Friday, September 25, 2009

Bodhi goes bitless!

The Picture is of Satin,my barn manager's horse sporting her new bridle. Kathy said she was a very good girl.

Tried Bodhi out in a Cook's Bitless Bridle yesterday. Overall I give it a thumbs up!

First on the quality-- My barn manager purchased the Beta full sized bridle in brown. It looks very nice and the quality seems to be very high. The bridle fit her 16 hh very drafty type Appy's head as well as Bodhi who is bordering between Arab and Full and measuring in at 14 something.

I did some in hand work and some lateral work on the ground first to gauge Bodhi's opinion on the "head hug" action. Bodhi was in a super lazy sluggish mood so he could care less and was practically asleep so I decided to try it under saddle.

I was very conservative with my contact at first and left him alone to warm up. He did his normal routine of stretching though he was very stiff and sluggish. We then moved on to transitions, some serpentines and then a bit of canter work. Bodhi's bad habit is to stiffen his neck and fall on the forehand making it difficult to turn him. He has a very short neck and he is a draft so pulling is an art form for him! Even at the canter though (which is when his vice is worst) He was very respectable of my leg and rein. I was impressed. The one time he got stiff and stubborn was when I wanted to turn him away from the people at the fence line (We had attracted a few curious on lookers to witness our experiment) I gave him a few good tugs and got him going. He did not seem at all offended by the bridle's pressure so that seems to work as well. The only part I did not like was he was very "up" and I could not get a steady contact or any feeling of give. It may be out of confusion since he had not bit to give to or it could have been an off day for him as far as stiffness in the neck and back. In a bit I would have asked him to take some contact and pay attention with louder aides until I got a desired result. With the bitless I did not know what the cause was so was not about to fight about it.
After our ride I walked him around the barn areas to see how he was in the bitless in his spooky areas. It could have been just the day and not the bridle but he seemed much more relaxed around the hay barn and the quarantine cat pen (which he is terrified of by the way-- maybe it is the smell of cats?). If this does in deed turn out to be the case I think his spookiness is related to my nerves translating through the bridle to him. That has always been my hunch. I do have some nerve issues I am working through so the bitless may be a way to spare Bodhi of some of my more subtle stiffness in my upper body in the meantime. A good thing for sure.

Synopsis: I found that our lateral work was pretty good! He turned well and gave laterally with little pressure. He did great in his downward transitions though he always stops well! I am a bit worried that I will not be able achieve the same amount of contact and lightness in order to practice in a more advanced frame needed for dressage. Another few rides are in order to really come to any conclusions though. This bridle may be a great thing for trail, pleasure days, and also to use when other people want to ride Bodhi.


  1. Sounds like it'll work for you, at least for some purposes. I also found the quality of manufacture very good.

  2. I think sometimes going bitless can improve relaxation for the horse. Especially if he has been troubled in the mouth. You are right too about horses being affected by your own nerves - Inga Wolframm from the Netherlands, who spoke at the International Society for Equitation Science Conference in Sydney has done a lot of work on rider anxiety.

    There have been other studies that also showed that a rider's expectation of 'trouble' (in a controlled experiment where they were told to expect an umbrella being opened as their horse went by) also transferred nervousness to the horse.

    Sports psychologists can be useful in aiding people with nerves, and I believe Jane Savoie also has some self-help material out on fear
    Fear can be a helpful adaptive strategy, so it's not all bad! Karen

  3. Thanks for visiting Karen! Yes I am a big fan of Jane Savoie. She is an amazing instructor, I only wish I could attend a clinic with her someday. My fear level is improving so that is great. I actually jumped a small course on a friends horse on Sat, something I would not have done 6 months ago. My rehab is on going and owning a saint like Bodhi is therapeutic for sure!