The Art of Natural Dressage

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 Post subject: Bitless Dressage Dilemma
PostPosted: Wed Apr 04, 2012 4:37 am 

Joined: Mon Jul 18, 2011 9:10 am
Posts: 6
Location: NSW, AUSTRALIA
Hello there,

I thought it would be interesting to tell you about the dilemma my sister has encounted in Australia.

You see, my family and I all ride Bitless. We compete in Team Penning, go Trail Riding and my sister is starting Dressage.
My sister, Narelle rides her Purebred Arabian Mare (15yo) on Trails and in the paddock, and has just started doing collected work (on the bit-less). Narelle would love to compete in Dressage, unfortunately Bitless Bridles are NOT allowed in Dressage in Australia. :( So, Narelle cannot compete. Actually, there's hardly any shows my family and I can compete at because the horse requires a Bit! And of course, we aren't going to betray our horses by using a Bit just to go and ride in a show!!
99.5%+ of horse breed shows do NOT allow Bitless Bridles in Australia! Shocking, isn't it?!?

Anyway, I know Narelle can compete through www.interdressage.com ,so not all bad.

We can just keep SHOWING people how well/much better our horses go without a Bit. And hopefully one day, they'll break the tradition and allow the use of Bitless Bridles, in all disciplines across the WORLD! :yes:

My website is: www.allbitless.weebly.com (still under construction) Let me know what you think of it. :)

Keep cantering, Grace

Bitless, Barefoot, Beautiful...

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 04, 2012 4:57 am 
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Wonderful Grace, and not letting your horses down is magnificent.

A question for you might just be something to think about.

Who restricts people from starting their own show circuit?

In the U.S. there's always something like that going on.

Someone liked dog agility work. Arena trail riding classes really didn't test the horse. There were no Agility shows, so guess what? LOL

Who would be more qualified than you and your family to host bitless shows. Things such as that often just start as a few friends getting together and doing things very informally, or as formally as the group wishes.

Hey! Didn't Agility start in AU? Or was it England?

Have some success and the other shows that try to freeze out bitless with exclusionary rules might just get worried about the draw of bitless that keeps people away from their shows.

You don't suppose there's bigotry in the horse world do you? We find people discriminating against others? Naw, couldn't happen. Right? LOL

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 04, 2012 8:07 am 
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I have no useful information for you as I am not interested in any form of competation but I agree with Don.
Why not start an new federation? Even if the FEI allows bitless... there are still so many other things that aren't really in the interest of the horse. Even if all riders where forced to go bitless within FEI, I do not believe much will change. Most would just use hackemores and the rest will remain the same.

If competing can be somehow in the intrest of the horse, it is probably time for a completely new federation with completely new goals or... in fact more true to the old goals.
Horse agility is in my view indeed a good example. So could be perhaps bitless and bridleless WE :smile:

A friend of mine participated in a competation 'unofficially' with only the cordeo. Would he have been entered officially he would have been placed last because of zero points for 'contact'. One of the judges whispered in his ear: (But if I could have my way, you would have been first, wow!). But with new rules, we could view contact differently, perhaps the way the cordeo is used and held :)

