Getting a horse to work in a "proper" outline Bitless?

wench

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Just after anyone that may be able to help me with any tips!

Horse seems to like being Bitless better than with a bit, we are currently going through training with her new bridle and I'm impressed with the results.

However, how do you go about "training" a horse to work into a Bitless contact?

I've done a lot of work strengthening her top line and she will now work correctly in a bit.

Any tips for Bitless?
 

tallyho!

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I imagine its quite like getting a horse to go in an "outline" when long lining with cavesson.

Your hands remain as turning, lateral and shoulder aids and you concentrate on building impulsion (not speed) from behind. Even in a bit, the focus should be "where are the quarters" rather than "where is the head". It's something that will build over time and as fitness increases so will the "outline". Just carry on with lateral work and controlling the impulsion and your "outline" will follow.
 

wench

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I certainly don't concentrate on where the head is, as that's obviously wrong. However, The horse has had a previous tendancy to giraffe a lot, so I do need to concentrate at least getting the head down so it's not hollow whilst working!

What I find about working in an outline, is that (assuming horse has correct muscles) you need to train him to do it, and you need to know how to ask him to do it.

When I was a less experienced I tried for years to get a previous horse to work in a better way, circles, transitions, lateral work, none of it worked until I went to an instructor who taught me how to ask for it, and how to train my horse to work into that contact!
 

ihatework

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A 'proper' outline isn't just about where the head is. Granted it is part of it but there are a whole host aspects of training that are just as important.

Leaving aside the argument of can you really work a horse to the contact if there is no bit (which I sit on the fence on) - you face a number of problems that will need to be adressed. You admit you could not work your horse correctly with a bit, so you may need to re-evaluate how quickly you expect to be able to work the horse correctly without one. You will further struggle because the number of riders out there who work & school horses really well bitless (in the dressage sense) are few and far between. I'm not saying it can't be done, but the skill to do it well is rare and is to be admired.

I actually cannot fathom how you could genuinely learn to school a horse bitless from an internet forum. Tallyho hasn't given you a bad place to start to be honest and is probably about as good an answer as you are going to get. There is no substitiute for an experienced eye on the ground and months of good consistent training - irrespective of whether there is a bit involved or not.
 

wench

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I'm not suggesting I can learn Bitless by just reading stuff from here! However always interesting to know if anyone has ever been in the same scenario!

The horse does work in a reasonable outline for me with a bit, this has been done with a combination of my own knowledge, a couple of lessons, and building up correct muscle.

However, how you would "ask" for an outline with a bit, and without are going to be different, even if subtly.

As for if a horse will be truly working properly without a bit, maybe they do maybe they don't, however for my purposes as I'm not competing or training to gp level, it doesn't really matter!
 

TarrSteps

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I'm more or less with ihw on this one. There is no 'trick' to riding without a bit. The only qualifier though is that hackamores, sidepulls, cross unders etc are all designed to be used with pressure and release. They aren't from the same school of riding as snaffles and while that may seem unimportant these days, my experience and observation tells me it's still germane. Your horse will not and should not feel the same in your hand without a bit. If it does, you're opening another can of worms.

What kind of bridle are you using?

Just a qualifier, I love my sidepull and find them very useful. I've never had a horse fail to 'go better' (depending how you define your terms) in one. But I am cautious about suggesting them for rider whose goal is dressage as I find it can breed dissatisfaction! :D The transition can be particularly tricky.

They are also useful for teaching as the non leverage bridles are easier on horses. This can be great as a tool and a stage but can also avoid issues that still need addressing.

I used to start western horses in a combination bridle, which was a fantastic compromise.
 

bounce

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Which form of bitless bridle are you using?
I used a Dr Cook on my TB who had to have time off from a bit due to wolf teeth extraction.
I rode in exactly the same way I would if I had a normal bitted bridle and got exactly the same results. I don't think you necessarily need to ride differently with a bitless bridle than you would with a bit.
 

wench

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I have got a light rider bridle (well I purchased the noseband) and my horse has taken to it so far. I've only been walking and trotting so far in it, mainly due to lack of facilities to ride in properly.

It has taken a lot more riding from the seat and legs, which I think has helped my horse no end (think has previously been yanked around quite a lot in the mouth).

I'm not really a dressage rider, would just like to be able to ride the horse (or start to) riding her in a bit more self carriage, so can carry on building up the top line; the more I can do this, the less likely my horse is to do a giraffe impression.
 

Supanova

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This answer is from someone who has never ridden bitless so feel free to take this with a pinch of salt.....first make sure the horse actively stepping forward from the hind legs and then try to use your core muscles to ask the horse to go in an outline i.e. engage your stomach muscles in the same way you do when you cough - you then need to learn to breath whilst you're doing it ! (Mary Wanless ride with your mind is quite useful to explain this technique). I find that this makes my horse go in an outline with a bit so i would hope it should work the same bitless.
 

Scarlett

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I ride and school bitless a lot, probably more than we ride bitted now if I'm honest. However I'm not a dressage rider, never will be and I've accepted the fact that riding bitless may mean sacrificing my dressage score if/when we get out eventing. My horses are straighter, softer and nicer to ride in a sidepull and, as a leisure rider, I enjoy a quiet life!

