4. Bridleless riding

I will talk about a participant that participated on a clinic I gave last summer in Canada.

She didn’t have any experience riding a Neck rope or riding at liberty.

The participant didn’t have any experience riding a neck rope or riding at liberty.

Quite often people ask me the question how long it takes to ride a horse bridleless. Well this depends on two factors; the horse’s character and the confidence in ourselves.

First we need to understand that most horse breeds we see today are bred by us humans for specific goals and reasons. Therefore some horse breeds lost a little bit of their “true nature” because people intervene in their natural breeding process.

As a result we created horses with different sensitivities and physical strengths.

So everything starts with knowing what horse character we have in front of us because this will determine our approach. Also by knowing this we will understand their capabilities. Some horses will be better and have more fun with some exercises than others and visa versa.

For instance, for some horses it takes only 2 minutes to teach them how to ride bridleless . They are so sensitive, well connected and focused on every small body movement that it doesn’t take long for them to understand. We only have to give clear signals and have a calm state of mind. On the other hand there are some horses where it can take much longer, from weeks to even several months just because they are bred by us for other specific reasons.

This doesn’t mean they are better or worse, they just have a different energy and purpose.

They are all sensitive and they all feel our body signals but some will give a quicker response back then others.

If we want to solve a lot of communication and connection problems with our horses then we first need to know what kind of character we have in front of us. We have to ask ourselves the question if the horse is a good match for us as a person and if it’s a good character for the goals we want to achieve with them.

The second factor is the human.

Riding bridleless is to be honest not so difficult, the only thing that’s blocking us from doing it is our mind. We overthink everything way too much with the result that we loose our connection and confidence in ourselves and our horse. Now I’m not saying that we have to run outside and jump on our horses and giving it a try :D No, you have to slowly build it up and gain confidence with every step you make while reaching for that goal.

Soon I will make a video where I will show and explain all these steps in detail.

But here is already a small summary of the basic steps:

1. First we have to do some groundwork exercises to create a good connection and trust in between both.

2. Go for walks outside (not an outside arena) next to you horse so they become bombproof. The reason why you have to walk next to your horse is because this way they have a reference point if they get scared or spooked. They will feel your energy in front of them and will calm down much quicker then while riding them. If they are bombproof while walking next to them then you can start riding them and you will see a huge difference. Having a bombproof horse is essential for riding bridleless.

3. Teach your horse to respond to clear body signals while riding with reins and saddle.

4. Take your saddle off and give these same signals bareback. You will notice that they will respond much more sensitive because the saddle is not blocking half of your signals anymore.

5. Replace the bridle by a neckrope while riding bareback. If you don’t have enough confidence doing this bareback then put your saddle back on for mental peace and security and Replace the bridle by a neckrope. If this is going well and you gained confidence then you are ready to try it bareback as well :)

6. Don’t touch the neckrope anymore with your hands, just let it rest on the withers. Only give signals with your body.

7. Last step and obviously the most difficult one is taking the neck rope away. You have to realize that there is nothing changing for your horse by doing this. You already thought him to steer on your body signals. If they would response less to your signals then it’s only because your mind is in the way. They will feel that you are doubting and loosing the connection with yourself and therefore won’t response the same anymore. This last step is for a lot of people not necessary, this is only if you feel 100% sure about yourself and your horse. By taking the neckrope away we often get exposed to our fears of having no more control. Which is obviously not true because we thought them to response to our our body signals. The only way to overcome this problem is to trust in yourself and your horse and then you will experience total liberty. Once again I don’t encourage anyone to do this. Always keep everything safe and trust your personal feelings.

As you can see on these pictures she reached here goal (like a lot of other participants on clinics) really quickly. This progress was all during the same session without ever having done anything like this before. Of course I was there to guide and she was supported by the audience which prevent her mind to overthink the situation. But non a less she did a perfect job as you can see in the result. This exercise was only to steer while walking. First this has to be perfected before going over into a trot, canter or other exercises in liberty.

I told her to keep it safe back home, repeat every step over again and follow her intuition in this process. Never get overconfident because that’s a big mistake. Always stay in touch with yourself your horse and the moment.

Pictures taken by Equine Photo Design - destination photo & video for equestrians

Matthias Geysen 
Ferme des Granges 3
Neupré 4120
VAT: BE0502.883.236

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