Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Bits vs Bitless

Today we have an e-mail from a reader in Washington asking me about the on-going issue of bits vs bitless bridles.

Q: I've seen so many people brag about using a bit less bridle on their horse and saying that they would never dream of using a bit on their horse. I know you support the use of bits and was wondering what you thought about the people who say this.

A: I've seen these people too and let me tell you, it PERPLEXES me. What they fail to realize that in using something like a sidepull, hackamore, bosal, or something like Dr. Cook's bitless, they are actually bearing down on MORE nerves than if they are using a bit. Consider the following diagram:

Note how it shows all but one or two nerves and nerve endings where the bit goes, yet DOZENS where the nose band of a hackamore, sidepull, and bosal goes. If the diagram went back farther, it would show a cluster of nerves behind the horse's ears where the pressure is focused on Dr. Cook's bridle.

The point of the matter is that the people who act all self-righteous about it because it's "not as harsh as a bit" have absolutely no idea what they are talking about it. It is, in fact, HARSHER than a bit.

That being said, I am in no way against the use of bitless bridles. Like curbs, when used properly they can be very effective and not harsh at all. My first horse was bit shy and I rose her in a sidepull. My current project was severely abused with a bit, and so I have never ridden him in one, instead using a sidepull (which is, by the way, legal in show jumping for those of you who have a horse who just won't go in a bit).

However, I've ridden countless other horses in bits. I've ridden in hackamores, bosals, halters, curbs, snaffles, and once in a gag bit (I didn't put it on the horse, they insisted the horse need one and it was painfully obvious he most definitely did not).

There are some things such as chain bits and cathedral bits that I absolutely do not support. I do not support gag bits and I do not like the Dr. Cook bridle simply because the sliding head piece has too much opportunity for an accident.

In the end, it comes down to what the HORSE prefers. Ignoring what all the NHM nuts say, and ignoring what your cowboy horse trainer says, you have to find out what YOUR HORSE DOES BEST IN. The extremists can argue until the cows come home, but that will never change the fact that some horses just do not respond to certain things, but work well with others.

Some horses will blatantly ignore bitless contraptions and set right up against them, making them hard-headed. Others will toss their head and constantly play with a bit. It's all about what's best for the horse.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Natural Horsemanship

Q: What is your opinion on natural horsemanship? (Natalie, SK)

A: My opinion is that the entire world of natural horsemanship all in all has gotten a little crazy. And by a little, I mean belt-up-and-throw-in-a-rubber-room-and-melt-the-only-key-down-forever.

What is "natual horsemanship" anyways? Immediately, people jump to the conclusion of riding without certain pieces of tack and free-lunging and bouncing ginormous balls off of your ever-patient horse's butt. In my opinion, the only kind of NATURAL horsemanship there is is showing your horse the wide open plains. Because let's face it, it's not natural period for people to work with horses.

I don't like the term, is all, even though I do use it and apply it to my own training methods.

Now, I think the idea of what most people think natural horsemanship is is great. For people who know a thing or two about the animals. For people who don't know anything about horse psyche or horse training... or hell, even horse anatomy.

Too many people are being polluted by the likes of Parelli and other commercial NHM practitioners. These people visit a couple demonstrations and go home to their doomed horse. When the horse is trotting around them in a tight circle with its hears slung back and its shoulder turned outward and its stride short and sloppy, they're sitting there patting themselves on the back for having a horse that will trot a stiff circle without a lead because he's been bored and annoyed to the point of just doing anything to get the crazy trainer to shut up. And suddenly WOW, these people have a "special connection" with this horse because they don't need to crank the lead around to get him in a circle.

All the games, all of the excersizes... they can be GREAT if they're used correctly, but 99% of the time they aren't. They're used by brainwashed idiots. And that's what gets me.

And while we're on the subject, I think Pat Parelli is such a hack. I can buy a length of rope for two bucks and make a halter that EXACTLY MIMICKS his 40$ rope halter. And his games? We normal, humble folk call that GROUND WORK. The circle game... is that not just free lunging?

Let me tell you, I get a lot of criticism from NHM enthusiasts because I don't follow their way of training or whatever. But at the end of the day, when I hop up on that horse tackless, I'll be cantering around on a well-behaved horse that respects me enough to not need tack, and the enthusiasts will still be playing the basic circle-games while humming and hawing over why their horse is going through a "delicate, sensitive mental stage right now."

Your horse isn't worrying about their lack of a strong father figure, buddy... he's desperate for you to stop bouncing that huge rubber ball off of his ass for fifteen seconds so he can stop and be a horse!

That's all. I just think people are too Nazi over it, saying the "my way or the highway" deal. I don't buy that. Figure out what works for your horse... and try not to annoy the crap out of him along the way.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Horse Resource

Every week I receive ads and e-mails and countless questions about horses, and I thought that this would be the perfect place for me to post, answer, and help people out with any questions they may have. I plan to archive like questions on a subject and address each subject in separate posts in hopes of spreading knowledge and hope for the future of horses.

I, by far, do not know everything about horses, and so through this process of teaching other people, I hope that some people can teach me.

A little about myself.

I am a young adult, passionate about horses and looking to make myself a future in the horse business. I've been around horses since I was just three years of age and have been hopelessly involved with them ever since. I love barrel racing and driving, but I've also done some jumping and even equine medieval activities and studies.

Anyone who wants to contact me can e-mail me at any time. I believe in freedom of speech, I will not delete your comments just because I don't like them, nor will I shun your e-mail.