I never think about riding in an outline, so to speak. I pick a rein length, keep my arm soft and work my horse into that contact, they must move off my inside leg into my outside rein with a soft neck and when that happens they work in whatever outline the length rein gives them - sometimes it's more up, sometimes long and low with nose out infront. I don't let them lean or get heavy on my hand which I find can be the negative to riding this way, and I do my best to insist that they be off my leg and responsive to hand and leg. Their head position is very much just the end result of all the other aids coming together and shaping the horse, it's not a concious action iyswim.

My big orange lad is a giraffe and gets very tense in his jaw and neck bitted, the bitless work has helped massively, however it took time and I use it as part of our 'system' to build up his topline along with lunging work - bitless and with no gadgets - and in hand work. A horse can build up topline without being in what so many people percieve to be the 'correct' outline. If the horse is moving through from behind, straight and relaxed it will gain muscle in the right places IMO, that's certainly what I've found with my horses and I've found it even easier to achieve bitless.
 

Pongwiffy

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I imagine its quite like getting a horse to go in an "outline" when long lining with cavesson.

I agree, my horse will drop into an beneficial outline on the lunge when I encourage him to place his inside hindleg underneath the centre of gravity and he is bent correctly on a circle. The back seems to automatically release and he will telecope his neck forward and down as the hind legs come through.

When I tried bitless (sidepull type) I was surprised to find it felt very similar in terms of contact. The only real difference I found stems from the fact my horse still has a tendency to want to hold himself slightly on one side during certain movements and transitions - after lots of straightness work it's a subtle resistance but I can still feel it. With a bit I can release it as soon as I feel it by asking him to relax his jaw on that side - in bitless I couldn't do that so it felt like we lost a bit of lateral suppleness & throughness on smaller figures and transitions to canter as they were harder to set up. In terms of basic way of going it felt very similar though as most asking for stuff isn't done with the hands anyway.

It was much better than I expected but I still prefer a bit because, as a communication tool, it seemed to offer much more precise feedback and allow more subtle, precise correction.
 

tallyho!

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I certainly don't concentrate on where the head is, as that's obviously wrong. However, The horse has had a previous tendancy to giraffe a lot, so I do need to concentrate at least getting the head down so it's not hollow whilst working!

What I find about working in an outline, is that (assuming horse has correct muscles) you need to train him to do it, and you need to know how to ask him to do it.

When I was a less experienced I tried for years to get a previous horse to work in a better way, circles, transitions, lateral work, none of it worked until I went to an instructor who taught me how to ask for it, and how to train my horse to work into that contact!

I'm not doubting your ability to ride and all those transitions and lateral work will come into its own now that you are bitless.

Oh and judging by the new robinsons catalogue that has just arrived, it would seem that people still think strapping as much leather to a horses head, attaching them to various bits of its own body will make it work like Valegro! :D

All I'm saying is that be patient. It's a new system for you and horse and I should think its something that comes with time and experimentation. At least you know that if you can control the back end, that's most of the horse sorted out just by using your body.
 

TarrSteps

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Out of curiosity, what does the horse do when you pick up the contact? Have you worked through pressure and release? I think this gets lost a lot in "English" riding where the emphasis is on "contact" and "outline" more than "feel" and "self-carriage" but it is no less important. Does your horse understand what to DO when you come on with the hand?

I don't necessarily agree it's "all about the back end" I think the contact or restraining aids (which can be as benign as a neck loop or even the voice) are perhaps less obvious but no less important in developing balance and softness.
 

TarrSteps

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Either, really. Unless there is a mouth problem there shouldn't be a difference in the basic reaction. Horses are often more relaxed and less resistant without a bit but the idea is universal.
 

gunnergundog

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TarrSteps;12383465 I don't necessarily agree it's "all about the back end" AGREE WITH THIS. I think the contact or restraining aids (which can be as benign as a neck loop or even the voice) are perhaps less obvious but no less important in developing balance and softness.[/QUOTE said:
Personally, I think the lifting of the back comes higher up my list of priorities after the engagement of the rear end. I would be checking that the horse can perform all the necessary dorsal, lateral, ventral flexions in hand and looking to teach the lift of the back to my leg/seat aids, also possibly in hand with raised poles. Thinking about it, maybe I use weight aids to aid the balance of the horse though so that he can lift rather than the rein/neck strap/voice aids that Tarrsteps is referring to....mmmmm....food for thought.
 

wench

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Ok well the reason for me trying Bitless is due to the fact that the horse throws it's head around with a bit in. I've experimented with different bits, and have found one that we have some "throws" of the head when you first get on, then seems to settle down. Will throw head around with different bridles and saddles. Teeth back etc all checked appear to be fine.

Also does a very good giraffe/camel impression when jumping at home, but doesn't appear to when taken out. It looks to me like the horse has been yanked badly in the mouth at some point, probably jumping.

Try the Bitless and the head throwing seems to have virtually stopped.

