Riding horses without a bridle or reins, with a so called neckrope or cordeo, is becoming more and more popular. I’m a huge fan of bridleless riding, and think most riders would learn a lot if they ditch the reins every now and then. But riding bridleless is not about simply removing the bridle!
We all do mistakes, and that’s natural. Starting to ride bridleless is a journey – and you will be learning every single day. But in the beginning, it can be smart to keep this list in mind to make the process a little bit easier.
1. You are placing your cordeo higher to gain more control
I often see riders pull their neckrope waaay to high and then use it as a pain device to gain control. If you do so, you are so far from soft riding and equal communication as possible. This is an extremely vulnerable part of the horse’s throat! You can actually do damage to the arteries, and other vessels and pipes located in this area almost unprotected. Never place your neckrope higher because it makes the horse easier to ride. The neckrope are supposed to rest on the chest and only be used for seconds at the time, with a light hand. Every tool used wrong can easily be turned into a torture device.
Correctly placed cordeo and the anatomy of the horse’s throat.
2. You are removing the bridle on a horse who is not ready
Riding bridleless is not riding with a cordeo or neckrope, it is about riding with your body and seat as your primary aid, not using the rope to steer with. Simply taking off the bridle of a horse that has always been ridden with reins is dangerous. Learn more about how you can prepare a horse for bridleless riding here.
3. You are pulling the neckrope in frustration
Just because you are without reins, it does not mean that you can’t cause damage. A rope around the horse’s neck is a rope around its neck, so handle it with care. Pulling harder to make your horse stop won’t help. Never use force. Use a bridle with reins for safety and use the reins instead if needed.
4. You are trying to ride in trot or canter before mastering the walk
The first time you are trying to ride without reins should be a shorter session with focus on walk and halt-transitions for light signals. Don’t run around. If you master the walk, you will also master the canter. Focus on the small, important things. Feel how the horse responds to your seat, and praise a lot when he willingly does a good halt for a very light signal. If you spend time in the beginning perfectioning the walk, canter an trot will be easy. If the first thing you do is to gallop around, you will lack a lot of perfection of signals later.
You’ll get to do anything you usually does bridleless as well pretty soon – don’t hesitate in the beginning.
5. You are not inside a safe area
The first times you are trying neckrope without a bridle on for safety, you should be inside an arena or paddock with fences – not on an open field or on a hack. All horses can spook. When you are going outside the arena for the first time – use a bridle with reins and let the reins rest on the horse’s neck. You can pick them up if you need them.
6. You are constantly giving signals with the neckrope
When you ride with a neckrope, you should only lift the neckrope slightly for a few seconds when you give a signal, and then let it rest on the horse’s neck again. There are no need for having contact at all times. Give your signal, and release. Follow the horse’s movement with your body, and keep attention to its body language. That should be your main focus.
Do you ride bridleless?
Peace, love and Friesian hugs,
Batman & Matilde