Thursday, October 8, 2009

Classical trainer sacked for not using a bit

Well now comes the tricky bit. I’ve always struggled with describing myself as ‘classical’ but it is the tag that probably describes my training best. That is about to change; it is one of the biggest cardinal sins to believe one can train ‘classically’ without a bit. So I hereby renounce all previous claims that I may be classical in my approach. I am not classical, there, said it and I feel better already. So what am I really trying to achieve with my training? Not great success in competition arenas that’s for sure. A horse trained to Grand Prix? Get real Trudi, lol. No I’m not actually goal driven much at all, I used to be but then I suppose that has mellowed with age. All I really want it to enjoy the time I spend with my horses and for them to enjoy the time they spend being and working with me and for us all to keep fit enough that we can continue to a ripe old age.

Take yesterday as an example; I had one of the best days! Did we find more engagement in our half pass? Move effortlessly from shoulder-in to counter shoulder-in? No, we trotted a figure of eight keeping rhythm through rein changes and with Moralejo not rushing or leaning. It was a joy that we could do this simple thing with zero contact but 100% concentration…we were both in the zone and it made me want to cry, partly because I’ve waited so long but partly because I’m realising I’ve been up a blind alley for way too long. I haven’t felt his back swing so freely or seen his head so quiet ever and to finish we went down the hill and trotted home in the same trot, no hands, just him finding his balance.

So I ask myself again, what do I want from my training? I want that smile from yesterday, I want it too feel like I’ll burst with pride in my boy because we achieved balance together but at the same time independently…like dancers, touching and blending with each other but not leaning on each other.

My old favourite Paul Belasik says that dressage isn’t dressage without a bit, it’s a reference point for propriocentric (had to add that one to my spell checker, lol Mr B) balancing i.e. a static reference point (Cabruze and I already confused each other with this idea of ‘static’) that the horse senses in order to balance himself over his feet. I’m not sure about this statement but I’d like Mr B to substantiate his belief with some science, alas I doubt it will be forthcoming.

Dr Thomas Ritter writes ‘you can't produce the same level of suppleness and throughness with a bitless bridle as with a classical bridle.

None of the classical traditions use bitless bridles. None of the classical schools use bitless bridles.’ Mmm, lacking in science again I’m afraid.

Did I say afraid?? Well do you know I think that’s just the problem, the classicists believe that there is a process one must go through, believe in, to achieve a ‘classically’ trained horse and are pretty terrified that someone comes onto their turf and asks too many questions. The answer…blind them with art, well that’s not good enough for me any more ;-)

Oh this is tiring, I’m going to call it a night, I need to choose my words carefully. So I guess it's back to my tongue in cheek title of a while back...I'm a 'living' trainer (well it's better than being a dead one) and open to ALL things based on believable science, dusted with a little art and being of benefit to my horse and at the moment I don't see a big reason to use a bit. I think tomorrow I'm going to talk about the cordeo work I'm doing with Moo, the lateral work and baby moments of collection (yes without a bit).
Night, night.


Anonymous said...

They think you must use a bit - because that's how they do it and how they've always seen it done. People living inside a "system" of beliefs - and training systems are of course belief systems - have trouble seeing outside their system - it's self-contained and self-referential. Of course the earth is flat - because our system says so. Sometimes they're right and sometimes they're not - I'm still learning how important it is to question what one's been taught - but once one starts to question, the "system" may no longer be as satisfactory in providing answers as it once was. This is hard, as the path to take then becomes less "given" and you then have to seek out your own path and create it.

Di said...

I'm pleased for you, those moments are few and far between. Hopefully you'll get many more.

I don't know, Mr B is well known for his use of science in dressage. Perhaps he'd be up for a challenge.

Trudi, this is blowing my already scrambled mind. Where's the dyed in the wool classical Trudi, come on, what have you done with her? ;-)

Claire said...


it's about the seat and balance for both horse and rider.

i reckon still classical

and think about things such as the descent de mains....essentially no hands ... you're just aiming for that, but without the intervening work with the bit

HorseOfCourse said...

I just love your thoughts here, Trudi.

I believe our horses are the ultimate proof of what "is right" and what "is wrong".

