Saturday, 25 November 2017

Riding bareback: when natural is not necessarily better.

That bareback beach riding bucket list experience - a tender moment for the rider, yet perhaps differently “tender” for the horse.
In several recent studies researchers have confirmed the benefits of pressure -distribution thanks to saddle trees, making them a better option than some treeless saddles or riding bareback…For example, peak forces at the trot are twice a rider’s weight, and they increase to 2 ½ or three times the rider’s weight at the canter. 
“It might seem more “natural” to ride without a saddle”, says professor and researcher, Dr. Hilary Clayton, “but unless you’re particularly light and fit (and skilled) enough to distribute your own weight evenly across your seat and thigh muscles, your horse is probably better off with a well-fitting saddle between you and him.” 
The Dec. 2016

Friday, 17 November 2017

Am I allowed to use a bitless bridle?

 I'm asked this question at a few open shows per season. Currently most rule books do not permit bitless bridle. 

At the Global Dressage Forum. Dr. Andrew McLean one of the panel experts “How you train the bitless bridle depends on the hands at the other end. I think you can have the horse light in anything.… It’s how you train it.” 

When asked if a bitless bridle is kinder and more friendly to the horse, Dr. Hilary Clayton (one of the most respected researchers in equine mechanics and behaviour) replied, “I approach it scientifically. There is pressure on the nose. (With research technology) we looked at the cross-under bitless bridle and discovered there is twice as much pressure with this noseband, on a localized area. So padding the nosebands in that area is necessary. We need to look at more different types of bridles, but they are not totally benign either. It’s a matter of evaluating the horse. Don’t just assume you take the bit away and it’s more friendly.”

Friday, 10 November 2017

Ready for the show – bitless or not!

I applaud Melanie Ferrio-Wise  not so much for going bridleless at the Washington Horse show, but for the systematic process she took to get there. 

As a riding a teacher, I’m excited about process– understanding and enjoying the journey, not just the results.  Teaching skills and cues to your horse, layering them to produce the manoeuvres you’ll need and then testing them in another environment.

Melanie built trust in her horse. Not at Disney movie follow-your-dreams feeling, but by systematically installing the cues she’d need. She taught her horse the neck rope signal, tweaked it at home and tested it off property – riding outdoors and at local  shows. Then show went to the Big City!

Friday, 3 November 2017

Bridless Jumper class

Even with one refusal and two rails, which dropped them to 24th in the placings, Melanie Ferrio-Wise  was delighted with her performance at the Washington International. She rode the course with a neck rope instead of a bridle!

She describes her horse as a tough horse unable to handle the stress of his previous life in competitive dressage. “He doesn’t like when I put a bridle on and micromanage him. Learning that made me be a better rider for him.”

There is no rule that says jumpers must be wearing a full bridle, and options like hackamores and bitless bridles are accepted. Melanie had shown at smaller local venues without a bridle and said the decision to let an exhibitor show comes down to safety. “The first time I showed bridleless I asked permission to ride without a bridle, and the steward there said there’s no rule that says you have to have a bridle,” she said. “But if the stewards feel it’s dangerous then it’s time to be done. I never felt dangerous out there.”

So what do you think? Is there a bigger story than an “anti-bit “ story? As I see it, Melanie simply chose a “communication system” that worked best for her horse.

I think I’ll write next about how much I admire the system Melanie privately shaped in her horse – so that she could trust him so publicly!