BRIDLES can become the enemy of comfort for the horse, if they restrict natural breathing with over tight nosebands and straps which may also lie too close to the sensitive cranial nerves.
When riders use strong arms and hands together with tightly fitted flash bands, this combination of force can often lead to the horse feeling troubled or shut down, losing his trust in life.
I have spent years watching horses both at liberty and under saddle, so here are just a few of my observations.
At liberty a tense horse will be tight in his jaw and only when he feels more confident and relaxed will his mouth soften and relax, as his breathing becomes more steady and deep rather than shallow and restrictive.
RELAXED horses at liberty look soft in their mouth which they may open a little whilst moving as there is no restriction.
Under saddle, however, I notice that a tense horse will often try to open his mouth, to resist the contact. So what is causing this to happen?
When a ridden horse becomes tense it creates physical tightness which can be manifested within his neck head and jaw.
This is when you will see the horse clenching his jaw, crashing his teeth against the bit as he changes from calm licking and chewing to a tight, clenched jaw, grabbing at a bit. This is an emotional reaction which we should not try to disguise.
The rider can prevent the horse from opening his mouth with tight straps but this is only a superficial mask. The anxiety which has created the resistance will be exacerbated as emotions of fear become heightened.
The reasons for resistance can vary from heavy handed rider, memory flash backs, pain, there can be numerous reasons but the modern answer has been to restrict this possibility by clamping a tight band around the jaw, so the natural responses are curbed.
This in itself creates more tension and natural fluid motion becomes extremely distorted often showing tightness through the spine and irregular movement through the limbs.
I have for many years ridden, with no noseband and using the snaffle bit but I have begun to explore further, towards the bitless bridle- looking for more possibilities to achieve more lightness and harmony. short extract from my new book
A Spiritual Path for the Classical Rider— from www.naturallyclassical.com

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