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 04, 2012 10:51 am 

Joined: Wed Nov 12, 2008 9:58 pm
Posts: 1622
Location: Western Cape, South Africa
Hi Grace,
This is something I have followed on and off over the years although I don't compete. I think South Africa was one of the first countries to campaign and get a change to allow bitless competition. What happened was they changed the rules as a trial and there were so few bitless competitors that after two years it reverted back???
There was a trial done in the states where they had bited dressage horses compete first in a bit and later the same test bitless and most performed better bitless, although of course it was a very subjective test because the judges are used to seeing horses that are braced and not moving correctly with a bit!!!!!!
We know horses move better when they are not restricted at the head/neck but until the judging requirements of HOW horses move change, it is pretty irrelevent whether they have a bit or not because it seems to me that high scoring horses are always incorrect due to bit use.
I also see what Josepha and Don see, a new movement where different events are emerging for bitless riders like 4H and agility etc.
I also think that if the point is pushed to demand bitless in regular dressage it undermines those traditinal riders and resistance will always come.
Why not start a bitless dressage association? Riders in our area got together and demanded a national ranked point system be recognised for our area too as travel was restricting many riders from competing on a national level as costs were prohibitive. It took two years and a new committee was formed and eventually recognised. So it can be done.
I guess it starts with the kids and riding schools, so if you can create something for them to work towards (little local bitless shows) it may turn into something quite amazing in a few years :D
Kali Kiger and her pony pros are just amazing....those kids will grow up wondering what a bit is for!!!
I admire your patience and the fact that you won't use a bit just to compete.......good luck with where you go with this and know that many people will support your bitless efforts. :applause:

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Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans. - John Lennon


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 04, 2012 10:58 am 

Joined: Wed Nov 12, 2008 9:58 pm
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Location: Western Cape, South Africa
Just did a quick google....if you scroll down this page you will see an article on bitless dressage FEI in SA and the petition that allowed it to happen....might give you some ideas about how to go about changing the current rules. :D
http://www.naturalhorseworld.com/BitlessRidingInfo.htm

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 04, 2012 5:51 pm 
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Location: Pacific Northwest U.S.
Perfect. I've shared your thoughts on developing bitless dressage in SA, and petitioning for the system to recognize bitless. In fact the link you offered and your thoughts both I've shared on a couple of FB forums.

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Love is Trust, trust is All
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So say Don, Altea, and Bonnie the Wonder Filly.


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 05, 2012 4:59 pm 
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I believe that not the bit is the problem in FEI competions, but actually it's the competition itself. Competition will always corrupt the competitors - in the end it's the people competing, not the horses ;). So the horse will always be just the tool.

But that aside, I also wondered why the FEI is insisting on using a bit. If you can ride indeed better with a bit, than everyone doing without should be at a disadvantage. What's the problem with that?
The problem seems to be that the evaluation system is based on the bit. Like Josepha said, how can you judge the connection to the mouth, if there is no connection?
If they were indeed using a system to really assess the quality of the movements, the Schwung, Losgelassenheit, etc. then it would not matter if you use a bit, a cordeo or nothing at all. Then finally, just the horse would matter. But that is a long way away, I'm afraid...

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 05, 2012 9:44 pm 
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In various psychological disciplines time and again you find that we acclimate, or accommodate, or accustom our selves in a learning process to the paradigm.

We are told about and see a form, and at first we only related to it out of experience.

Take the form of a bitted horse in an FEI test. They all do look rather the same after all.

That horse is responding to the presence of the bit, it's activity, and it's pressure when applied. His whole body and all it's visible parts (visible to us) present a pattern to our eye.

We see it again and again, especially if we are devoted to this sport.

In time that IS the correct form, or pattern we look for in the next horse doing "dressage." If it is not there, and it won't be with using a horse that is bitless and trained bittless, we declare this horse is not performing "correct," dressage.

This same problem exists between two bitted factions in dressage, classical and modern.

Yet no one sees that both are correct for their own sport.

That is what must happen for the unbitted horse. Just as classical and modern have had to remain apart in tests or judging, so too much bittless. He must be judged on his merits as a horse that is moving without steel in his mouth.

The bitted folks make the claim that "he's not engaged," yet we who have the bittless model observed enough to recognize what is happening can see the engagement plainly. We just don't have the huge bulging muscles at the junction near the salivary glands, and so too we don't have the saliva discharge ... both are bitted paradigm elements. I would, by my view of a bitless dressage horse, a correct one, fault the rider for those bulging muscles and foamy mouth.

The rider is using the caveson too harshly and trying to escape it by getting "behind," the caveson.

