Natural Horse World

Getting a Bitless Connection

by Josepha at

Q: How do I get connection with my horse without a bit?

Josepha Guillaume

A: First of all, I ask the question to each person what ‘connection’ is according to them.
What people mostly say is the following: “The rider energises the horse with the legs (impulsion), after which the rider restricts the impulsion with the bit. The forehand then would slow down to which the hind quarters would move more under. The horse would then move through his back.
This is then an ongoing circle in which a circle of energy would flow between legs, seat and hands.”

First of all, for this system one does not need a bit, it works the same way with a bitless bridle. And second, this can be done also even without a bridle because the clue is the balance, timing and experience of the rider to influence the horses movement and the way he moves.
The horse learns that certain ‘tokens’ with the bit mean that certain things are expected of him. He can learn the same without a bit, be it then with (slightly) different tokens.

Advantage: When a horse moves with his head and neck arched while you are riding with a soft bitless bridle or without bridle at all, you know that your horse is probably arching because of the tilting of his pelvis, not because he tries to get away from the pressure of the bit.

Q: How can one ride a horse onto the bit, without a bit?
A: The question is; ‘what is onto or into the bit’? Here we find that people give the same answer as for ‘connection’.

But again it has everything to do with the whole body of the horse and with the seat of the rider, which needs to allow the horse to use his body in a healthy way.
‘Onto the bit’ therefore only from the Academic Riding or Classical Dressage point of view appears totally by itself, just from having a correct seat, practising the classical exercises and keeping a ever so soft contact with the head (without ever restricting or interfering with the head position!).
If one realises this, then it is not at all hard to imagine that the same result can be reached without a bit.

From dressage rider’s point of view, if the horse is onto the bit, he is moving correctly.
The problem is though that it takes an enormous amount of riding skill to really know when a horse is on the bit. And a lot of riders mistake a horse that is bending his head to try to get away from the pressure of the bit as a horse ‘onto the bit’. And now, the bit (or the hands holding it) is actually preventing the effect that is supposed to come from being onto the bit.
Without the bit, it is therefore much more easy for the horse to reach out for that soft contact with the riders hands by moving correctly through his body.

As far as I am concerned, the phrase ‘onto the bit’ can go to the dustbin and be replace by ‘onto the seat’.

For it is the feeling in our seat which should tell us if our horse is moving correctly. And this can also be very well the case without reins or a bit even.

5 thoughts on “Getting a Bitless Connection”

  1. Jo Spiller

    What a really great article. Thank you so much for not only ‘getting it,’ but speaking in a way that the reader has, what I call, a listening for you. A huge, vast, listening like a possibility that the seat is at the basis, like soup stock, and the communication through the fingers to the horse’s mouth is almost magical. No, it is magical. And it’s sacred..
    I rode dressage for many years, and when I went to England, to the British Horse Society to get my degree, now sit down, they were already with you and the segue was bridged for me. I’m working with a marvelous woman and tomorrow is her first bit less day. All to say that yes, yes, yes, and about dressage riders, yes. Listen, for my dressage test for the degree, we all had to ride a second level test with–hold on– dental floss. Yes. I went through probably two or three rolls of them but I finished the test.
    I’m 63 and my student is 67, and she’s getting her life out of this miraculous vortex where two worlds meet. I am so grateful to be there. And as for you, my dear, you have found your voice, will not be silenced, have great manners, and I would hope that someday we may meet, although, on the level of soul, I believe that we already have.
    With every good wish,
    Jo Spiller..

    1. Cynthia

      Thanks for your lovely words Jo and its great to hear you are showing other riders the way to better horsemanship without the bit. Keep up the good work and I will continue to publish articles to help inspire.

  2. I understand this completely but try to convince a “bit rider”!!!!

    1. Cynthia

      The best ‘convincing’ is leading by good example and being a true inspiration 🙂

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