I'm moseying on over here to comment on the ideas in Peasnlove's diary, because my experience is so vastly different than what you're saying, Glen, on the differences in control, finess and handling of a bitless bridle vs a bit or an lg.
Ah, but there's the whole "swing head like a gate" in a bitless as opposed to "tilt the nose slightly" with a bit, which is what the LG preserves!
We always have to be very mindful and careful of what we present as fact. Or that we word things that come across as fact when in reality they are personal experience only.
My horses have no heads swinging like gates. They both very easily relax and release the poll, which is the key to the ability to tip the nose. Equally important though, is how one handles the reins, and themselves in the saddle. Tam, who has very little riding under his belt, understands and easily tips his nose with a slight upward movement of the inside rein - with a light caveson on, and no previous idea of what it should mean to him.
And what does it mean? That nose tipping is the result of the hand telling the horse to raise his inside shoulder and rebalance himself. You can do this easily with any head gear, because the action is not within the rein alone, but it is within our own balance and posture. Our whole body speaks this request to the horse. I hope one day to have communication so finely tuend with Tam to be able to make this same request with no reins at all.
Having the opportunity this spring to learn a more classical approach to rein handling, and even more about how to help a horse relax, has altered my brain yet again in how I think about the "gear" we put on our horses. The "gear" doesn't matter at all. You can get a "classical" response with a plain old halter as easily as you can with a double bridle. Better, in fact, in my estimation because without the double bridle, you know the horse is responding from a desire to, rather than being compelled to by the feel or action of the iron on his tongue, teeth and jaw. In other words, through the ground work and careful approach to educating the horse that AND promotes, the horse learns to trust in our requests and complies easily because it's pleasant and rewarding to do so. In other words, our riding can make the horse feel good, rather than be a constant battle wherein we must then take firmer and firmer control and find different ways to compensate for what we have yet to learn.
If you pull backward to tip the nose, then yes, you require some kind of gear in the horse's mouth, or some kind of mechanical aid in order to convey the idea to the horse of tipping the nose, lifting the inside shoulder and balance. Or you can simply lift upward gently on the inside rein (we're back to "waltzing" with the horse here) , and if you horse is relaxed at the poll, you will get the same beautiful result with no special gear at all.
I have recently tested a bitless (LG Bridle) that appears to be the only bitless in the world that retains the "half-halt for tempo regulation" that is so important in dressage tests, and have ordered one.
My most earnest advice is to purchase and watch the series of videos or dvds from Walter Zettl, "A Matter of Trust". If you want to put a bit on your horse, or if you want to learn how someone who really cares about having a relaxed horse and stresses that it takes a long time to develop a horse for dressage, then he is the one to listen to and learn from. The series emphasizes the proper aids and proper use of hands and seat and does a decen tjob of describing them. In itself, although it claims not to be able to teach people all there is to know about training for dressage, it is certainly a wonderful stand-alone educational series.
Why? Well, about year and a half ago I had to ask someone what a half halt was. I was told to by a book "Cross-training your horse" by Jane Savoie. That explained many things to me, but it was Walter Zettl that showed me the true meaning of the half halt and it's application. He also showed me the magic within transitions and how they lead to collection in dressage.
So simply put, a request to back up, a request to halt, and a request to half halt are all basically the same action of your body, delivered in varying forms of strength. None of them require any more or any less contact on the rein. It comes from your seat and legs. Up until recently, I wasn't even sure what that meant (seat and legs to halt). But now I do.
By riding in the way that my own Tamarack has taught me, (with the help of Sue and Donald Redux), I have found that using my seat and legs in a way that is more instinctively understandable to my horses, completely changed how I asked for halt, back up, and half halt. My hands do play a role in this, but the choice of gear on my horses's heads is almost factorless. It plays only a minor role. Interestingly enough, it turns out that this more natural way is really, the more "classical" way as well. Go figure! Wow...Tam is smarter than I am.
But you know, of course that this is all my own person experience as well
. The nice thing is, that I am now confident enough and able to hop on other people's horses and while getting the joyful opportunity of showing them this magic, I get to see how their horses respond to the way I am now riding. So far, it is always positive.
Now as you know, I use a bitless (cross under) with Cisco (leather one), and I use an extremely light and spare jumping cavesson with Tam. In both cases the actions of the reins are connected in one way or another at the side of the head and not under the chin, and I do think that is important for my style of riding. But to say that LG has the corner on the bitless half halt market would be incorrect. It is how the gear is handled, not the gear itself.
In my humble opinion, the head of the horse should never be the focus of controlling any action. The action on the head of the horse by the bridle is not the key to the half halt. That is the same as saying that collection comes from holding the horse in a frame. We all agree THAT is incorrect. Since a half halt is a cue to the horse to collect the gait, then we should also be able to agree that this should come from behind, through our seat and legs, and not rely on the action of the bridle.
I am not one to say I don't rely on reins for control. I still feel that need much of the time, but as I learn to ride with less and less emphasis on the reins and more and more on my seat and legs and more and more on helping the horse find his own natural balance, I find that reins, really, are a vestige of my own unconfidence in my own ability.
That is changing.
Just please don't let anyone tell you that rein control is necessary for a half halt.
Ultimately, it's not. I wish I had some immediate way to prove this to you.
Please come and ride Cisco. My plain brown Quarter Horse who didn't want to be a cow pony, would change your outlook on so many things. He changed mine.
I really wish I could give everyone all that I have had come to me in the last year and a half. My trainer friend Paul, my Walter Zettl videos, my horses...all of it. I would gladly share it if I could.
I have also had the confidence lately to allow others to ride Cisco...and they glow when they ride him. He and I have come a long way.
I think I'm starting to sound quite zealous about this....
but I wish everyone could feel what I'm now experiening because it IS nirvana!