The Art of Natural Dressage

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 03, 2009 5:43 am 

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Thanks Alex and Karen for your very helpful answers. :f: :f: :kiss:

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1. pain (any bit is just designed to cause pain if needed; and if you think about L'Hotte thoughts, pain, or fear of pain, is the key to obtain obedience; no matter if usually a good rider riding a good horse have so light an hand to avoid any pain ... but the potentially painful tool is there into the mouth of the horse, and the horse knows its possible effect!)

This one I was familiar with from what users of bitless bridles told me and there is no doubt in my mind that pain was the original purpose. To me it seems that in skillful hands there does not need to be pain or even significant discomfort, particularly with a full-cheek or loose-ring snaffle when used only to give a cue. It's a matter of whether one ever increases the cue, and many people will, of course.

Quote:
2. digestive-respiratory conflict. Lots of severe soft palate, epiglottic, laringeal, tracheal and pulmonary troubles come - in the expert opinion of dr Cook - from "alimentary" tongue movements while working with a bit. This contrasts deeply with the idea - so common into traditional equitation - that chewing the bit is a good thing... as a pathologist, I found dr Cooks arguments very interesting. Take a look to his website, there are many interesting articles about this second bit-related damage, completely independent from "good or bad hands".

This information I had never heard, even from people who have used bitless bridles for years. I wonder if some people just follow a trend rather than knowing why they do something. I'm looking forward to reading some of the relevant articles on this and I think it's great that you mentioned this because to me it would be the more important reason not to use a bit. I assume some of the problem is related to the type of metal used in the bits, not only to the alimentary tongue movements.
Another argument against bits has always been that in many cases of the rider falling off (and who never does) the reins end up on the ground and the horse could step on them, ripping himself in the mouth.

Quote:
BIrgit, I don't say anything to riders who use bits, unless they ask me about going bitless. If they are not ready to ask the question, they are not ready to change. I do not condemn any of my friends for using bits (and most of them do), and I do not go out of my way to promote bitless, other than to occasionally, where I can, put in a word for ALLOWING a bitless option.

Karen, I completely agree with you here, teaching by example is definitely much more effective and usually also kinder than preaching at someone. I have to say that I don't follow this very consistently in real life, sometimes I take a risk and tell people something they are not ready to hear. Sometimes I can't stand watching when someone is hurting their animal badly and is not aware of it and fortunately some people are quite open-minded to change when they understand what they are doing.
I was primarily thinking that it would be good to have some of this info explicitly on this forum so that people understand why we don't use bits. Like me, many may eventually read Dr. Cook's articles but there are so many things to read it might take a while to get to. ;)


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 03, 2009 7:59 am 
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A bit layes on a few millimeter of bone, the only buffer between the bit and the bone is a thin membrane filled with more nerves then a finger tip.

Lay a bit on the bone on top of your finger and wait.
I go nautious after 5 minutes, and my finger is much wider then the bone of the bars and there is thick skin and even some muscle.

A horse as prey animal is designed not to show pain, that is how he survives.

A bitless bridle is leather straps on bones with flesh, skin and fur.

It is not rocket science to understand which situation will be always painful just from the fact that the object is there (moving on the bars while the horse moves... and then we do not even go there what happens of pressure is applied), and which could get a little painful if the riders really pulls with all his might, all the time on a bitless bridle (Which really takes an enormous amount of strength to curl you horse like that, I sure can't).

Now the fact that this misconception occurs is because of the fact that a horse in a bitless bridle be it Dr. Cook or any other soft bitless bridle CAN show his discomfort, which he can not with a bit, for the pain would be to severe.

Now, if someone wants to ride with a bit, that is of course their choice and you are still very welcome to participate in this forum to discuss natural dressage. As said in our rules, we are not against people doing so.
And we do not want people to think they can not participate because they are riding with a bit.
(And lots stopped using bits after being here for a while without us saying they should, simply because they gather information that will make things work better without a bit which is logical in terms of communication, friendship and health)

But I must ask everyone on this forum not to defend a bit in any way or suggest that it is/can be milder then a all leather bitless bridle.
Sometimes people only read one tiny piece of information, because there is so much to read here.
Questions about it is something else of course. :)

As I said it is not rocket science, but it is science;
Physics:The laws of dividing pressure
Biology: the sensitivity degree of metal on bone, or leather on skin.

Thanks everyone :)

PS: I need to date it up, but there is this:
http://www.bitlessdressage.com ;)

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 03, 2009 10:32 am 
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Hi all!

Quote:
I was primarily thinking that it would be good to have some of this info explicitly on this forum so that people understand why we don't use bits. Like me, many may eventually read Dr. Cook's articles but there are so many things to read it might take a while to get to.