The problem, Volker, is the same one present in racial and ethnic prejudice ... we fault the unfamiliar and declare the familiar to be "good," and the only true model. It is a normal human, and other animal, characteristic that once served us, evolutionarily, to survive. One must be wary of the unfamiliar and unknown.

Thus we feel comfort and "rightness," in the presence of what we know well, and rejecting and even frightened of that we do not.

Some folks resist thinking about this .. but then some resist real thinking altogether if it requires thinking about the unfamiliar. LOL

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Love is Trust, trust is All
~~~~~~~~~
So say Don, Altea, and Bonnie the Wonder Filly.


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 05, 2012 11:34 pm 

Joined: Wed Nov 12, 2008 9:58 pm
Posts: 1622
Location: Western Cape, South Africa
I am so guilty of exactly that Don.... :blush: have to slap myself hard sometimes :funny:

It has taken me a very long time to see what I am looking at. Even now I sometimes take a good few minutes to really "see" what is going on with these horses. It's easy to see when the muscles are developed incorrectly through repetition of a forced carriage but the more subtle, so called collected horses, are harder to spot. There is much emphasis put on front action or over action that the eye is distracted and lead to believe that the horse is using his hind end correctly only to discover that the overall level of the horse is travelling downhill!
The difficulty I see is in the lack of anatomy knowledge of the rider. In order to build the horse correctly you need to know what you are doing and why. My experience of instructors is that most teach how to do something but not why. Either they can't reasonably explain it or they don't actually know why and so this rote learning of how to do various moves passes from rider to rider. Most competition riders are only interested in winning. They are not really interested in schooling their horse for the horse's benefit but rather to get the horse fitter, more disciplined, looking more muscular in order to win.
This current frame/type of riding is very much set in what most people think is correct as this is what they see over and again so that it becomes the norm or standard they aspire to.
Once people see more natural carriage looking horses passing them on the beach and at riding schools, these dressage horses will start to become so ridiculously false moving in comparison. So I guess the answer is more exposure and time of course.....although I wish it would hurry up so less horses have to endure it. :yes:
I find it encouraging that there are so many inspirational free horses to watch on you tube doing wonderful things and being balanced and amazing with cordeos and bitless and no tack. Facebook pics are being shared and passed and discussions are happing on a vast scale.

So Grace...drive that idea and get more bitless horses exposed in your part of the world :applause:

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Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans. - John Lennon


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 06, 2012 12:55 am 
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Location: Pacific Northwest U.S.
Annette, you cannot imagine how your post on this issue of dressage "form," has cheered and encouraged me.

That complaint by the modern dressage (and the classical people as well) that our bitless horses aren't in proper frame is a constant annoyance.

It's as though these "teachers," do not understand the basic principles of learning and that portion called patterning.

We git a model of something, even an action, let alone the frame a horse is in, and over and over again are exposed to it and no matter if it good or not good we begin to accept it is right ...therefore good.

It's as old as the human race, maybe even back to the ameoba. This is how we learn. We have to for survival.

On the other hand this very trait, if managed, as all live long learners manage to do, is the tool for new learning.

And in learning the new if you, we, hold the facts to be our goal ... know what copious saliva really means, what the bulging muscles at the junction of cheek and neck really are doing, know anatomy and when the horse is and is not flexing softly at the poll, not three joints down the spine, and similar, just as you are writing, then our learning will incorporate these facts into our new learning, and we can let the old go by.

Because I understand how locked in we can be in our vision of what is "correct," I have come to the conclusion that I will soon stop badgering the dressage people, and pointing out the flaws in their facts, and the errors they have inculcated to their model of what "dressage," is and looks like.

Others have tried and failed except for a few that wake up when faced with facts. We may have gotten all those capable of waking up by providing facts and now it is time to move on to something different - modeling.

Put the vision of our bitless, and hopefully +R trained horses out there with our inclusion of the facts of horse anatomy and physiology, and our understanding of physics as it is, not as horse people of wrongly held for so long, out there where it can be seen enough for there to be a rejection, a release, of the old, this, our model becomes the new model and standard.

And pray that one day others of like mind will look back at us and take on the next evolution where even more freedom and beauty is possible with the horse. Imagine if we start to breed for this new model, as the warmblood has been bred for the current modern dressage model. Just imagine.

Where am I going? I am going to OUR shows, OUR events, OUR tests, OUR judges, OUR standards of right and correct and a smile for the protests we'll hear, and just move right along with our model into the next century.

I am inspired to look around me and see if I have any like myself in my geographical region. Not likely but I shall try.

We all should try, and some of us are doing it now. AND has been and probably will continue to be an incubator for this new (and very ancient) way of the horse. More horse, less human. Shaping rather than commanding. Asking with acceptance of "no," when we see it, and asking in a new way.

Best wishes, Don

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Love is Trust, trust is All
~~~~~~~~~
So say Don, Altea, and Bonnie the Wonder Filly.