Her reaction to asking for a contact in a bit is pretty non descript, doesn't do an awful lot with me on her, put a better rider on her and she will go beautifully. I get the same reaction in the Bitless.

However with the Bitless, I have not really taught her "aids" for softening through the neck. We made a start on it this evening
 

wench

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And added into the mix, two dentists have looked at her teeth, and neither found anything wrong. I have got a thermal imgaging chap coming on Saturday to see if that shows anything up.

I haven't been able to work her as properly as I would like, as the school I have to use has scary gremlind outside the fence and not very good lighting, so I'm limited on space, and this doesn't add up to being able to ask for a proper contact
 

TarrSteps

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Personally, I think the lifting of the back comes higher up my list of priorities after the engagement of the rear end. I would be checking that the horse can perform all the necessary dorsal, lateral, ventral flexions in hand and looking to teach the lift of the back to my leg/seat aids, also possibly in hand with raised poles. Thinking about it, maybe I use weight aids to aid the balance of the horse though so that he can lift rather than the rein/neck strap/voice aids that Tarrsteps is referring to....mmmmm....food for thought.

But if you teach them in hand you must use a restraining aid, even if only your body position. . .
 

siennamum

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And added into the mix, two dentists have looked at her teeth, and neither found anything wrong. I have got a thermal imgaging chap coming on Saturday to see if that shows anything up.

I haven't been able to work her as properly as I would like, as the school I have to use has scary gremlind outside the fence and not very good lighting, so I'm limited on space, and this doesn't add up to being able to ask for a proper contact

My sons horse sounds a bit like this. He had an old injury on his jaw, resulting in a hard, but cold/insensitive lump, and I think this may be at the root of his problems - maybe an old fracture or damage to the tooth.

Anyway, he needs the dentist at the moment and one is coming, in the meantime we are using the bitless option on his micklem - he is wonderful in it.
Son is less keen, and I would not want to jump or do fast work in it.
I found horse is calmer, stretches into a contact, rather than holding himself, I was able to just think about straightness and rhythm, rather than worrying about what was going on with his head.

My concern was that his nose became numb, and so I consciously rode him slightly off the contact, not sure if it was a valid concern really.

he is naturally very active and engaged and his head position is ok in his natural state, which makes life a bit easier.

It made me think that if his mouth issues aren't sorted I will do far more bitless with him. It highlighted just how unhappy he is in his mouth - so we need to keep looking at different bits, I also decided that when breaking in future I will work them bitless also, to ensure that they can be worked even when teeth are changing.
 

Pigeon

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I agree it all comes from behind.

Here's a couple of pictures of me riding the youngster in a hackamore (not a fan) and you have to be so light and have tonnes of leg, because the poll pressure makes them want to curl their head to their chest. And yet in canter I had NO brakes, because his head got so low he lost balance. :p Didn't like the hackamore at all, will try a Dr Cooks next time.

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Scarlett

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I agree it all comes from behind.

Here's a couple of pictures of me riding the youngster in a hackamore (not a fan) and you have to be so light and have tonnes of leg, because the poll pressure makes them want to curl their head to their chest. And yet in canter I had NO brakes, because his head got so low he lost balance. :p Didn't like the hackamore at all, will try a Dr Cooks next time.

Have you tried him in a sidepull? I'm not a huge fan of anything that has the leverage of a hackamore or a cross under (though I do use a hackamore occasionally in a specific situation) so I use a Micklem set up as a sidepull and my horses all responded really well to it. Indy has neck and contact issues and the sidepull just seems to allow me to ride him consistantly up and out more in a way I can't in a bit. This was him a couple of weeks ago....

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TarrSteps

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I agree it all comes from behind.

Here's a couple of pictures of me riding the youngster in a hackamore (not a fan) and you have to be so light and have tonnes of leg, because the poll pressure makes them want to curl their head to their chest. And yet in canter I had NO brakes, because his head got so low he lost balance. :p Didn't like the hackamore at all, will try a Dr Cooks next time.

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To be fair, that's the equivalent of a Pelham and not really designed for flat work, partly because they're not great for lateral flexion.
 

Debz87

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Hi, i train youngsters bit less and progress onto bits when they have worked out to move away from the pressure.
It would be very easy to make a horse heavy if you don't know exactly when to release the pressure.
But the best way I can describe what your looking for is gently apply pressure left and right and keep increasing it until the horse lightens (you may have to use quite a build up of pressure but its really important that you don't get worn out or confuses and release if they haven't softened) if you release when the horse is heavy in your hands you will be teaching them that they need to be heavy to get a release.
You need to gain control laterally as well as vertically and you must make sure your very black and white with tour pressure (i.e you only use it when you want the horse to soften, don't hold on for no reason)
Would be happy to look at a video if you would like to pm it to me and can offer you advice on what you are doing? :)
 

Pigeon

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To be fair, that's the equivalent of a Pelham and not really designed for flat work, partly because they're not great for lateral flexion.

Actually it wasn't so bad for lateral flexion, but that may just be him. He jumps/hunts in a pelham, hence the hackamore, but I think he would actually be less strong in a non mechanical one because of the poll pressure putting him on the forehand.
 
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