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