From time to time, Jo and I get asked whether a bit is really necessary in order to ride a horse. Clearly, it’s not essential. On the other hand, if you know how to use one in a horse friendly way, it can become a very useful tool for both horse and rider.

The reason why head collars and bridles were invented is that the simple truth that control over a horse’s head and neck provide a key to influencing the rest of his body. This is something all horses learn through instinct in their first few hours of life. 
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If there’s one thing I see people doing that stops them making the progress they want with their horses it’s trying to hide their mistakes. And that could be a big mistake that’s holding you back too.

In fact, you probably don’t even realise that you’re doing it – because hiding your mistakes is actually baked into the way most riders have been taught to use their aids.

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Chloe - a horse who needed help to develop a nice topline

There was a meme going around on social media the other day that caught my eye. It went something like this:

Other people’s horses: “Oh, is that your inside leg and outside rein? OK, I’ll just start collecting myself and getting into a nice frame for you and working on my topline. No worries, you just relax and enjoy yourself and I’ll just carry myself nicely for you!”.

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Jo riding an unschooled horse in a natural position

Well, yes… and no! As is often the case with riding, it depends.

As something to work towards, then yes, hands that appear to be still can be a sign of a well schooled horse and a skilful rider. But if you want a happy horse who enjoys being ridden throughout his career, how your hands behave has to be determined by what your horse’s mouth is doing and not the other way around.

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