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 06, 2012 7:05 am 
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Just a quick question, are you doing something very different from what you criticize in what "they" are doing - selecting one model and arguing that this is the good and right one and the others are wrong? And yes, I know you have your reasons. And I know they have theirs for prefering to ride the way they do.

So maybe we can focus a little more again on ourselves and how we can do well, instead of pointing out over and over how others are doing bad. Thanks! :smile:


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 06, 2012 10:32 am 

Joined: Wed Nov 12, 2008 9:58 pm
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Location: Western Cape, South Africa
Quote:
A friend of mine participated in a competation 'unofficially' with only the cordeo. Would he have been entered officially he would have been placed last because of zero points for 'contact'. One of the judges whispered in his ear: (But if I could have my way, you would have been first, wow!). But with new rules, we could view contact differently, perhaps the way the cordeo is used and held


Maybe we could send in a bitless rider to every competition (without officially competing) :funny:

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Annette O'Sullivan

Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans. - John Lennon


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 07, 2012 3:46 am 

Joined: Mon Jul 18, 2011 9:10 am
Posts: 6
Location: NSW, AUSTRALIA
Hi everyone,
Thankyou for all the posts! :) Good suggestions!
I'm not really into Dressage, but my sister and mum are.
I think I want to organise an 'unofficial' Bitless Show at our showgrounds!!! Will let you know if we do.

Thanks heaps, Grace :D

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 10, 2012 9:49 pm 
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What a good idea! Looking forward to how it will go! We want lot's of pictures :)

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 10, 2012 4:36 pm 
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Hello everyone! I am new to this forum but not to the art of dressage. I have competed through Grand Prix and I am a USDF judge, also going through the USEF "r" program currently. I am involved in the competition world but my true loyalties lie with classical riding and training. I have gone through so much over the years, struggling to find my place and follow my heart rather then what everyone else said I should do. Currently I train my horses in the Dr. Cook Bitless Bridle and I wanted to let everyone know that you can compete virtually at http://www.horseshow.com with the bitless bridle. I have won a lot of prize money from that site, it is definitely legitimate and you get a real scorecard from an international level judge and a real certificate and ribbon too. They have other classes besides dressage like the working equitation which might interest some riders as well. The description says you have to have a snaffle bridle but I asked and the have let me do all of my tests in the bitless. I think it is a GREAT way to expose judges and other competitors to the bitless bridle. I have been getting scores consistently in the high 60's and high 70's at Training/First/Second level. If you really want to compete in dressage this is a great way to do it without the bit! And hopefully someday soon the rules will be changed. I think that riders should get extra points for staying in the snaffle at upper levels and should get even more points if they could ride in a bitless and even more if they could do it one-handed! That certainly would teach riders to have independent seats!

"Let all thought leave your mind, Feel your horse in rhythm's time, Let your horse's spirit flow, The dance begins when you let go." ~ Bethanne Ragaglia (my mother-in-law)

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