One thing you’ll see here at the ranch is people riding in halters instead of bridles. This is not because we have anything against bridles. Rather, we use the halters with rope reins to help the students learn how to use their hands softly and politely. Most humans have a natural tendency to grip, grab, or move fast with our hands. To become good riders and good partners for our horses, we have to overcome those instincts and replace them habits of feel and smoothness.
The purpose of a bit is to refine the communication so that the horse can feel the slightest motion of the rider’s finger. You and your horse can “hold hands” through the reins, and since you are also communicating through your whole body, you can make your aids (the cues from rider to horse) invisible to onlookers.
Unfortunately, if we’re clumsy with the reins, the effects of our grabbing or gripping are magnified for the horse through the bit. By using a halter instead, the horse does not have to suffer through our learning!
Some of our riders prefer to stay with the halter even after they’ve learned how to use their hands well, while others transition to the bridle for most of their rides. Others use the halter for trail rides and the bridle for practicing dressage in the arena. Whichever tool they use on any given day, they know that the most important factor in their safety and success is the relationship. A bit will not make up for what you don’t have — but it enhances what you already have.
We focus on building positive horse-human relationships that are based love, communication, feel, and fairness. To learn more: