The benefits of going bitless

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Former event rider Mark Smith is perhaps best known for being part of the Bridleless not Brainless teamchasing team, who all compete in just a headcollar. He feels passionately that amateur riders should explore the possibility of going bitless and get the chance, like him, to experience its benefits – though he’s keen to stress that it’s not for everyone. “I’m not anti-bit, just anti what doesn’t suit a particular horse,” says Mark. “I’ve seen dozens of amateur riders have a lot of success bitless, and all horses will happily go bitless, but if a rider’s not happy and doesn’t trust that they have full control then it won’t help their partnership with their horse one bit.

“Safety has to be the first priority, so we introduce the concept in a confined area to start with, and I always sit on the horse first. I find it helps to boost a rider’s confidence if they see me ride their horse without a bit – in full control – before they have a go. They can then give it a try and will be able to feel that their horse is able to move forwards better.

“For some riders it works, others aren’t so keen – and that’s absolutely fine. Riding should be all about having fun, so you need to explore what works for you. It may be that going bitless suits
you and your horse for six months or a year, then, as he develops, he’ll start to constantly evolving process.

“People with ex-racers often find they’re well suited to going bitless because their mouths have become desensitised to the bit. Pop them in a hackamore and suddenly they can feel what you’re doing again as the bridle’s acting on a completely different part of their face.”

Find out more: see www.msjump.co.uk for details of Mark’s ridden bitless clinics

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