Trinny was first ridden on Christmas Day 2019. Eight months later I watched @myhorsewillow galloping trails without her halter on and thought… maybe.
I took Trinny to the beach and began with the halter still on, just using the lead to put gentle pressure on her chest while saying Woah.
Because we trained a verbal cue of Woah from the ground before starting Trinny, that didn’t take more than 3 goes for her to understand.
Next I slipped off the halter and took some deep breaths. Trinny wandered a little almost like she was asking ‘but who is leading?’ – as soon as she realised the leg cues were still there she relaxed and walked on along the trail. We practiced some halts and she got lots of praise for doing them perfectly.
Then, we got to the steep 12ft dune bank down to the beach. Another deep breath and down we went, with a halt at the bottom. What a star! Then, we kind of had to right? A trot, a soft canter, and once we saw we were okay, a good gallop on the empty beach. My mind was blown. What a horse!
Of course it isn’t at all possible to do this kind of quick switch with most horses – they have spent years understanding one set of cues and training in new ones should be done softly, slowly and over time. See @sophsta_buggsy’s tutorial or Alycia Burton Freeriding for a proper guide to safely starting to ride tackless.
Here we are a month or so later – she just loves it, and we can do 80% of our 12km trail without a bridle – I pop one on when we get near people and vehicles and roads.
That got me thinking… If Trinny was THAT easy, how hard would Juno be?
I started Juno before I learned natural horsemanship so she hadn’t had any groundschool before we started riding. She’s very determined. I decided to try riding her bridleless in an arena rather than out in the open.
Well, what a surprise. She turned, slowed, cantered and even jumped as if she had a bridle on. In this video you can see that in the first pass at a canter her ears are a little tense, but by the second she has relaxed into it.
I ride Juno on trails bridleless, and she loves it. I lean forward and slip off the bridle and rub the sweaty patch behind her ears and she gives a happy shake before stepping out in her usual energetic way! We have had a few bridleless rides on the open beach when she's in a good emotional state and it has been lovely!