I know, I know… eventers already made these lyrics cool with ‘ditch’ instead of bitch, but I don’t do ditches and I don’t do eventing so I work with what I have.
Or in this case, what I don’t have.
For years I’ve had this little goal of jumping Simon around a course without a bridle. I’ve taken off his bridle before and walk/trot/cantered with relatively little fanfare, but that was about two years and I haven’t tried since.
Last Sunday, I headed to the barn with absolutely 0 motivation. I needed to hack the creature, but that sounded about as attractive to me as a trip to the dentist. When motivation is too low to work on lateral work and transitions, I typically pick a dumb challenge to work on that switches it up for us. On Sunday, I decided to tie a lead rope around Simon’s neck and pick back up our bridleless work.
After two laps of trotting, I took his bridle off and tossed it on the mounting block. Then I exclusively used my seat/legs and of course the neck rope to steer him around.
We managed walk/trot transitions, circles and trot poles with absolutely no issue. I don’t remember riding him bridleless being all that difficult, but this was remarkably easy.
The last time I tried this experiment, I cantered but it was only a quick lap or two around the ring. Since I want to be doing courses eventually, I pushed him a little bit more. We cantered circles, cut across the diagonal to do simple changes and in general just did a lot more canter work than before. I’m sure you’ll be shocked to hear, but he did not yell “FREEEEEEEEDOM” and take off for the next county when we started cantering. Instead, he stayed pretty steady.
Post cantering is the only time I encountered some “trouble” with him. By this time we’d been riding for a solid twenty minutes or so, and he realized that he really didn’t have a bit. Therefore my downward transitions were a little… expressive.
For my last canter down transition, he really was like “I LOVE CANTERING. CANTERING IS THE GREATEST. CANTER CANTER CANTER.” I had to pull my ghetto neck rope (more on this later) up a bit on his neck and actually pop a few times as if to say, Dude! Please stop!
He did begrudgingly.
To reinstall the brakes I did a lot of walk/halt/walk/halt/trot/halt/walk/halt transitions in pretty rapid succession. When I felt like he was listening okay again, I trotted and pointed him towards a little log jump in our field. Let me give you a little play by play to Simon’s mentality during this.
“We are nearing a jump, but I probably am not allowed to jump it. 🙁 🙁 🙁 OH WAIT… I AM SUPPOSED TO JUMP IT! I GET TO JUMP IT! I JUMPED IT! NOW I WILL CANTER. OMG I LOVE CANTERING!”
So that’s how we did our first bridleless jump, and also our last because my horse was jacked up on life afterwards.
Riding without a key piece of tack will show you a lot of your flaws. Here are mine I need to work on:
- Way better canter down transitions using seat. I’m good at this with the walk and trot, but need a stronger core for the canter.
- Simon likes to tilt his nose to the outside when tracking left. Pain thing? Training thing? Likes to look outside thing?
Finally, I need a new neck rope for this. The stirrup leather I used the first time is too short for his beefy neck, and the lead rope I used last weekend is too floppy to be an effective aid. Any advice or links for me? Also am curious for any tips from anyone who’s trained their horse to do something similar!