Hey Ross... it's Jodi here (who used to own Laddle). I have a new horse (well, I have had him since November 2010 but have hardly ridden him at all as he was involved in a bad float accident when he was being delivered and he is not completely recovered yet). He is a 7yo stockhorse who has done polo X, campdrafting and general stock work. I just want to do trail / pleasure riding and am not interested in competing at all (nothing's changed there!). But I DO want to have the best relationship with the horse that I can, and to do this I want him to be as comfortable as he can be. I know the various arguments for and against bitless bridles, but I would like to ride this horse bitless if possible. Up to this point he has always been ridden with a bit. I just wanted to get your opinion on various bitless bridles. I have tried a Kiayranda cross under bitless on my horse and he hated it. He seemed very confused by the different pressure. I have also tried a Kiayranda side pull and he hated that as well. I have only tried each one on him once and feel confident that with more experience with either one he would accept it and be fine. However, before I go to all that effort I wanna get the best bitless bridle I can. I have looked at the Callisto Bitless, the Steve Brady Bitless, the Dr Cook Bitless and the Light Rider Bitless and I CAN'T choose which one to go with!!! Do you use any of the above? Which do you prefer and why? Or is there something else that you would recommend? Cheers, Jodi PS The buckskin I bought 3 years ago that I was hoping you could break in is sitting in the paddock looking stunning, but is unrideable. Apparently he is just too dangerous to ride.
I'm glad now I wasn't able to start your buckskin for you.
I've not had any experience with the Steve Brady or Callisto bitless bridles. But I have tried the NoBit and Dr Cook varieties on a few horses and think they are terrible devices.
For me, I think if a person is going to ride without a bit then the reins should be attached to something that has instant and complete transference of feel through the reins. In that regard the devices that fit into that category are sidepulls, web or leather halters and lunging cavessons.
I use a sidepull made with a wide (1") leather noseband. It's used on all the horses I break in and most of the re-education projects too.
I feel that if have problems with a sidepull it is because of your horse's lack of understanding of the reins. There is nothing magical about any of the devices. They will not automatically fix a mouthing problem. Horses still need to be educated to the feel of the reins. If your horse is not soft and responsive with a bit, using a bitless device is not going to suddenly change that. So you need to not be thinking of the problem as a failure of the equipment, but more a failure of the training.
How Long Is A Piece Of Rope?
I just wanted your thoughts on the recommended length of a second rope that I will get made to fit out my "belly rope" kit. I have one that is about 20-22ft long, havent bothered to measure it but I know it is about that long. Is that length ok?
The belly rope should be about 21-22ft. It can be any length, but I find that if you have too long there is too much rope for me not to get tangled. If it is much shorter than 21ft, it means the horse is a fairly close to me which can out me in the firing line if he swings his bum and kicks or if the rope slides out of my hand if he pulls away. So 21-22ft is a good middle ground for me.
Here is a clip about Australia stock saddles. It’s made by an American firm that sells these saddle in the US.
Let me state outright that I am not a fan of the traditional Aussie stock saddle. As the fellow in the clip states, they have secure seats. They are designed to lock a rider into the saddle. They do this by offering deep seats and poley kneepads. But in doing that it means the rider has very little ability for adjusting his/her position in the saddle. They tend to lock a rider in a position whether or not that position suits the rider or is appropriate for the type of riding or horse. They also have a tendency to put riders in an armchair position, which makes the rider’s centre of gravity behind that of the horses.
The other thing about traditional stock saddles that causes a lot of problems is that they are based on quite narrow trees. The Aussie station horse is by tradition a rangy, narrow gutted thoroughbred type. They were bred with steep shoulders and narrow chests. The stock saddle was designed with this type of conformation in mind. There are not too many horses that a stock saddle made off the rack fits anymore. For this reason, you either have to be very lucky to find a saddle that fits your horse or you have one custom made to fit your horse.
Many folks nowadays ride in a fender saddle, which are a hybrid between a western and stock saddle. The fender has a much more comfortable stirrup leather arrangement and offers closer contact with the horse than a traditional stock saddle. Also some fender saddles come with a saddle horse, which people can use to grab onto in an emergency. Personally I don’t like those stick-like saddle horns because if a rider does become unseated it is possible to be injured by colliding with such a narrow horn. I have even had a rider get the front of her bra caught on a small saddle horn – a very embarrassing moment for everyone.
Here’s a letter I got the other day asking about stock saddles.
I’m getting back into riding after having my children and I am finding my confidence is not what it use to be. I ride with my friend and who has a Syd Hill stock saddle. I used her saddle the last time we went out and I felt much more secure and if my horse did something (which he never does) I felt I could stay in the saddle. But it seemed to tip me backwards and I was a little sore after our ride. Do you think if I bought a stock saddle it would help me over come my fears?
Thanks for any advice.
It is quite normal for stock saddles to tip a rider backwards. Most people who ride in them get use to the feeling and it soon becomes normal to them, but it is not good for the horse. When you are tipped backwards you put more pressure on the cantle of the saddle and the soft tissue of the horse where pressure should not be centred. It’s a sure way to get a horse sore in his back over time.
The other part of your question about using the saddle to give you confidence with your horse is problematic. It sounds like you have a quiet horse and the stock saddle would serve no practical purpose other than to give you the feeling that you were safer. If that works for you, I guess it’s okay. But I wonder if you are only putting off the inevitable.
Confidence is a psychological phenomena and not a physical one. If you are relying on a saddle to keep you feeling safe there is always the prospect that one day the saddle won’t be enough. I believe real confidence comes from your certainty to be able to handle your horse and keeping him and yourself out of trouble. Knowing that you have the skills to help your horse from getting in a bad situation is where confidence really comes from. It’s about knowing how to stop a little worry from turning into a panic. It’s not from knowing that you can stay in the saddle in a panic.
There are many good instructors who have experience with helping riders who have lots confidence. It’s probably one of the most common rider problems. My advice is to find an instructor you like and develop the skills to build your confidence through knowledge rather than equipment.