Birgit, I think that you haven't found specific "this is why we don't use bits" information in any particular prominence here because the approach has been to talk about what we do rather than what we don't do, if that makes sense. ;)

Occasionally some conversation about bits pops up, as it has here, which I think is totally cool. But having the "official reasons" why folks who explore the varied and winding pathways of AND tend to not use bits hasn't been the point -- in large part because AND is a philosophy, not a method, and its paths are varied and winding! :smile:

Karen and others have described this conversation as a study group, rather than a description of or adherence to a particular methodology. I love this! We're all coming together to learn from one another -- for me, this continually challenges us to stay open to ideas and focus on what we are doing and learning.

As I walk (and sometimes stumble and very often get completely lost 8) :blonde: ;) ) on my particular AND path, I am continually reminded about how personal a journey this is. And while I passionately believe in the rightness of the journey for me and my horses, the farther I get into it, the less I'm inclined to be an evangelist about it. I think people find their own paths when they're ready.

And I think that each of us has different reasons why we don't use bits -- probably with overlap, but each constellated a bit differently. And for me, if someone asks me, I'm happy to share my feelings and experiences with them. But I'm not sure I'd be comfortable with a global "this is why we don't use them" statement from AND -- one of the really beautiful sentences that Miriam, Josepha, and Bianca began this conversation with is this:

Quote:
We want to make clear that the meaning of this forum is not to be against anything.


So -- I guess I'm more excited about talking to people about what I love about the way I'm working without bits rather than why I don't use them. We'd started a conversation in another thread about defining bitless or bridleless riding differently -- so it wasn't about what it was lacking, but instead what it had. Riding at liberty was one of the really beautiful versions that came up for bridleless riding -- anyone have any brilliant ideas about how to describe riding with a bridle without a bit?

:f: Best,
Leigh

(PS: if you're interested, I highly recommend Bob Cook's writings about bits -- lots and lots of great info on his website, and he's one of the few people who's actually done research on the physiology of bit use. And be sure to read his silly biography!) :funny:

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 03, 2009 11:41 am 
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Josepha, I don't want to defend bits but I feel your request
Quote:
But I must ask everyone on this forum not to defend a bit in any way or suggest that it is/can be milder then a all leather bitless bridle.

may be a mistake. The minute we shut off debate, we join the establishment, "you will carry a whip, you will use a bit, you will get on from the left" etc. For people to learn, they must be able to discuss, and if we start saying "I won't listen to this" we have stopped learning.
I also believe i can make a bitless bridle that is NOT all leather that will be kinder than any leather one I have ever seen.
I don't say we have to agree with those who argue in favour of bits.. I have just trained a driving animal, from scratch, in 6 weeks so he will drive in town centres in rush hour, without using a bit, or bridle, just a rope halter and NO whip. Nobody is going to find it easy to persuade me to stick metal in an animals mouth, those who have read about the horrors of the bit and bridle as slave torture in the USA are unlikely to accept it as a kind idea. Just wearing a bit and bridle, for a human, for a day, was apparently unimaginable torture, frequently used on women as it didn't mark them.
Let the bit enthusiasts preach, but just maybe we can get them to look at what they are doing.
Simon

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 03, 2009 11:49 am 

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I discussed deeply bitless & barefoot into normal, general Italian horse-related forums, and (not so deeply, since I am seen as a mad, sometimes a dangerous mad) into my riding stable.

The worst, highly hypocrital argument implying the use of the bit is a "self-defensive" argument. As you know from "defensive medicine" so common - as is told - in USA, this comes from fear of assuming a responsability, and to have to respond on the basis of "common sense". Now, "common sense" about bits tells, that they are an effective control tool if the horse upsets, so their use is "safer". If you worry about your legal responsability, you're not interested about "real" safety of the rider, nor about the horse's discomfort... you're mainly interested about your "legal" safety. Who will defend you, if you promoted the use of a tool commonly thought "unsure" by many "reputated" trainers? And... yes, I had a bad wreck once! And I was riding bitless! One bad fall in many years... sufficient as a definite "proof" that bitless riding is very dangerous. ;)

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 03, 2009 12:59 pm 
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Quote:
Let the bit enthusiasts preach, but just maybe we can get them to look at what they are doing.


Hi Simon :)

Of course you can disagree with me :)

The thing is: "They" can preach, but just not here.

Preaching, no matter what, all together is what I do not want here.
Experiences and scientific fact, that is an other thing and very welcome.

From the beginning I would like this to be a place, where we can all study natural (Academic) dressage.
I do not want this to be a place where we discuss pro/contra bits and spurs.
There are enough places to do just that and in my experience it gets in the way of any progress of what we are all really after: advancing our communication and training levels with our horse.


So, one can say: "I had the experience where I thought/it seemed like my horse prefered the bit above the Dr. Cook" or:
"But in the right hands, can a Dr. Cook not be harsher then a bit?"
No problem. :yes:
But against our rules is: "in the right hands a bit is kinder then a Dr. Cook".
This is not a fact, the facts, in fact (ha ha silly sentence) speak against it.

