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Going bitless!

ex racehorse being ridden bitless at Pippsway Classical Natural Horsemanship Wellington Somerset near Devon

One of the things I love about Pip is she always practises what she preaches. Bronson came back to Pip’s yard nine months ago. To see the changes in him both mentally and physically during that time has been extraordinary. Being consistently consistent in his training, putting in the groundwork and Pip’s ongoing schooling with him, he has gone from being stressed and anxious to calm and happy, his musculature has improved enormously and watching her work with him is poetry in motion.

When I arrived at the yard for my lesson this week Pip gave me some exciting news, Bronson was ready to be ridden bitless! Pip had explained in the past that whilst some horses can transition to a bitless bridle in no time at all, other horses aren’t yet in the right headspace and only once their mindset has improved is it appropriate to begin bitless work. She brought out one of her American Side Pull bridles and fitted it to Bronson. Pip is a qualified saddle fitter and it’s always great to know that when you are making changes, whether changing to a treeless saddle, fitting a new saddle or bridle, that Pip can ensure everything fits properly and is working as it should. We tacked Bronson up and headed to the ménage.

Pip has always taught me to begin our sessions doing something simple that we both know we can do so we can both relax and feel confident so we set off on a loose rein whilst we got used to the different feel of the bitless bridle. Bronson was holding his head a little higher than usual and moving his head around. Pip said that was fine to start with, he was just getting used to the feeling.

Once we’d both had time to adjust to the new sensation it was time to address our way of going. Bronson was trotting around with his head up, his back hollow and with low energy. I learned early on with Pip that when your horse isn’t working the way you want him to the place to look is at yourself. Pizarra reinforced this when she taught me how total transformation is possible without even touching the horse! Changing my posture, energy, intention and body language was all that was required. I say all… mind was full!

I know how beautifully Bronson works when he is being ridden properly. We always say at Pip’s clinics that we love watching her ride our horses. When we ride we are seeing what is possible at our level of riding. When Pip rides we see our horses work at their level. It’s always a sight to behold! So I’m very clear during my lessons that it’s not about ‘getting Bronson to do it’ it’s knowing that he is mirroring what I am doing. Once I am doing the right things in the right way he will happily do as I am asking. Sure enough over time and with mental persistence Bronson brought his head down, he began to round his back and he felt like a different horse! I was delighted. This transformation occurred without any pressure on the reins.

Pip took a few photos during my lesson and a couple of video clips. It’s fair to say I have a long way to go with my riding! But we did improve over the lesson and I am delighted with that. I’m over the moon that Bronson and I are now able to work together using a bitless bridle and that our relationship is going from strength to strength thanks to Pip’s guidance.

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