You can easily get a feel for what it’s like for your horse to wear a bit and bridle by placing the headstall (facing backwards) over your own head and holding the bit lightly in your fingers. Have a friend be your ?rider? and stand directly in front of you, holding the reins.
When your partner gives the command to ?walk,? gently work the bit forward and back to simulate the natural head swing of the walking horse. Have the ?rider? try:
– Riding with no contact (slack reins) and then taking up contact (pulling up the slack) for a halt. How did your hands (mouth) react?
– Riding on contact (just enough tension to feel) and then asking for the halt. How did that feel? If you got ?bumped? again, perhaps your rider?s thumbs were clamped down on the reins instead of staying flexible. Check your friend?s wrists to see if they maintained an unbroken, gently curved line. Cocked wrists send shockwaves in two directions: up the arms into the rider?s shoulders and back, creating tension, and up the reins into the horse’s mouth, creating resistance.
Note your reactions to the cues to stop. Did you find yourself ?giving? to and trusting the pressure, or stiffening and resisting? How did rein pressure affect your reaction?
Now ask your ?rider? to vibrate gently on one rein at a time. How did that affect your attitude and willingness to stop? Pretty hard to resist, wasn?t it?
Try out different bits, comparing jointed snaffles to straight bar bits, double bridles and curbs, and you’ll find that each one has a completely different feel.
Through this exercise you may have discovered an ancient truth: to gain control of something, let go of it. Now switch places and you take a turn at the reins.