Warm regards,

Josepha

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 03, 2009 1:37 pm 
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Sorry, I was probably taking your comment out of context. I am just scared of shutting offf any discussion. Asking them to prove the bit is kinder, and your point about the area the pressure is distributed over is completely valid, forces them to look. The driving world are currently hiding a video of a buggy wreck http://www.horseforum.com/horse-videos/omg-driving-dangerous-23624/ because they don't want any rational discussion of safety. This is why I am anti any blocking of discussion, though you can legitimately archive all the points and insist that those preaching bits first read all the stuff that is already on the site, and the obviously stupid can be told to go away.
But as an inventor, I suspect i could develop a bit that is kinder than any of the conventional bitless bridles, though the cost would be ridiculous, and i can build a bitless version that would thrash it on cost and kindness. Dogma is so often the enemy, and it can come from both sides.
New arguments have to be allowed. Rehashing old arguments can be referred to the archives, and the obviously stupid, sadly will be with us always.
Simon

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 03, 2009 1:45 pm 
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I completely understand you Simon, don't worry. :)
But this forum is not to convert people to go bitless, it is a study group for natural dressage.
There in lies the difference.

That does not mean I do not put in an efford to help people and horses to free themselves from the iron.
I travel around every week helping horses and people just by explaining and teaching sheer biomechanics.
Once understanding and experiencing biomechanics, the bit then logically gets in the way, and in to the corder of the arena it goes, without me saying a word against it.
People need time, I once needed time ;)

When studying dressage here, where the horse is master, a bit simply does not come to mind or gets left all dusty on the tack room floor as it has no purpose.

Warm regards,

Josepha

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 03, 2009 6:00 pm 
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Quote:
I discussed deeply bitless & barefoot into normal, general Italian horse-related forums, and (not so deeply, since I am seen as a mad, sometimes a dangerous mad) into my riding stable.


Oh, Alex, I so identify with this! I've had similar experiences.

Been called everything from stupid to crazy to criminally irresponsible by people who chose to make judgments based on their biases rather than any personal experiences about riding bitless -- or any personal experience with my engagement with my horses.

But at least here I'm not very interested in arguing about the pro's and/or cons of bits -- for one thing, I think the people who've actually done research on the physiological effects of bits can argue their points far more clearly than I can from a scientific standpoint -- so I'm either quoting them or simply sharing my opinion/personal experiences, neither of which are particularly likely to change people's minds who are really committed to the use of bits.

And for me, a creative, lively commitment to just doing my thing without a bit anywhere near has been a far better tool to open people to the possibility of working with horses without bits than any impassioned arguing I've ever done!

Simon, I'd be willing to bet that simply seeing Henry do his thing with the Saddlechariot and bitless bridle has been one of the most powerful eye-openers that people in your world have come across about what you can do when you cast hidebound tradition to the winds. :)

Beyond that, one of the things I most treasure about how AND approaches the world is that it isn't about pressure -- either for horses or for people! It isn't a "this is right, everything else is wrong" approach -- it is, instead, a celebration of the personal journeys that people and their horses are on. On some level, who am I to tell someone that a bit is wrong for their horse?

While I absolutely think there is a time and place for debate (and personally often love to do it), I think one of the really powerful things about taking this non-confrontational AND approach is that you simply don't feed the oppositional energy of a right/wrong conversation -- it makes it harder to attack AND, and makes it easier for people to explore with us, where ever they are in their experiences and understanding.

When I first found AND, one of the most exciting things about what was happening here was that it wasn't about an either/or about bits -- I'd had lots of those conversations ("bits are necessary because" and/or "bits suck because" ;) and was really tired of them, because they just didn't go anywhere, and felt like they generally dissolved into the kind of argument that I had with my sisters as a small child..."yes!" "no!" "yes!" "no!" ;)) -- what I was looking for, and was having trouble finding anywhere else, was the conversation about how to actually do and learn in this open, non-coercive way with horses.

And when I found AND... joy, excitement, rapture! :funny: Seriously yummy and seriously helpful to have all of this rich exploration about working this way. It allows me to be Candide and cultivate my own garden a bit, which I'm finding is increasingly the answer, at least for me. And I'm finding that by putting my energy into this creative, forward, learning, I do become something of a pied piper -- the people who are ready to think about something different can come and ask me about what I'm doing without fear of a lecture or judgment. Kind of like my horses... ;)

Quote:
Dogma is so often the enemy, and it can come from both sides.


:yes: :yes: :yes: :yes: :yes:

Totally agree, Simon! And I think the very best non-dogmatic argument is just to do our work and play without either attacking or justifying bits. No dogma there, just life.