I always get very sceptical when people express rigid views, in particular when questions are met with rejection, or lack of any good explanations to back up the statements.
If we always do what we always have done, there will be no progress, right?
So keep up this journey, Trudi, and thanks for sharing!

Moments of togetherness are the very best.
That's the icing of the cake in my horse life.
They make me so happy I have my head up in the skies for many days.
Reading about yours makes me happy too :-)
May there be many ahead for you and Moo, Trudi!

Equine Sports Massage said...

Wow Trudi, I can see the confusion!

I have posted a reply to Di's and your comment but I don't think it will be the answer you are looking for.

Love the blog and glad moo is going so well.

trudi said...

Oh lol Lucinda, you were writing on mine while I was writing on yours! Thanks for visiting! I can't tell you the difference in Moo but it is very gradual and yesterday we had our first canter on the lunge which HE actually instigated, no Mr Grumpy (which can only have been a sign of discomfort in the past) this time and just a nice light steady canter...I'm so pleased that you and Lise sorted him out, thank you!

trudi said...

Oh and Di, meant to say... what Kate says!!! That is absolutely it, what Kate says and I may well use that to quote at some time if that's OK Kate.

Di said...

Ok, I agree with everything Kate said, I used to be the biggest rebel going (what happened there then) and I always wanted to do things my way and would question any "system".
So, Trudi, you're open to ALL things based on believable science. What's the science behind bitless? Having read Lucindas' recent post, it puts a slightly different slant on things for me regarding the different pressure points on the head.It's a relief in a way to hear a different point of view. Pressure on the nerves of the nasal bone or pressure on the nerves in the mandible?

trudi said...

The thing is though Di, I doubt when I come to write up my conclusions that it will be as cut and dry as 'though shalt be bitless' more like 'sorry guys you'll have to make up your own minds'. The reason for this is a lack of real science, there are quite a few studies if you search the web but most were done for bit or bridle companies and of course we all know that we can 'bend' findings a little to suit the person that paid for the study. I don't imagine there's spare cash for anyone to fund an independant study so it will always come down to a gut feel. Lucinda has a gut feel that the frontal nerve is a reason to doubt bitless and my gut feel is that (at least to start out) a bit could cause long term problems physically and mentally.
Interestingly there is lots of anecdotal evidence on the web too, take, for instance, the fact that 'allegedly' a hackamore can break a horse's jaw. Well I have yet to find one piece of proof on this but there are many sites that state it as a fact! In my opinion it would be quite hard to break the jaw this way unless the horse had a sudden fall or fell jumping say but of course, just MY opinion, no science. On the other hand you can find photographical evidence of tongues cut almost in two and the boney spurs on the bars when they have suffered damage from the bit.
The debate for me will probably never end, I'll just do my best.

Claire said...

i suspect the end result will be

1. it depends on what the horse likes (some hate bits, some hate bitless)

2. it depends on the horses stage of training

3. it depends what you are aiming for

4. it depends on the rider/handlers own abilities

Did you see Heather said that one of hers goes best bitless? and helped test the Dr Cook's?

Di said...

Of course for all of us it's a matter of trying to do our best for our horses. knowing what that is and then having the knowledge to carry it out - a totally different matter. Hehe, ignorance (not acceptable, I know)but most definately is, bliss.

Equine Sports Massage said...

The problem with such a study is that the parameters are so wide, factors such as the age, breed, conformation,how long they have been training in this bit or did they get trained straight into bitless who the rider is the horses and riders level of and type training.

With all that included you can not come up with a science based study.

At the end of my course we have to do a thesis, it has to be science based (and min of 20 horses and osteopathic based) and come up with good conclusions, we have access to all the past thesis so I will have a look and see, I think that I have seen one done on hackamores and i will keep you all posted to their findings!!!!

Equine Sports Massage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
trudi said...

Oh yes please Lucinda that sounds a brilliant resource, wish I could have an hour or two with those old theses but will happily wait for any info you can pass on.
Yes I would concur regarding the scientific study, do you remember the one Clayton did testing the piaffe to see if the back legs became more weighted than the fronts? Turned out they didn't but nobody in the classical world wanted to accept it and as it was only done using one competition horse it wasn't exactly conclusive!!