The fact that it is harder to â€˜hold a horseâ€™s head positionâ€™ so to speak with a bitless bridle is actually the whole point of the bitless bridle or riding bitless.
I understand therefore what you mean
However what I donâ€™t understand is what the meaning is of the increased pressure riderâ€™s say they have to take with a bitless bridle.
Or in other words, why would a rider need to put pressure on a horseâ€™s head? The only thing I can think of is that the rider somehow sees to correct the position of the horseâ€™s head.
But is there ever a reason to do so, and if there is, is it to be corrected with the reins or in an other way and why?
First of all, from the horseâ€™s point of view, if a horse wants to put his head in a certain place, he or she always have a good (biomechanical) reason for doing so.
For instance if a horse I am riding keeps his head long and low constant he does so probably for not trying to carry with his whole body out of lacking experience at all (young horse new to having a rider) or having no other experience (always have carried rider on forehand because rider pulled reins and never used seat and legs correctly).
What I do then is nothing with my reins, but I use my body differently by asking an exercise like transition up or down, circle, contra-bend (with my legs), lateral work etc. This is the whole point of the gymnasium exercises in the first place. If a horse is asked to do that with a free head, he shall not loose balance (because he needs to use his head as a balance instrument as do we humans, cats etc.) he shall have to tilt his pelvis, lift his back and as a result the head will come up (by the pulling of the nuchal ligament).
Say I were to â€˜pullâ€™ the head up with the reins, the head would come up, but the back would come down. Pulling the head will result that the horse will loose balance and therefore fall onto the forehand. A feeling much like running down hill.
So, back to my example horse, carrying his head low, the horseâ€™s head is down for a reason, mostly weakness or bad conformation. The gymnasium both in groundwork and riding is there to make the horse stronger and more flexible and straight. The horse will with time start carrying from behind and with that the head will come up because the pelvis tilts, starting to move the body from itâ€™s center.
The only part the reins â€“ to my experience so far the last 20 years â€“ can do in the gymnasium is the outside reins for contra-bend, helping to cure crookedness, often a result from a fixed head set in the first place as a crooked horse can not bend his head and neck without the back dropping etc.
Back to the contact, like I said before, I have nothing against contact. Some (young) horses ask for it even. But the rider needs to understand that the horse needs his balance first in order to start carrying a rider in a healthy manor. This means that when applying contact rein, the horseâ€™s head must be able to move to same way as with loose reins.
And that, takes lotâ€™s of experience, which is why I never advice contact rein.
But again, when your horse asks for it, go for it.
@ all interested: Shall I explain how best to come to be a correct contact rein follower? Or is that not necessary.