Forward Thinking Hand continued – Exercise with a “Bridleless Bit” to improve rider’s perception

bridleless bit

The Aspire blog posts about contact, whether about how not to pull on the reins or improving a forward thinking hand have been incredibly popular this year so here is yet another suggestion, albeit quite unusual, for an exercise on those “hands that just don’t feel”…

The exercise has some very good results with a few common contact issues like:

– lack of symmetry in the seat (showing in one hand being more dominant than the other/pulling/dropping connection)
– lack of awareness of neutral connection that is neither resisting not dropped but is simply supporting and “closing the circuit of energy from leg to hand”
– lack of awareness of a forward thinking hand that simply “carries the bit” while the horse moves towards it


I am sure many of you recall Luciana Diniz and recently Nicole Pavitt riding is a Carson bridleless bit…


I immediately thought about trying this with those of my riders who are almost moving to Development programme but are still working on quality, forward thinking hand that can offer the horse a neutral contact to work into.

Here are the results of this experiment with one of the riders.

Please note: I have known the horse in the video for over 8 years and have taught many different riders on her. I would not recommend this exercise with a nervous horse or a rider who isn’t ready (i.e. does not have the good beginning of an independent seat). The bit is her usual bit with the rest of the bridle unclipped. The exercise lasted 10 minutes and was done at the end of the training session. 

The rider’s contact and symmetry perception improved as the exercise progressed. She realised she was not really carrying her own hands before and discovered some muscles she needed to use to provide stable, sympathetic hand position that wasn’t reactive to losses of balance.

I noticed an overall improvement in the rider’s awareness of her hands – their position in relation to the horse’s mouth, their “connection” to the seat and their relationship with the seat.

The exercise also taught her how to release the connection without dropping the rein and how to follow neck movements in walk without allowing the rein to go slack and taut alternately.

I will be including this exercise in education of my riders as and when possible and when other perception exercises don’t have a desired effect.

CAUTION: Use your common sense if you try this exercise. Observe how the horse deals with having just the bit in his/her mouth. Always have horse’s welfare a priority when training yourself. Always have someone experienced with you on the ground and be ready to stop the exercise at any moment if needed. Performed well, this exercise shouldn’t change the way the horse feels the bit in his/her mouth. 

IF YOU DON’T HAVE A HORSE SUITABLE FOR THIS EXERCISE you can still try it: simply imagine that you have no cheekpieces holding up the bit…imagine you have to hold the bit for the horse…

tilly and larry
Little chat with fellow session member after strutting her stuff without a bridle 😉

4 thoughts on “Forward Thinking Hand continued – Exercise with a “Bridleless Bit” to improve rider’s perception”

  1. Do you find at all that some riders stiffen their elbows up when doing this to try and hold the bit instead of creating elasticity and balance?

    I could see it as a great way to improve awareness to a rider’s arm fluidity too in one who tends to stiffen or lock at the elbows as a compensation for lack of their own body balance and awareness and core stability..

    1. Perhaps in the first two strides or so but virtually impossible to do this exercise with stiff elbows because you lose the ability to follow the natural nod of the horse’s head/neck and bit comes out 😉 However, I suppose if it’s done on a horse that stiffens through neck the second the rider stiffens then possibly as there would be no nod to follow.

      I do a little intro moving the reins softly myself and making rider aware of following and feeling connection between their left and right hand.

      Good luck!

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