Galloping on an open beach with your horse, the salty sea air catching your horse’s mane as if it’s a flag. Riding bareback and bridleless, you feel one with your horse. So little equipment, yet you feel completely in control, you and your horse are one with each other. Their ears flick back, listening to you for cues and responding to your minor body adjustments.
Some may say that the ultimate dream of most equestrians is having a wonderfully soft and completely connected horse, a horse who is on the same wavelength as them, a horse who will respond to a cue that their rider merely thinks of… For many, this dream may just look like riding bridleless; no bit, no bitless bridle, just you and your horse together in freedom, relying on the softest of cues to direct them. In a day and age where it is so commonplace to ride in a bit, where even bitless riding is less common, to many, riding bridleless may just feel like a pipedream, an impossibility… Especially if you have a horse who is strong, excitable or otherwise difficult.
The truth is, bridleless riding can be for anyone. It all comes down to teaching the horse how to respond to soft cues with their tack on first, and then as you master this, starting to practice more and more with less reliance on the reins.
It can feel like bridleless riding is reserved for equestrians who have naturally quiet and responsive horses, or horses who have moved up the training levels to such an extent that they are so finished that they answer to the softest of cues.
But, the reality is that bridleless riding is just like regular riding, the difference is that there needs to be more focus on your seat and body aids, since you have an absence of rein aids. Working towards this goal is really just about softening all of your ridden cues, teaching neck reining cues and learning how to not rely on use of the reins in the way that so many riders do.
In theory, a horse who has been started classically and brought along slowly with emphasis on softness should be able to be ridden without their bridle if the rein aids are just a suggestion. So, what it all really comes down to is the training and going about doing things in a way that will allow you to produce a horse who is relaxed, fairly predictable in their behaviour and most of all: soft and responsive.
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