;)

Best,
Leigh

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 03, 2009 7:04 pm 

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When I got on the forum this morning and saw all the posts I was quite confused for a while, trying to understand what the motivations were for everyone to post.
Leigh, your last post clarified it for me. Having never met people who passionately argue for bits I did not even realize that many of you have had this discussion many times. I've only been around people who use bits but don't really want to discuss them, I guess now I know why. ;) My own purpose had been to make the information about Dr. Cook's work a little more accessible for people who do want to read it. I looked at his website some last night and this morning and while I don't agree with everything he says, I definitely think it is a good idea for anyone who rides horses to read what he has to say about the physical effects of bits and I can also see why it is difficult to just summarize his findings in one statement.
In my experience, people who want to be kind to their horses will be interested in learning kinder ways of treating them when they can find the information on how to do it.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 03, 2009 7:13 pm 
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I may offend many of you but I am sick and tired of this discussion about bits.

How can a well thinking ad meaning human being believe that a piece of metal in an animal mouth is harmless. How would you react if you would see a dog with such a tack. Give me a break on soft hands please! The best rider in the world cannot swear or promise he will have soft hands 100% of the time. What does he do the split second the horse spookes?

Anyone should read Josepha's article before posting any comments on the rightness of bits.

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 03, 2009 7:22 pm 
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Madeleine,

:kiss:

We're working on an FAQ that everyone can read about when they join. At least so that we don't have to worry about anyone getting upset with such discussions either way. I think that what Josepha and Leigh have said about concentrating on what we do, and not on what we don't do, will better keep the positivity flowing.

:pet:

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 03, 2009 7:48 pm 
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I know. It is just that I cannot understand people believing that a bit does not hurt a horse.
They can use a bit if they see this as a safety net or better control but at least they have to understand that it does hurt the horse.
They are putting their head in the sand by ignoring what they are doing to their horse. If they are conscious that they might hurt their horse, they will be much more careful.

We are being too kind to people and not kind enough to the horse.

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 03, 2009 8:32 pm 
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Hi Madeleine,

I think I do see your point and personally I would also love that everyone read a lot of the research available before defending bits or arguing against them (I have not read much of it, which is part of the reason why I mostly don´t take part these discussions - what I could say would be too much based on opinions and assumptions and too little on facts).

But still I remember similar arguments like this
Madeleine Balcer wrote:
We are being too kind to people and not kind enough to the horse.
from the NHE forum as a reply to those who criticized the way of treating people over there (I do NOT mean to compare you to them, it´s just that same sentence that they used so often :friends:). It might be a valid argument indeed if one assumes that (contrary to horses ;)) people learn more with more pressure and less possibility to explore their own paths. My personal experience is another one.

Quote:
...but at least they have to understand that it does hurt the horse.
They are putting their head in the sand by ignoring what they are doing to their horse.


That is, for me, exactly the thing that distinguishes a study group from a fixed method or ideology where people come in order to learn or be convinced of just that. Over here the basic assumption is just not meant to be that anyone has to believe or understand anything. Even if someone came here with the belief that horses were amphibians, this would be HIS belief and not our purpose to change that. We could direct him to research showing the contrary, but whether he accepts this would still be totally up to him.

What might NOT be up to him is the freedom to discuss certain things over here - again not because we want to dictate a certain way of thinking but because some discussions, particularly those "anti-discussions" claiming that something was wrong, are simply just contrary to the forum´s philosophy.

I so appreciate your commitment Madeleine, but I think that the mere fact that our wonderful members are kind to each other and also to people who do not share our ways of thinking is what creates the welcoming atmosphere over here which makes people feel free to share their thoughts, experiences and questions - and in the end this is what does not only help them but also their horses, isn´t it? :smile:

Warm Regards,
Romy


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 03, 2009 8:36 pm 
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There was a time that I really thought a bit did not harm a horse, Madeleine.

Increadable to me now, but still, I really did not have the slightest clue.
My horses did not seem to mind, just grabbed it in their mouths like it was candy.
I am past feeling angry and ashamed now, but I have been for a long time.

All I can do now is explain how horses want to train now that I know, speak what they want to say.
It works so well, I think this year, just the beginning, at least 15 people in my surrounding started bitless/natural dressage without me ever saying anything against the bit.
What I do explain are the benefits of leaving it out.
How many will have hanged the bit in the willows that I do not know of because of my work?
And how much because of people here? It is a bitless inktspot :)

I always say I am not against bits, I am pro bitless :)

Anyway I hope everyone understands that for us, this is the one and only place we can just discuss our training and we do not have to explain anymore, least of all to each other. :yes:

It is like my safe haven, as my every day life evolves around the bit/bitless dicussion.
This is the place where we are all past that discussion and can move ahead with training. :cheers:


Warm regards to all!

Josepha

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