“Horses trained bridleless never spook or bolt”
Yes, they do! All horses can spook, even the most well trained and well behaved horse can spook. You never know when you’ll run into a large moose, maybe a kid with a bucket filled with rocks will come running towards your horse. Maybe someone starts a machine behind a hedge. You never know when something unexpected happens. And yes, you can definitely train a horse to handle unexpected situations rather well, I have. But! The spook-response itself, mostly the horse moving backwards or jumping to the side, is difficult to avoid in all situations because the horse responds based on an 4 million old instinct. So when you ride bridleless, you will have to always think about that something unexpected can happen, and have an emergency routine. Prepare your horse to handle a stressful situation, and prepare yourself, so you know what to do! Most riders’ emergency routine is pulling the reins and pray to God, and in most cases, it works.
My emergency routine when I don’t have reins:
- Get Batman into halt. If he spooks to the side or trots forward a few meter, I will ask him to halt immediately, before he gets a chance to “do something more”. If a horse start trotting away from the danger, you are more likely to end up in gallop. So I halt, right away. If he does not listen, I will with a louder voice make it very clear that I’m serious about my request and put my whip on his shoulder and ask him to go into a small circle and then stop.
- In halt, ask him to lower his head. I have a very well trained cue for “head down” in halt, and he will respond without thinking, and lower his head. This is a “reboot” for many horses, and works very well on Bat. He will calm down, and when I’m safely on the ground, I will grab the halter if he wear one, or put a rope halter on. I often carry one in my pocket. If I don’t have any halter I will use the neck rope as a halter.
Many horses are easier or safer to control from the ground, Batman trust me more from the ground when he can see me. I’m always dismounting if I feel unsecure, because I am a safety freak and won’t risk anything. I hahe had too many bad accidents and I’m tired of the emergency room! Because of my routines and strict safety procedures I have never ever experienced Batman bolting or panicing when I have been riding bridleless. Not one single incident in six years! :)
“People who ride bridleless don’t use a helmet”
Well, some of them don’t, but many do! I never ride or train Batman without a helmet, expect from during special themed photoshoots. I have safety procedures for shoots like these and have people on the ground ready to help. I always take the helmet off the second before we shot the photo, and when I’m done with that picture, I bring it back on before we go to the next location or try a new pose. I would never ever dare to ride without a helmet, I have had many concussions and I’m not sure if my brain can handle any more. I feel very naked and unprotected without a proper riding helmet. Safety first, always. Bridleless, not brainless.
“People who choose bridleless thinks bits are animal abuse”
Yeah, some do, but again, most of them don’t. A bit is not animal abuse in my opinion. It is maybe unnecessary, but it is not abuse. I don’t anything against bits, I have some myself, and sometimes I use them. But I prefer bitless! I don’t judge people who prefer a different type of tack than me. As long as the bit is used correctly, feel free to ride with one.
“You cannot get proper collection without reins”
I believe you can, but it takes lot of skill and many many years of education to get it right. You can manage to ride dressage bridleless, but it takes training, as with everything else.
“Bridleless Instagram-riders doesn’t think about safety”
I do. Yes, I post photos of Batman without a bridle. Yes, I post photos of Batman at liberty. Yes, I post photos from photoshoot where I’m not wearing a helmet. But I do for sure think about safety. I have “crazy safety procedures” around horses. I’m the first person to dismount if something does not feel right during a hack. I’m the first one to slow down. I never ever take any risks on horseback, and my first priority is to keep both Batman, and the people around him, safe. When I bring him to events, hacks, photoshoots or travel with him, I always have a long list of thigs to do if something happens, and I inform everybody around him about the routines. When I’m traveling with Batman, I always do things in the correct order. I double and triple check everything. I bring extra ropes, halters, a knife and carrots. Why? Because I have experienced way too many:
- Horse trailer accidents
- Emergency situations and accidents on hacks
- Bolting horses
- Loose horses running around in panic
- People falling off and injuring themselves
And experiences like this makes you extremely careful, I can assure you that!
Feel free to share!
Peace, love and Friesian hugs,
Batman & Matilde