind to the detriment of balance through collection.
I can only speak from where I have experience; and that is to say that neither side is right or wrong and like any two opposing sides there is good and bad in both. Having ridden and trained for years in the Germanic school I now find freshness in the addition of some French ideas to keep my mind more open.
There are others who describe this much better than I, in German terms I adore Seunig and of course to counter this, Oliveira or more recently Philippe Karl and Anja Beran keep alive the legacy of Légèreté, or the equitation of ‘lightness’.

Sorry, went on a bit there but I hope that helps.

All the best, Trudi

HorseOfCourse said...

Thanks a lot for the explanation, Trudi :)
Then I am a lot wiser!

And how interesting to be able to get insight in both traditions.
I always find it refreshing to ride for different instructors; even if they see the same problems, they might address it from different angles and with different tools.
And the more tools we get in out own toolbox the better riders we get!