The plan was to give Val a few days off from riding so his mouth could heal up, in case there are hurts inside which the bit could affect, that I haven't been able to see. But something came over me at the barn this evening. On a total whim I hooked some reins onto a halter and hopped on, slip on shoes and jeans, with not even the bareback pad. What the heck got into me?
It's not that I didn't believe my trainer who has repeatedly told me that you don't need a bit for control. We discussed bit choices when I first got Val. He was previously ridden in a slow twist. I was worried about switching. I think her exact words were - "A horse can run through a bit made from barbed wire if that's what they want to do." A french link egg butt snaffle has worked out well for us.
It's not that I didn't believe my fellow bloggers who ride bitless primarily - Kacy from All Horse Stuff, Juliette from honeysuckle faire, Golden the Pony Girl and Kate from A Year with Horses all have great success riding their horses without bits. I have admired them for this choice - I know it must be nicer for our horses not to have a piece of metal in their mouths.
So tonight I took the plunge. And I had steering and brakes from the get go. We wove through the cones and did some turns on the forehand in each direction. It didn't feel any different from riding with a bit actually. The only uncomfortable part was Val's withers without a bareback pad giving me a wither wedgie ;)
I have worked hard to develop soft following hands, and imagine it could take the rest of my riding career to perfect them. However, I also think I need to really get a feel for correct contact with a bit, before spending tons of time riding bitless, especially as far as dressage is concerned. Tonight was mainly about going out of my comfort zone, and getting perspective on what control is and where it comes from. It was super fun - I giggled the entire time.
A note to my trainer - yep, you can still have inside rein-itis without a bit :)