Riding (literally) into the sunset
Now that our competitive season is over for the year, I've taken a much more laid-back attitude in my riding. The weather is getting colder, there are no shows in the near future, and goshdarnit I'm just ready for a break!

While I'm still making an effort to do at least one more-intense dressage and jumping ride each per week, the rest of my rides have been a lot less focused. And involving a lot less tack.

In the spirit of laziness and No-Stirrup November, I've been popping on Dino bareback more frequently as of late. Suited up in just our western bridle, we mosey around the farm and I work on my seat a bit. I haven't quite worked up the courage to canter bareback out in the open just yet - I keep envisioning myself popping off if Dino breaks to a fast trot because I'm gripping the heck out of him with my thighs - but the walk and trot work is going just fine. I'm able to really focus in on what my body is doing and correct small balance problems at a slower pace, and Dino enjoys the low-pressure schooling sessions and easy hacks.

Given how great he was when I rode him in a halter with reins clipped on it last month after he got his teeth done, I've been lazy about actually bridling him, too.

These days, I can only be bothered to ride with either a saddle OR a bridle. Not both at once.

So lazy. 
Turns out Dino REALLY likes the lazy approach, and so far has gone better in the halter-with-reins setup than he does with his normal bride and bit. In the halter, Dino feels absolutely fabulous! He reaches right out to my hand, compacts his body, lifts his topline, and offers up the best connection I've ever felt on him. Not that he goes badly in a bit, he just goes incredibly well in, of all things, a leather halter with reins on it. He jumps great in it, too!

I'm not sure whether I'm super excited about this discovery, or just bummed that I can't show dressage in a halter. In either case, I'm considering getting this side pull bridle for general schooling & jumping. I like that it's essentially just a more-stable "halter with reins on it", and doesn't use a lot of pressure under the chin like other bitless bridles, or leverage like a hackamore. And if Dino continues to go spectacularly well in this unconventional bridle, he'll more quickly build the strength he needs to make his job even easier in the show ring with a bit. Plus, he won't have to mouth a cold metal bit in the dead of winter. It's a win-win!

I'd love to hear about your adventures with bareback, bitless, bridle-less riding!


  1. Bareback is still a bunch of work though it requires less set up!

  2. The other day I had no time but was feeling like if I didn't ride I would going to go on a homicidal spree -- so I tossed a halter on Ruby and climbed on and used her lead rope as a "neck rope". Obviously I stayed in the arena but I was pleasantly surprised by how well she listened - we walked, trotted and cantered! And steered around another horse in the arena! I was pretty excited. Won't be trying that on the baby horse anytime soon though 😂

    It is a bummer that dressage isn't more open to bitless though!

    1. That's awesome!! Dino doesn't really steer with just a neck rope, I'm jealous that Ruby does! I am a wuss about cantering bareback, mostly because there's always a VERY FAST TROT lurking just beneath the surface and I'm scared I'll eat dirt in the transition!

    2. Steering from the neck rope was hit or miss, haha. She moves pretty well off leg pressure though, so we didn't run into anything. And yes, the VERY FAST TROT is always lurking! I mostly grab mane and hold my breath lol.

  3. Replies
    1. Do itttt Miles will love the excuse to be lazy while you work on your seat! :D

  4. I love riding bareback.

    Do or Do Knot has a cool rope halter side pull. I have one and really like it.

  5. i read an article on the chronicle of the horse or somehwere about a guy who does grand prix's with a mare in a halter and reins. literally a halter.

    ooo i found it:

    sooo maybe you cant do dressage in it. but you could do everything else!!!

    when runkle was on a 'walking only' diet briefly I did all my rides bareback. it's so nice in the winter when it's really cold and it helps remind me to sit super straight :D

  6. I haven't ridden bareback in roughly 100 years, but I recently reviewed a really neat bitless bridle on my blog:

  7. Im with you on that. I always ride in a halter and lead on my lazy days. Sometimes (depending on which horse) I ride out in literally nothing. I reckon it makes the horses feel freer and therefore happier!! Sounds like its working well for you guys :)

  8. Haha every once in a while I want to do this but then I remember 1) C has giant OTTB withers and 2) I really, really do not want to be on him with no breaks when his shit is lost, which happens from time to time.

    So maybe someday?

  9. I like the lazy approach too ;)

    I'm not quite there in the trust level with my guy yet (not for any reason I'm just slow to trust and he is giant) but I hope to give this a shot eventually one day too!!

  10. I like riding bareback, but getting on my giant horse is such a pain!

  11. Bareback riding always garners the best rides possible from my horses - I find it much easier to effectively use my seat and legs. Q does her endurance rides in an S-hack start to finish typically, so we go bitless basically 100% of the time. Griffin is also adept, but with our recent pursuits, we don't go after the halter work as often these days.


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