About a year ago, I started riding Simon bridleless. By started, I mean we had gotten far enough in our training that I could canter around the ring without a bridle. I know this isn’t exactly horse voodoo magic, but it’s something I had never accomplished with any other equine partner before.

Photo by Heather F

The reason I like riding without a bridle is that it forces me to identify my weaknesses. When I get tired, I like to lean on the reins but guess what — you can’t lean on reins that aren’t there! It really makes me use my core throughout my entire ride instead of depending on lazy habits.

Photo by Heather F

If I’m not preparing for a show, I drop my bridle about once a week. Sometimes I ride with just my bareback pad although this is a work in progress, because I need to strengthen my core a lot before I can do more than a tiny amount of canter. Other times I’ll keep the saddle and see how much real work we can get done sans bridle.

Photo by Heather F

Last weekend I was in the mood for a fun lesson before my big trip. I asked my trainer if she was okay with me doing a lesson with my neck rope, and she said that was fine.

Photo by Heather F

GUYS! SO MUCH FUN!

Photo by Heather F

Even though I’ve jumped around small courses without my bridle before, I wasn’t sure how Simon would react in a group lesson where he’s usually a little bit more super charged… but he was perfect. Baby angel perfect.

Photo by Heather F

Warming up, his flatting was pretty standard for him. We had a hard time doing bend and counter bend without bridle (I could get counter bend okay, but not a great inside bend on a straight-a-way) and I need to go back and reinforce backing in a straight line on my own time, but there was simple lateral work and better canter to trot transitions than he has with a bridle.

Photo by Heather F

When it came to jumping, I wish there was video. He was amazing. We jumped normal courses with bending lines and big roll backs with no issues. Simple changes were a little less precise, but I can work on that. The only thing I wasn’t able to accomplish was when my trainer wanted us to canter into a line, halt, and trot out. I didn’t feel like I had enough brakes to halt in the middle of the line, so that’s something I’m going to work with him on outside of a lesson. I think we can do it, but I need to get sharper about my canter halts after jumps.

Photo by Heather F

I think this is something I may try to mix into my normal routine. It’s fun, Simon likes it and if I’m being honest — my inner horse whisperer is pretty damn tickled at herself.

26 COMMENTS

  1. This is ah-mazing! You guys look great! And I admit I am so jelly that I wasn’t able to try this with Foster- what a great relationship building exercise for you guys!

  2. You are my hero. I really need to try riding bridle-less (in a ring, duh). Jumping though it just downright badass!

  3. His face is sooooo cute in these photos! You can just hear the “this is so fun, I’m such a good boy” inner monologue.